Slide 1

Michael Mainelli, The Z/Yen Group
Stephen Pumphrey, etc

[A version of this article originally appeared as "Optimising Risk/Reward in High Ratio Relationships: Jumbo Bonsai Meets Pocket Battleship", Journal of Change Management, Volume 3, Number 1, Henry Stewart Publications (August 2002)  pages 7-20.]

Abstract

This article examines an increasingly important mechanism for exploring and delivering new sources of revenue that we have dubbed "high ratio relationships". These relationships involve connections between very large and very small companies that are more complex and creative than the usual supplier-buyer relationships.

For managers, high ratio relationships present a new challenge as they strive to select the optimal connections among companies and create new sources of revenue. Some preliminary ground rules provide useful guidance, but more professionalism in managing high ratio relationships is an inevitable requirement given the high stakes.

We introduce models for the roles that large companies need to assume in high ratio relationships (Jumbo Bonsai) and the behaviours of the small firms with which they need to link (Pocket Battleships). By assuming these roles, firms increase the value of their new revenue portfolios. We also explore how larger firms can become more professional in "Enterprise Venturing", i.e. managing a number of high ratio relationships successfully.

Introducing Jumbo Bonsai and Pocket Battleship

Very large firms, now highly sensitive about finding new revenue sources, need to cooperate with very small firms in "high ratio relationships". We refer to these types of relationships as "high ratio" because the size difference between the partners can be three or four orders of magnitude. "Enterprise Venturing" describes the way that large firms seek to manage large numbers of high ratio relationships in their quest for new revenue sources.

The authors conducted a retrospective analysis of their (separate) experiences of these high ratio relationships. We looked at ones that had successfully generated new revenue and those that failed. We found that successful large firms had certain behaviours in common. We have grouped these behaviours into an idealised large firm called a "Jumbo Bonsai". Successful smaller firms also exhibited common behaviours that we have grouped into an idealised small firm termed a "Pocket Battleship". The oxymora "Jumbo Bonsai" and "Pocket Battleship" underscore the paradoxical behaviours of large needing to emulate small and small trying to act large. We put forward some thoughts on Enterprise Venturing for larger firms later.

Jumbo Bonsai

"Jumbo Bonsai" is our moniker for a mega-firm desperately attempting to appear small, inoffensive, and even friendly in pursuit of new revenue through relationships with small firms. Perhaps Jumbo Bonsai has even put part of itself into a special, metaphorical plant pot in an attempt to make it look friendlier, for example a corporate venturing arm or innovation unit. Yet, Jumbo Bonsai has many limbs, branches and twigs, deeper roots than one might think and feels uncomfortably large for a friendly houseplant.

On the negative side, Jumbo Bonsai keeps harking back to a golden age two decades ago. It is difficult to see anything in the research lab that is ready for commercial deployment, let alone a sense of commercial urgency. Yet, too many technologies have come and gone because they did not have Jumbo Bonsai's seal of approval. Sometimes, Jumbo Bonsai gets a bit carried away with power, believing that ultimately everyone will have to do things its way.

On the positive side, Jumbo Bonsai has fantastic resources and deep reserves of customer and supplier goodwill. Jumbo Bonsai knows that the only way to maintain shareholder value is to create new sources of revenue. A long, hard, honest look at the ability of Jumbo Bonsai to innovate has convinced Jumbo Bonsai that it must create new sources of revenue from its relationships with smaller, nimbler, faster, more innovative firms. Jumbo Bonsai has resolved to make its ability to manage these high ratio relationships a core competence and has set up a special Enterprise Venturing unit.

Pocket Battleship

"Pocket Battleship" is a small, combative start-up trying to achieve global domination without a single overseas sales office. The founders are keen technologists or specialists who have focussed on a new technique or skill. Some of these founders have the ability to change the world. Pocket Battleship feels superior to any stuffy, large, unwieldy organisation it meets, especially the fawning, complimentary ones who stroke its overweening confidence. Pocket Battleship is doing a favour for anyone who does business with it.

