VentureFuel: This Advisory Helps Corporates Source Innovative Startups As New Suppliers
VentureFuel is an independent innovation advisory firm that helps the world’s best organizations commercialize innovation to ignite change. To learn more about the firm, Pulse 2.0 interviewed VentureFuel Founder and CEO Fred Schonenberg.
Fred Schonenberg’s Background
Fred Schonenberg founded VentureFuel in 2014 after years of working for and running high-growth early-stage companies.
“Much of my career was focused on the commercialization/business development of these companies by establishing partnerships with blue chip corporate clients. VentureFuel is the second startup I have founded. The first was IntroAgent.com in 2002, the first online aggregator for the corrugated box industry,” said Schonenberg.
Evolution Of VentureFuel’s Thesis
How has VentureFuel’s thesis evolved over time? “It has remained consistent in pairing new answers to established companies’ problems. But VentureFuel began by focusing on helping startups fuel their new ventures by getting commercial deals with large, established organizations,” Schonenberg explained. “In 2019, we realized that by focusing on the large enterprises, we could build repeatable innovation programs that deliver tangible answers to already-established problems. So, whereas originally, we found new tech solutions, then sought out the people with the problems, now we focus on challenges large enterprises are facing and then go find the right new answers startups can offer.”
Most Significant Milestones
What have been some of VentureFuel’s biggest milestones? Schonenberg told me that VentureFuel has run over 100 corporate innovation programs that have provided over $200 million return on investment.
“It’s why nearly 80% of our corporate clients renew every year,” Schonenberg noted. “The startups that have gone through our programs are worth well over $2 billion.”
Innovation Success Stories
What have been some of VentureFuel’s innovation success stories? Schonenberg cited the following:
1.) The partnership with the California Milk Advisory Board has accelerated 45 startups innovating using California dairy. The problem was consumer buying of dairy products began to wane. The answer was finding creative use cases for dairy in the form of new products. Those products have now been written about in everything from TechCrunch to the New York Times and are on every major grocery shelf in the country.
2.) The AARP Foundation Innovation Program led to a partnership with Blooming Health that drove impressive results like a 500% increase in enrollment in the program, 82,000 social media engagements, and reduction of staff time spent on a given project from 57 days to 30 days.
“VentureFuel works with each client to understand what each organization wants to measure. This is about delivering tangible results. For some, it’s about speed-to-market. For others, it’s about scaling pilot programs to become national/global solutions,” Schonenberg pointed out. “And for others, it’s about breaking into the next generation of their core industry or unlocking new, adjacent industries. We start each program by understanding the desired goals and success metrics and we custom-build programs to deliver them.”
What are some of the industries that VentureFuel is focused on? “Food and beverage, retail, consumer packaged goods, media and tech, automotive, pharma, and non-profit/social services for starters. We believe there’s value in looking across many different industries for new answers to enterprise-specific problems,” Schonenberg shared.
Differentiation From Other Firms
What differentiates VentureFuel from other firms? “VentureFuel’s model is corporate-first. We custom-build our programs for our clients to ensure they get real, tangible value. That enables the companies to repeat and to scale the programs, which in turn provide more opportunities to startups,” Schonenberg replied. “Most people think of startups first. We think this is a disservice to the startup and larger partner paying for the program because it misses the point of first finding a problem and then providing actual, measurable value by answering the problem creatively.”
What are some of VentureFuel’s future goals? “The main goal is to be the resource for established organizations when they want to innovate. Whether they want to learn, test, build or invest, VentureFuel will be there to unlock the value of collaborating with startups and new technologies,” Schonenberg concluded.