Paul A. Gompers
Economic Review, Vol. 87, No. 4, 2002

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During the past forty years, the media and academics have frequently maligned corporate investments in venture capital and highlighted visible failures. Many corporations' best ideas have languished, whether because of internal resistance or an inability to execute on the initial insight. In other cases, more nimble companies, often venture-backed start-ups, have turned corporations' innovative ideas into commercial successes. So how can companies best stimulate innovation in a corporate setting and replicate the success of the venture capital industry?

This article explores the history, structure, and performance of corporate venture programs in the United States over the past forty years. The study shows that the U.S. corporate venture capital market has gone through three waves of activity that track the overall independent venture capital market.

The author's analysis, using detailed microlevel data, finds that corporate venture investments are increasingly made in related industries. In addition, contrary to previous assumptions, corporate venture capital investments have, on average, been more successful than independent venture capital investments. This success is exclusively associated with strategic corporate venture investments. This study concludes that corporations appear to be learning many of the best practices from the independent venture capital sector.

December 2002