On the negative side, Pocket Battleship's entire business demeanour and culture reflect the personalities and ambitions of the founders. The founders' experiences as a start-up have had a profound impact on their attitude to external relationships. On the positive side, any large organisation that appeals to the founders' personal needs will be rewarded with unswerving devotion to the common cause and an intensity of focus from the Pocket Battleship which will increase the chances of global domination.

New sources of revenue

Firms' strategies vary in their degree of emphasis on the development of new revenue sources. Some embody "new revenue sources" prominently in a mission statement. For others, it is low on the corporate "to do" list. Ultimately, today's revenue sources will disappear. This is as true for "innovators" as for "efficient operators" and "relationship players". Many firms believe that an increasing pace of change reduces product and service lifecycles. It is not surprising to see "new revenue sources" climbing in importance as firms get larger.

Larger firms increasingly compete for new revenue sources from Pocket Battleships, e.g. pharmaceuticals fight over biotechnology firms, systems integrators scrap over new technology firms, oil majors struggle to seize partially successful independents. Yet "straight" acquisition of smaller firms frequently scares away potential partners because their contribution to the larger firm is undervalued or the proposed approach would kill their entrepreneurial behaviour. Larger firms that acquire later tend to pay full value for the smaller firm in a more competitive auction. As the technology or intellectual property is now well proven, it is too late to add significant value to the Pocket Battleship and these acquisitions frequently diminish shareholder value. Meanwhile, smaller firms don't realise benefits from having a larger partner - they either fold or sell out.

Some corporate experimentation

Amongst the many approaches employed to generate new revenue sources, from R&D to acquisition, a large number of firms have promoted "corporate venturing". The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) defines corporate venturing as "a formal, direct relationship, usually between a larger and an independent smaller company, in which both contribute financial, management or technical resources, sharing risks and rewards equally for mutual growth"1. Its primary motivation is "long term growth", as evidenced in a study of 90 UK companies2.

However, our experiences with specific major firms show that they define corporate venturing in many different ways. Indeed, there is tremendous confusion about the different types of corporate venturing activities as implied in a study by Bain. It mixes corporate venturing with 25 other popular management tools3. Some smaller companies object to the term "mutual growth", arguing that they simply want to have a means of obtaining value for intellectual property or technology.

Is corporate venturing successful? Even if there were clarity on the definition, evidence to answer the question is not readily available since few firms provide external reports on corporate venturing. Firms often cloud the outcome of corporate venturing with corporate statements such as "successful transfer into the mainstream business" (read: closed). In addition, new economy hype and subsequent anti-hype seem to conceal strong evidence of success or failure.

Even so, enough corporate venturing activity has publicly failed to call into question the validity of the approach. Take, for example, the crash of a large insurance company's global ventures unit, the muted withdrawal of a few investment banks' incubators, and the scotching of a large petrochemical company's e-laboratory.

High ratio relationships

Whether they succeeded or failed, these large firms recognised that they would need to have more partnerships and experiment with new partnership models. Some of these partnership models included new ways for large corporates to work with each other - even with competitors - in "low ratio relationships". These partnerships typically made their impact in the supply chain rather than creating significantly new revenue.

Some of these partnership models brought very large and very small organisations together. These relationships are increasingly important as a mechanism for new revenue generation. Indeed, the CBI indicated that, while large firms may frequently not understand the true nature and variety of corporate venturing, they seek small companies' new ideas, skills or entrepreneurial cultures.

Technology industries are a case in point. The ratio of the largest to the smallest competitors in technology industries is often very high. However, despite the size difference, these firms actually compete in the same marketplaces. Small software firms successfully displace market leaders. Small drug companies sometimes render massive Pharma expenditure valueless4. Large engineering companies set out to dominate start-up alternatives.

On the other hand, technology companies need to cooperate as never before. Larger R&D organisations struggle to innovate because they focus on maintaining and stretching existing industrial assets. These larger outfits spend much of their time scanning their environment for ideas they can co-opt. Smaller companies are finding that time-to-market is now more crucial than it was before. Smaller firms no longer have the luxury of proving their technology, rolling it out at a measured pace, expanding internationally, then looking for improvements. They need to go from proving a concept to worldwide distribution in 18 months, not 10 years.

