Brian Roberts, Comcast Chairman and CEO
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Comcast Ventures, the corporate venture capital firm, is joining Comcast’s business development division and shifting strategy to focus only on strategic investments.
Partners were informed of the change this week, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named as the discussions were private. While Comcast Ventures will continue to operate under Sam Schwartz, Comcast’s Chief Business Development Officer, the company will no longer invest in a wide range of companies and will only focus on startups that can support Comcast initiatives. That change, along with the fund’s decreased independence from Comcast, is likely to lead to a number of partner defects, people said.
“Comcast Ventures has been a valuable innovation pipeline that provides insights into related industries and investment opportunities,” a spokesman told CNBC. “We are aligning our venture investing approach more closely with our businesses, and are repositioning Comcast Ventures and its funds under the Comcast Cable strategic business development team. Our business development teams across the company continue to invest in new technologies and companies that we believe Comcast and the companies , in which we will invest, offer more strategic opportunities and advantages. We will continue to support our existing portfolio companies through investments and strategic partnerships. “
Amy Banse, Comcast Ventures’ fund director, announced her resignation in September. Dave Zilberman, a 15-year veteran with Comcast Ventures, said this week he was leaving for Norwest Venture Partners.
When Banse announced their departure, Comcast said CFO Michael Cavanagh would take over the helm of Comcast Ventures. Over the past two months, Cavanagh and former Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis, who now runs private investment firm Atairos with capital from Comcast, have reviewed the fund’s strategy and found it a better fit with Schwartz’s business development unit.
Schwartz was a founding partner of Comcast Ventures more than 20 years ago. He will decide whether Comcast is better suited to acquiring businesses or making seed, venture, or later investments. Comcast will continue to support the existing Comcast Ventures portfolio.
Many of Comcast Ventures’ top performing investments over the years have been strategic, including CTI Towers, which Melody Investment Advisors acquired earlier this month. It has become increasingly difficult to compete for goals as more funds like SoftBank’s Vision Fund, General Atlantic and Insight Partners raise tens of billions of dollars for startups. The past two years have been a record for venture dollars invested in US companies, according to The National Venture Capital Association.
Comcast Ventures’ reorientation towards companies that support broadband distribution and video streaming could help Comcast stay ahead of trends while being more disciplined in making investments that it understands best.
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.
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