Creating Exploratory Innovations by Learning from Entrepreneurial Ventures
Corporate venture capital (CVC), direct minority equity investments made by established companies in privately held start-ups, has become an important strategic tool for many large companies. In particular, firms often pursue CVC investing as a way to learn about novel technologies. Although CVC investments are inherently exploratory and have been found to enhance investing firm’s innovation, research has yet to establish whether CVC investing leads to the development of exploratory innovations (i.e., innovations that embody knowledge that differs from knowledge used by the firm in prior innovation efforts). In this paper, we explore the conditions under which CVC investments lead to the creation of exploratory knowledge by corporate investors. Building on insights from the recombinatory search and interorganizational learning literatures, we argue that three characteristics of an investing firm’s portfolio of start-ups will enhance its creation of exploratory knowledge. Using longitudinal data on a panel of 40 telecommunications equipment manufacturers, we find that investing firms produce more exploratory knowledge when their portfolios include start-ups that are moderately diverse, mature, and possess codified technological knowledge.