Consequently, it is no surprise to find the largest and the smallest technology competitors cooperating in high ratio relationships, an example of "co-opetition", the phrase coined in the 1980s by Novell's founder, Ray Noorda.

Next: Enterprise Venturing

A nomenclature has emerged for the wide variety of joint company efforts. It includes "collaboration", "strategic alliance", "partnership" and "joint venture". Authors strive to differentiate between them5. Beyond these distinctions, we believe that high ratio relationships have an important role to play specifically in creating new revenue sources. Large corporates will attempt to structure these relationships, moving from corporate venturing to Enterprise Venturing. The key distinction between the two types of venturing is that Enterprise Venturing attempts to ensure that there are strong, direct links between the Pocket Battleship and the many relevant operational units of the Jumbo Bonsai, rather than operating as a solo unit. Enterprise venturing recognises four types of high ratio relationship:

Incubation

major corporates attempting to create fresh, non-core business entities with fresh outside cultures

Option

major corporates investing in autonomous (often start-up) entities for capital growth

Cover

major corporates taking stakes in minor players for strategic reasons, especially market or technology access

Delivery

combinations of firms recognising common needs and creating new entities to serve those needs (e.g. vertical markets)

Note that Enterprise Venturing does not include a frequent fifth type of interaction that is popular in the corporate venturing literature, "VCs 'R' Us" - major corporates acting like venture capitalists to attract internal or external entrepreneurs. VCs 'R' Us are small, separate units with a heavy financial focus frequently unrelated to the large firm's core business. Enterprise venturing, in contrast, is about trying to build success by having very small firms make positive differences to a very large firm's core business.

The challenge of high ratio relationships

Why do high ratio relationships present such a daunting challenge for managers? Our experience shows that the aspects of smaller entities that attract the large firms are those that cause large firms the greatest consternation: innovative (ill-disciplined), creative (unpredictable), cultural utopia (unstable), frees the individual (creates prima donnas), fast decision-making (random decision-making), free-form (like herding cats) and so on.

At the same time, the aspects of larger entities that attract the small firms are those that cause them the greatest consternation: resources (swaggering), methodologies (automatons), access (arrogance), process and protocol (restrictions), structure (politics), stability (stagnant), solid and dependable (banging your head against a brick wall) and so on.

Perhaps both types of companies are trying to delude others, or more charitably, dressing up their wares. Perhaps they are deluding themselves. As such, it is hardly surprising that misunderstandings and mistrust abound. Sulej, Stewart and Keogh [2001] identified "the perception and management of risk" between the partners as well as "the influence of varying levels of trust and commitment in partnership arrangements" as key areas for investigation in these asymmetric relationships6.

To make matters worse, there is a high probability that the motives the two partners hold for entering the relationship may be completely different, if not incompatible. Most large firms' motives have a single common denominator. They seek new revenue sources that will increase shareholder value. This is not to deny that large firms contain individuals with their own needs and objectives. However, the culture and systems of most large firms constrain individuals' motives from taking control.

Smaller firms may also have strong cultures and systems. However, we find that smaller firms' motives are more idiosyncratic and more individually driven. Small firms' motives can at root be more specific, more personal objectives such as: "getting enough capital to retire", "having many people working for me", "showing them that I was right" or "being allowed to do research my way", as well as combinations of objectives.

High ratio relationships for beginners: some preliminary lessons

We present five preliminary pointers on high ratio relationships, by looking at some technology partnerships we have encountered7. We also believe that there are a couple of "red herrings" to avoid.

Lesson: Concentrate on benefits rather than features

A large biotech firm proposed developing a new analytical technique for viruses that was 50% faster than current ones. Its in-house team was convinced of their own superiority in both understanding the problem and basic science. Ignoring its smaller, co-operative partners comments on the customers' needs in favour of complete in-house development, it failed to understand what was going on in the market, ignoring an alternative technology that the in-house team deemed inferior. This completely new analytical technique, developed by one of the threatened partners, was 20 times faster and swept the field in just three years.

