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Why Startups Fear Corporate Venture Capital and How to Build Trust

Why Startups Fear Corporate Venture Capital and How to Build Trust
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The startup ecosystem has undergone a significant transformation over the past few decades, with corporate venture capital (CVC) funds emerging as important players. These funds, backed by large corporations, offer startups not only financial resources but also potential access to industry expertise, networks, and market validation. However, despite the advantages, startups often exhibit hesitation when considering investments from CVC funds. In this article, we explore the reasons behind startups' reluctance to engage with CVC funds and offer insights into how CVC fund managers can establish trust and foster meaningful partnerships.

The Dilemma: Why Startups Approach CVC with Caution

Startups, while eager for funding and growth opportunities, often approach corporate venture capital with skepticism. Several key factors contribute to this cautious stance:

  1. Loss of Autonomy: Startups value their independence and agility. Partnering with a CVC fund associated with a corporate entity could raise concerns about potential interference in the startup's decision-making process and business direction.
  2. Alignment of Interests: Startups and corporations may have differing objectives and timelines. Startups aim for rapid growth and innovation, while corporations may focus on strategic alignment and incremental progress. This misalignment can lead to conflicts over priorities and expectations.
  3. Fear of Intellectual Property (IP) Issues: CVC investment might lead to sharing sensitive intellectual property with the corporate investor, potentially raising concerns about IP protection and future competition.
  4. Exit Strategy: Startups often anticipate exits through acquisitions or IPOs. Partnering with a CVC fund linked to a potential acquirer might limit the startup's opportunities and potential buyers.

Building Trust: What CVC Fund Managers Can Do

CVC fund managers play a pivotal role in addressing these concerns and earning the trust of startups. By focusing on certain strategies and practices, CVC fund managers can create an environment conducive to productive partnerships:

Transparency and Communication

Open Dialogue: Maintain transparent communication about the fund's intentions, investment strategy, and potential benefits for startups.

Clear Terms: Clearly define investment terms, rights, and expectations to avoid misunderstandings down the line.

Independent Operations

Autonomy Assurance: Emphasize the CVC fund's independence from the corporate parent, showcasing a commitment to preserving the startup's autonomy.

Value Beyond Capital

Resource Access: Highlight the non-financial support the CVC fund can provide, such as mentorship, market insights, and access to the parent company's resources.

Network Expansion: Showcase the CVC fund's ability to connect startups with relevant industry contacts and potential customers.

Mitigating IP Concerns

IP Protection: Establish clear protocols for handling sensitive information, assuring startups that their intellectual property will be respected and safeguarded.

Flexibility in Exit Strategy

Exit Neutrality: Communicate a willingness to support diverse exit strategies, including acquisitions by entities other than the parent corporation.

Long-Term Vision

Innovation Focus: Demonstrate a genuine commitment to fostering innovation and long-term growth within the startup ecosystem, rather than solely focusing on short-term gains.


The relationship between startups and corporate venture capital funds is a delicate balance of risk and reward. While startups harbor concerns about autonomy, alignment of interests, IP issues, and exit strategies, CVC fund managers have the power to address these concerns through transparent communication, operational independence, value-added services, and a commitment to fostering innovation. By building trust and focusing on mutual benefits, CVC funds can bridge the gap between the startup world and corporate investment, unlocking potential for successful partnerships that drive innovation forward.


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To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.

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Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is the co-founder of Collective Campus, author of Time Rich, Employee to Entrepreneur and host of the Future Squared podcast. He’s a chronic autodidact, and he’s into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and do standup comedy.

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