IBM Venture Capital Group’s Jani Byrne on doing business globally

IBM Venture Capital Group’s Jani Byrne on doing business globally


; [ MUSIC ] MATHYYSEN: Jani Byrne is
Director of Strategic Ventures and a partner in IBM’s Venture Capital Group. She’s working to better understand and
leverage international technology opportunities in markets through the global venture community. Welcome, Jani. BYRNE: Thank you. MATHYYSEN: Can you tell us a little bit more
about the mission of IBM’s global venture group? BYRNE: I’d be happy to. IBM’s been a corporate venture for
almost, a little over 10 years now. We’re a little different than many of
the other corporate venture groups. We are relationship based not financially
based, meaning we don’t invest in companies. Instead, we do very limited fund-to-fund
investments with the venture capitals — with VCs — who then in turn
invest in companies. So our goal is a global one. We look for companies to partner. We look for companies to buy. And in fact we also really leverage the strength
of the expertise in the venture community to give us feedback on our strategies and
trends and directions around the world. MATHYYSEN: That sounds very exciting. So if you had to describe your actual
global mission this year, what would it be? BYRNE: Well, this year you know, having been in
this role for several years now, it has changed. We are actually focusing, I would say, with even
greater intensity in some of the global markets. So we’re in places like India,
China, Brazil, Mexico. In fact, I’m giving a keynote in
Poland towards the end of the year. MATHYYSEN: That sounds exciting. BYRNE: So we’re looking for where the growth
is and the growth engines in the world economy and we’re looking to establish partnerships
and relationships with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in those areas. MATHYYSEN: So if we focus on startups as
part of the venture capital community, how would you describe the difference between
a non-U.S. startup versus a local U.S. startup? What are some of the biggest differences
that you see in that community? BYRNE: Well, that’s a really
interesting question. You know, sometimes because we are U.S. based, we take for granted the business
acumen of many of our U.S. businesses. That’s why you see Israel, for example,
often has their star-up with the headquarters in the U.S. and they do the R&D and
other activities here in Israel, a lot of the research activities. In places like India, for example,
they’re newer at big startups. Their business acumen is not as
firmly established, although, they’re certainly energetic and ready to go. So we’re seeing a lot of ex-pats
go back to start companies there. we’re seeing some help from
governments in China, for example. We’re seeing a lot of what I would consider to be consumer-oriented businesses being
established in a lot of these areas. So it’s very interesting. The models are slightly different. The skills of the folks are slightly different. But at the end of the day it’s still the
same game, how do you start a company so that you can make some money and maybe
get one of the big multinational companies to take a second look at you and buy you. MATHYYSEN: Like an IBM. BYRNE: Like an IBM. MATHYYSEN: So are there considerations that
startups should be aware of that are important to IBM as IBM looks for doing
business internationally? BYRNE: Yes, we’ve kind of been
at this for a little while. And we are looking specifically in IBM
for companies around the world that help to further our Smarter Planet mission. So you probably heard of Smarter Planet. MATHYYSEN: Yes. BYRNE: I hope you’ve seen a little of the
advertising and messaging around Smarter Planet. But IBM is committed, everyone from the
Chairman to the brand-new hire to helping to make the world a smarter planet. And what we do in terms of
our business portfolio, our outreach into the entrepreneurial community
in all aspects we’re looking for companies and businesses that help make
the world a smarter place. It could be smarter traffic. It could be smarter medicine. It could be smarter grid. It doesn’t, there’s a whole range
of activities available to startups. So provided a startup is helping to make the
planet smarter, we’re very interested in them. And then we also have some
entrepreneurial programs that are probably very interesting
to your startups. For example, IBM has a global entrepreneur
program for anybody who is looking for it. They just have to go to the IBM website
and say, search on IBM global entrepreneur. And it’s basically a way to bring all of the
tools and advantages from a large enterprise, things we give our large enterprise Business
Partners and customers and bring them down into the entrepreneurial community. So our goal is to help the entrepreneur
around the world be more successful. Of course, be smarter and
eventually partner with IBM. And the last thing I’ll mention
to you just very quickly here is that we’re also doing something unique of late. And I think your listening community
might be interested in this. We’re actually opening the IBM IP,
Intellectual Property Portfolio, to startups. So many times when I talk to people around
the world they say, what does that mean? What it means is this. IBM has, of course we’re the leading patent
producer in the world, as you’re aware, but we also have a lot of technology. And we’re packaging that technology — the code,
the specs, the drivers, whatever that is — and making it available to the
startup community at startup pricing. And what makes this so cool is a
lot of these assets are already in products that we have in market today. So they’re very tested. We know they work well. They are very relevant to a
large enterprise community. And then, some of our assets are things that
are done in our wonderful IBM Research labs. So while they’re not tested and they’re
not commercialized, they’re cutting edge, absolutely innovative ideas that a business may
want to create their own intellectual property around it and launch a small business. MATHYYSEN: That could get
them to market a lot quicker. BYRNE: It absolutely could. MATHYYSEN: That is exciting. So I understand that you are personally
focusing on some specific geographic locations. BYRNE: Yes, I am. MATHYYSEN: Currently. Could you tell us a little
bit about some of those? BYRNE: I can. I had the great pleasure of
being in India already this year; I’m heading back there two weeks from now,
because we’re in India trying to do a couple of things, trying to grow our development labs,
trying to open some new channels and trying to outreach to the venture
community and figure out how to build a viable partnership/M&A pipeline. So we think India’s very exciting. They have so many needs for innovation
and new products and so many ways that IBM can help them get there. So clearly India is one. I’ll also be in China next month. And a lot of my colleagues
travel there very regularly. We find China to be an explosively interesting
area for any of us in the technology sector. But I got back from Mexico a short while ago. And you know honestly, I didn’t realize that
Mexico was a debt-free nation and a nation of folks who have a great
entrepreneurial spirit. So we’d like to see how we can help Mexico
grow more entrepreneurialism and help them to achieve some great financial successes. So and then finally, I’m going to Poland. I’m going to Poland to give a keynote. And Poland is very interesting, by
the way, because you asked me earlier about how the businesses are over there. Poland, you see this tremendous
bifurcation, because their culture has changed from a closed culture to a very open culture. And so you see the more mature seasoned folks
in Poland having lived their whole lives in a closed society, not as sure about
this whole entrepreneurial thing, but the young generation,
they’re on their cell phones. They’re Googling everything and they
are really excited about the next level of entrepreneurialism, so look to see
great things come out of Poland, I believe. MATHYYSEN: Wow, that is exciting. Sounds like a lot of frequent
flyer miles as well. BYRNE: Amen. MATHYYSEN: So one other question I had for
you is, if you could kind of make a prediction for where you see IBM’s growth in
terms of international technology, commercialization by 2015,
where do you see IBM by 2015? BYRNE: We are going to embrace
the global marketplace. We are going to be in those markets that
are growing, and they’re of no surprise to your viewership: India, China,
Brazil and other growth areas. So, I expect that IBM’s always
been a global company. We’re very fortunate because we
have such a wonderful IBM family of Business Partners and
employees around the world. And I think you’re going to see us strengthen
those global ties as we get to 2015. MATHYYSEN: Again, we’ve been talking to Jani
Byrne, who is Director of Strategic Ventures and a partner in IBM’s Venture
Capital Group, about technology, commercialization and international activities. And we thank you for joining us today. [ MUSIC ]

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