Lesson: Use bottom up market analysis from real potential customers

A large materials science firm was certain that its new material testing techniques were "owed" a portion of the market. However, it failed to recognise that its new, "factory-style" testing facility met its needs better than its customers. The facility would, if used by customers, rather nicely reduce some central overheads. The firm built the facility and its subsequent marketing made customers very aware of their urgent testing requirements. In response, newly-aware customers went not to the new facility but to a handful of smaller testing laboratories with a high technical emphasis and a professional service approach.

Lesson: Apply the "chicken gun test"

A small security software firm did not understand the need for independent validation of their technology. For a wide variety of reasons, including many emotional ones, they resisted submitting themselves to industry-recognised benchmarks for three years. Only by teaming with a larger player who could lend credibility did they start to win sales.

Lesson: Put someone in charge

A large information services company required a high number of meetings between large numbers of its staff before making decisions "just to make sure everyone is on board". As a result, it built a reputation for indecisiveness and dithering. The word on the street was to leave it until last when hawking interesting technology. The large firm has steadily lost its technical edge.

Lesson: Go for total technology valuation

A small firm presented its laser-based sensing technology to large technology firms. The largest, most co-operative firm pointed out a number of potential markets where it could help. It expressed its belief that the technology was undervalued as it had conducted a risk/reward option valuation showing how the laser-based sensing technology had much wider potential of value today. The large firm proposed a fair share of the rewards but pointed out that time was of the essence in entering several markets simultaneously. The small company rejected the offer in favour of in-house growth. Although the small firm succeeded in one market, it completely failed to realise the sensing technology's potential in other markets. An inferior competitor dominated those markets and its technology became the de facto standard. The small firm ultimately had to sell out to the competitor.

Red herring: Large needs to be more innovative

"Innovation culture" dominated the R&D management literature in the 1980's at, for instance, 3M8, Dupont9 and GE10. Unfortunately, by 2000, a more common comment was "who needs a research lab?". "This explains why, increasingly, development and growth of a business is taking place not inside the corporation itself but through partnerships, joint ventures, alliances, minority participation and know-how agreements with institutions in different industries and with different technologies"11. Further, neither state-funded research12 nor government aid13 help innovation for either large or small firms.

Despite this, signs of measurable behavioural change are scarce. Seventeen of the top 20 global R&D spending organisations would have been recognised 50 years ago (the exceptions being Cisco - 10th, Intel - 14th, Microsoft - 17th). Perhaps the balance of large, corporate R&D is moving from research towards development or evaluation, but evidence is scanty and anecdotal. We believe that Jumbo Bonsai need to recognise the value Pocket Battleships bring, not compete with them.

Red herring: Small needs to be more virtual

This was a popular new economy theme. "According to this view, the fundamental building blocks of the economy will one day be 'virtual firms', ever-changing networks of subcontractors and freelancers, managed by a core of people with a good idea"14. An attractive corollary to intense virtualism is that the firm is "sticking to its knitting", "focusing on core value-added". Or as John Chambers, CEO of Cisco says, "(In a virtual network organization) you (a company or government agency) do only what adds sustainable value"15.

However, Phil Agre, a professor of information studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, quoted in an article in The Economist says, "such predictions are often based on a one-sided interpretation of the ideas of Ronald Coase, a Nobel-prize-winning economist. True, technologies that speed up the flow of information bring down transaction costs. That should induce companies to do less themselves and outsource more. However, Mr Coase also argued that organising costs (which technology tends to lower) determine the size of the firm. So, the real-time enterprise might end up being larger than its less nimble predecessors."16 Again, Jumbo Bonsai need to recognise the value of having strong, high ratio relationships with Pocket Battleships, not try to copy them poorly.

