After 18 plus years in corporate venture capital, credit bureau Experian brought in Alex Marquez last year to launch their own investment vehicle. While the firm has been pretty acquisitive throughout its history, this was a new initiative for the firm as it invests in innovation.
On this week’s Tearsheet podcast, Marquez joined us to discuss Experian’s investment mandate and how he measures the success of his corporate venture program. We also talked about how the investment side integrates into the firm’s larger strategy.
Below are highlights, edited for clarity, from the episode.
Why was Experian interested in corporate investing?
I was brought in to build this program from scratch. Experian is probably better known for being an acquisitive company. They’ve acquired quite a few companies over the past 10 years. Historically, their mandate has been to grow inorganically through acquisition. Experian Ventures is a complement to the traditional acquisition path. We want to be a listening post for all the innovation and disruption happening within the traditional financial services space. The ultimate goal is to provide a greater view and vantage point as the eyes and ears of the organization.
Connecting venture with innovation programs
In theory, a lot of what we get from the investment side is a result of strategy. Strategy leads execution and we have a variety of strategies across our business units. We have a data lab that we announced several years back. It’s a sandbox, an environment to innovate with our existing client base. It’s a resource for us, as well as a playground for larger clients. We also do hackathons with the startup community.
We also have general innovation efforts across the globe. We have innovation centers in U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia that reach out to the startup community. A bit of it is informal because the network is new for us. I’m the sole person within the ventures group, so I leverage and rely on my colleagues across the organization who have similar and related efforts and initiatives with the startup community.
Were there cultural changes that had to happen for Experian Ventures to work?
It all starts with communication. Investments were previously done through the mergers and acquisition group. As our communication has grown over the past six to eight months, it’s been quite successful in generating ideas and deal flow from the thousands of people we have in the field, whether they’re on the digital and innovation side or whether they’re in sales. Part of the cultural change was understanding broadly that we’re now also investing in companies in addition to partnering with and acquiring companies.