" Successful startups have a lot to teach us. New business models and new ways of understanding the market," says José Antonio Pascual del Valle, CEO of Cencosud Ventures, the new Cencosud unit that focuses on venture capital. This area of the company was officially announced in August 2021, and since then, it has developed a business model that focuses on finding scalable startups to help and finance them. In eight months of operation, the results have been such that now they will also start creating startups of their own, driving new business challenges.
Cencosud Ventures was born from the need to accelerate the digital evolution and cultural change of the group. The regional Corporate Venturing unit (or corporate risk, for capital investment) seeks to develop competitive advantages by linking with digital startups with value propositions in eCommerce, retail services, fintech and logistics, always thinking about the digitalization in which the market is, without losing the key areas with which Cencosud has always talked. What they do, basically, is to look for startups that have validated business models to bet on them. "We look for those who want a strategic partner to scale those businesses, always in virtuous relationships, where we both win and grow," says José Antonio Pascual del Valle.
According to his vision and his own experience in other similar spaces, the concept of Corporate Venturing is very important and a fundamental pillar of innovation and digitization that companies are having, especially because of the technology and the "foundations it has to develop solid and lasting links with startups," says the CEO of Cencosud Ventures. For the same reason, it was only a matter of time before Cencosud also joined this project. "In the last two years we have seen companies of different sectors and sizes, public and private, developing this. Corporate Venture Capital is the best known because it enhances the attractiveness of the local ecosystem and triggers disruptions within companies," explains the executive.
Currently, they are looking for companies that have been in operation for more than 3 years. However, this is not a requirement. "We can invest in younger or more mature startups, it all depends on the executing team," says Pascual del Valle.
In September 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Cencosud announced that it would enter into an alliance with Cornershop. "The pandemic accelerated e-commerce worldwide, and effectively the alliance with CornerShop was born at that moment showing that the future was going to be open and collaborative," says Del Valle.
And they were right. After a year, the numbers confirmed that decision. The balance sheet and the goals of its digital strategy showed that this was the new guiding thread of the holding company in recent times. With 300 stores in the region integrated with Cornershop and more than 30,000 active shoppers in South America, the average ticket in its supermarkets in Chile alone had increased by 20% since the beginning of the alliance. The move was clear. The digital channel had to be further strengthened.
Thus, in the midst of several board changes, including the presidency of Heike Paulman in February 2021, it was decided to strengthen the technological, innovative and digital path by opening Cencosud Ventures.