High ratio relationships for professionals: some thoughts

Pointers are helpful, but managers in large organisations want more direction on managing high ratio relationships. Jared Diamond derives an Anna Karenina Principle from the opening line of Tolstoy's novel: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Jared believes the principle describes situations where a number of activities must be done correctly in order to achieve success, while failure can come from a single, poorly performed activity17.

Taxonomies of what high ratio relationships require, from strategy through tactics to operations, are readily available. Hoffmann and Schlosser [2001] tried to highlight five critical success factors in SME strategic alliances, viz. "precise definition of rights and duties, contributing specific strengths, establishing required resources, deriving alliance objectives from business strategy, speedy implementation and fast results"18.

It is too easy to draw lessons from failure. Lessons from success are much harder to glean because of the Anna Karenina Principle; it's not just a single factor. From management literature and our experience we chose to try and categorise successful Pocket Battleships and Jumbo Bonsai by looking at seven meta-factors - people, organisation, strategy, systems, intelligence, technology and value-enhancement. We hoped to identify characteristics from the successful high ratio relationships we had encountered. We present the first five meta-factors in the following tables, showing how the emphasis in high ratio relationships differs from traditional venturing:

People Factors

Behaviour

Traditional Venturing

Enterprise Venturing – Pocket Battleship

Enterprise Venturing – Jumbo Bonsai

Aptitude

Formal career choice and core discipline

Ability, interest, psychometrics – high performers only

Project management skills

Dedication

Team players

Team players are good, but stars are better and celebrity teams are best of all – less is more

Diplomacy, "speak softly but carry a big stick", flexibility

Training

Engineering

Broad but shallow (eclectic) for many, intense for a few

Project management and relationship management

Professionalism

Engineering & Science

Technology delivery

Commercialisation

Personal Organisation And Career Management

Company manages

Employee manages

Employee manages

Core discipline

Scientific analysis

Architecture

Negotiation

Collaboration Skills

Organisational man

Investor

Customer


Organisation Factors

Behaviour

Traditional Venturing

Enterprise Venturing – Pocket Battleship

Enterprise Venturing – Jumbo Bonsai

Management Style

Consensus-oriented management

Entrepreneurial leadership, star system and hub-spoke structures

Relationship-based

Leadership

Technical

Speed and professionalism

Fair dealing

Openness

Need to know

Publish and move on

Meet, meet, tell – Listen, listen, sell

Culture

Egalitarian

Meritocratic yet competitive

Risk/Reward

Implicit Contract with Staff

Lifetime employment

Lifetime learning

Esteem growth in wider technology community (piece of the action)

Implicit Contract with World

Intellectual property

Open source (for some)

Framework agreements

Discipline

Line management

Standards

Rewards (and sanctions)

Units

Projects and infrastructure

Teams

Product/service line

 

Strategy Factors

Behaviour

Traditional Venturing

Enterprise Venturing – Pocket Battleship

Enterprise Venturing – Jumbo Bonsai

Speed

Resource-determined

Paramount

Paramount

Business Strategy

Long-term strategic plan guides actions

Medium to long-term intent, but short-term planning window

 

Long-term core, medium-term intent, but short-term planning window

Strategic Development

Analysis

Experimentation followed by reinforcing success – emergent rather than directive

Opportunistic – based on shifts in partnerships motivations' and directions'

Competitive Stance

Analyse your competition

Analyse your customer

Analyse your partnerships and your customers

Constraints

Resources

Competitive advantage

Commitment to markets

Customers

Up the organisation

End users

Customers

Partnership Model

Formal or informal keiretsu

Team-based

Shifting alliances and "co-opetition"

 

Systems Factors

Behaviour

Traditional Venturing

Enterprise Venturing – Pocket Battleship

Enterprise Venturing – Jumbo Bonsai

Focus

Continuous monitoring to achieve quality

Quality is assumed, focus is on exceptional trends and events

Partnership is assumed, focus is on frameworks that measure customer satisfaction

Quality

Minimise defects, complaints

One-on-one value added

Relationship retention

Core IT

Database, demand-driven

Information-centric, event-driven

Service-centric, ASP style

Experimentation

Special unit

Diffuse but controlled

Special purpose vehicles

Techniques

Project management, trials management

Technology-driven development

Trust-building, benefit-focused, Extreme Venturing

 

Intelligence Factors

Behaviour

Traditional Venturing

Enterprise Venturing – Pocket Battleship

Enterprise Venturing – Jumbo Bonsai

Communications

Top-down

Side-to-side

Customer-down

Assumptions

Explicit, enduring

Information structures

Outside organisations' interests

Decisions

Resource allocation

Architecture followed by delivery

Relationship structure followed by delivery

Success Factors

Systems

Functionality

Customer service

Knowledge/Content

Library

Networked but edited, motivation to share

Channels

Complementary versus Complimentary

As the CBI and other studies indicate, the Pocket Battleship has potential new revenue sources the large organisation seeks, but needs the Jumbo Bonsai to get value from its intellectual property or technology. So we would typically assign the two remaining meta-factors, giving "technology" to the Pocket Battleship and "value-enhancement" to the Jumbo Bonsai, which obviates using the table structure above. For "technology", the key is to ensure that it is robust and competitive in the Pocket Battleship before entering into a high ratio relationship. In "value-enhancement", the crucial point is to ensure that the Jumbo Bonsai is determined to generate and realise value in an appropriate timescale for the Pocket Battleship.
The Jumbo Bonsai can face a hard task in convincing the Pocket Battleship of its complementarity, particularly as "some overlap in functional area distinctive competencies seems to be helpful."19 The Pocket Battleship is a successful, even dangerous entity in its own right. It doesn't need much by way of compliments; it needs to be convinced that the Jumbo Bonsai can enhance value. Value-enhancement comes through qualities such as resources, market access, brand strength or distribution. Jolly, Alahuhta and Jeannet [1992] believe that start-up companies "suffer from three major disadvantages compared to their established multinational competitors…market access…global presence…the imperfectly global world"20. The Jumbo Bonsai has to convince the Pocket Battleship that, while the Pocket Battleship is often not totally lacking in these qualities, the Jumbo Bonsai will be better able to deploy them.

Implanting Enterprise Venturing in a Jumbo Bonsai

While high ratio relationships take place between large and small firms, it is the Jumbo Bonsai who is most likely to need a structure for managing Enterprise Venturing. How can a Jumbo Bonsai sensibly develop a structured process for managing a myriad of relationships with small entities yet retain an individual feel and approach? In our experience, successful Enterprise Venturing requires a Jumbo Bonsai to have processes that ensure: 

  • choice of the right partner; 
  • proper structuring of risks and rewards; 
  • commitment of the right people and resources; 
  • collaborative information and decision sharing; 
  • bringing forward value-creating results.

Successful Jumbo Bonsai embed these processes in an Enterprise Venturing unit. Such a unit encourages direct relationships between the Jumbo Bonsai's operational managers and the Pocket Battleship's owners while also spreading best practice in high ratio relationships throughout the Jumbo Bonsai. However, the Enterprise Venturing unit needs to provide evidence of worth or risk being seen as another corporate overhead.

Options for managing Enterprise Venturing

Managing Enterprise Venturing is tricky. A strong, central structure can dominate to the point that operational managers leave high ratio relationships to headquarters. On the other hand, weak or non-existent management means that Pocket Battleships get an inconsistent view of the firm and chances to generate new revenue are lost or fail. We have seen five models in practice. The first two ("cost-centre" and "consultancy") of the following five models are common when firms drive the Enterprise Venturing function from the centre.

Model

Measurement

Pros

Cons

cost-centre: Enterprise Venturing is just a corporate overhead

largely political, possibly supplemented with customer satisfaction surveys or structured feedback

easy to do – the organisation subsidises all Enterprise Venturing

subject to all politics

size set arbitrarily

no power – decisions made politically

consultancy (profit centre): firms cost Enterprise Venturing projects as if delivered by an outside consultancy firm and possibly partially subsidised

organisational units' expenditure

project appraisals

customer satisfaction benchmarked against external consultants

people may buy to get reinforced corporate knowledge

simple measures – utilisation for instance

size partially set by demand

consultancy is not a core organisational competence

people may be compelled by corporate policy to buy consultancy, or to buy at non-market rates

difficult to remain an Enterprise Venturing unit rather than a consultancy business

why shouldn't people buy from outside

capital charge advisor: determines the appropriate cost of capital for ventures taking into account WACC, strategic targets and potential returns

measured on a portfolio sampling of projects and their relative success rates with and without group Enterprise Venturing's involvement

unit size kept low

identifiable specialist expertise

self-selection of flattering projects or selective interpretation of "returns"

too easy to avoid involvement in core organisational problems, e.g. improving customer service

easy to become an internal Machiavelli

risk management unit: charges insurance premiums  (e.g. to business units, sites and projects)

performance in managing group risk - ideally quantified

benchmarks against other firms and insurers

strong risk control with teeth

helps key projects and units avoid major pitfalls

spreads best practice

will work throughout the organisation – not just for mega-decisions

focused more on the negative rather than the positive

a natural extension for finance and internal audit

risk/reward unit: combines capital charge and risk management

as a venture capital fund merged with an insurer

shareholder value enhancement

strategic advice matters

Enterprise Venturing Professionals have controlled power

looks at the totality of the opportunity or risk

an emerging model

complex measurement

longer time to prove value

not a quick fix - need for management continuity

The last three models ("capital charge advisor", "risk management unit" and "risk/reward unit") are for sophisticated managers. Capital charge advisors and risk management units are not uncommon in large corporates. The risk/reward unit couples Enterprise Venturing with the business strategy and a key reason for existence - making money. Risk/reward units seem to arise in firms that have evolved structured finance operations yet realise the importance of implementing sound strategic thinking at a local level. Results have been largely positive, sometimes very positive. However, some hard-won lessons show that risk/reward units require some time get going, firm political support and a management team with a keen eye on increasing shareholder value. A politically astute head must lead them. One who knows how to say "no" to other directors through 'price' mechanisms.

Conclusion

Enterprise venturing structures the use of high ratio relationships in order to create new sources of revenue for larger firms. For large firms, the aim should be to act like Jumbo Bonsai, nurturing smaller firms through a well-managed Enterprise Venturing unit. Small firms should emulate Pocket Battleships and seek to work with larger firms who manage high ratio relationships well. Companies should seek and encourage complementary behaviours in prospective partners.

Finally, keeping up with the time, we put some thought into the company song. What's the beat for Jumbo Bonsai and Pocket Battleship?

Traditional Venturing

Enterprise Venturing – Pocket Battleship

Enterprise Venturing – Jumbo Bonsai

Fife and drum

Reggae

Swing


References
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Michael Mainelli originally did aerospace and computing research, including building laser line-following digitisers. Michael led the first commercial project to create a digital map of the world, MundoCart, in the early 1980's. Michael was a partner in a large international accountancy practice for seven years before a spell as Corporate Development Director of Europe's largest R&D organisation, the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, and becoming a director of Z/Yen. 

Z/Yen Limited is a risk/reward management firm working to improve business performance through successful technology commercialisation and use. Z/Yen undertakes strategy, systems, intelligence, marketing and organisational projects in a wide variety of fields (www.zyen.com), as well as helping Jumbo Bonsai work with Pocket Battleships.

Stephen Pumphrey trained as a physicist and semiconductor engineer before working on a range of high-technology ventures and strategic technology evaluations at BP. Stephen was an economics consultant at Segal Quince Wicksteed and a strategy consultant at Ernst & Young before joining "etc" Limited - a Pocket Battleship that has thrived in both eBoom and eBust. 

etc is a niche systems integrator that specialises in maximising the value of the interface between firms and their customers. In particular, etc integrates channels such as web, contact centre, mobile devices and interactive TV to provide a consistent, multi-channel experience for customers (www.etc.co.uk).