The top 25: Amy Banse, managing director and head of funds, Comcast Ventures
By Liwen-Edison Fu
Amy Banse leads Comcast Ventures, mass media group Comcast’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm, as managing director and head of funds.
Banse had left Comcast’s Philadelphia corporate headquarters where she had spent two decades from 1991, and moved to Silicon Valley to join the nascent corporate venturing unit in 2011. Since then, Comcast Ventures has grown to include more than 130 companies in its portfolio across consumer, enterprise and frontier technology.
Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts said: “Under Amy’s leadership, Comcast Ventures has invested in some of the most innovative consumer and enterprise technology companies. We have worked together for nearly 30 years and I have always admired her passion and vision for identifying the next big idea. She has carried that through Comcast Ventures and has helped her team develop hundreds of value-creating partnerships.”
In the past 10 years, technology hubs have sprouted up beyond Silicon Valley into new markets, and Comcast Ventures expanded its reach from across the US, Canada and as far away as Dubai.
Comcast Ventures is consistently ranked on the list of top 10 most active CVCs in the US. Banse has curated a specialised team of partners and principals who vet upwards of 2,500 deals a year.
The team includes experienced investors, entrepreneurs and startup operators from multiple industries and based in offices in San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The team’s diverse experiences and networks across multiple categories shows in its portfolio. In 2019, Comcast Ventures invested in 25 new deals across multiple categories.
Under Banse’s leadership, Comcast Ventures has had two GCV Rising Stars, Daniel Gulati and Andy Cao, and a GCV Emerging Leader, Kim Armor. These active investors and leaders are outspoken corporate venturing advocates, demonstrating the value of CVC involvement in the growth of venture-backed companies.
Comcast Ventures and its sub-funds have invested in more than 100 early-stage companies since Banse joined in 2011. Notable exits include entertainment network Cheddar, advertising software developer Data Plus Math and grooming product vendor Dollar Shave Club as well as enterprise technology companies Aporeto, Bay Dynamics and DocuSign.
Genacast sub-fund focuses on US east coast early-stage deals in enterprise and frontier technology while Forecast Fund concentrates on early-stage investments in consumer technology companies. Under Banse’s leadership, the firm has been able to gain access to more competitive early-stage deals in addition to adding value at later-stages of growth.
Banse also increased investments in founders from diverse backgrounds – 26% of Comcast Ventures’ portfolio has at least one female founder. The firm recently announced its renewed commitment to back black, Latino and female founders in Catalyst, its sub-fund focused on investing in founders who often do not have access to capital. The fund has supported 70 companies in the past decade and increased its commitment this year by adding investor and NBA champion Andre Iguodala and Airbnb executive Fatima Husain to grow Catalyst and support its existing portfolio.
Banse has always believed in the power of the Comcast NBCUniversal platform. She is an evangelist for CVC, touting the benefits of venture partners who can invest capital as well as provide access to relationships, knowledge, resources, tools and potential customers.
Under her leadership, Comcast Ventures formed Forecast Labs incubation and accelerator arm which helps startups drive revenue growth through a unique tv advertising program and access to experts in startup growth and operations. Within its first six months, Forecast Labs offered eight startups return on investment-positive TV advertising through Comcast’s Effectv. The program drove significant growth in valuation in each of its investments.
Banse incorporated a robust internal business development arm, so Comcast Ventures could better serve as a bridge to Comcast NBCUniversal. Recently, Comcast Ventures connected four of its portfolio company startups – Hive, Sevenrooms, Grokker and Stella Connect – with Comcast Business to team up and offer businesses ways to stay connected with teams and customers during the Covid-19 crisis. In addition, she drove an initiative to quickly assist portfolio companies as shut-downs escalated in March.
Plans for the rest of 2020 include supporting Comcast Ventures’ existing portfolio through the Covid-19 crisis. Banse will continue to push the team to lead the industry, modernise processes, improve data collection and analysis, and ensure right decisions are made quickly.
She will continue to bring a heavy dose of creative thinking to leading the team through complexities of the pandemic, tapping internal contacts at Comcast NBCUniversal, strengthening ties to CVC and VC counterparts, and continually looking for ways to learn and thrive.
These are just a few examples of how Banse brings together the best of both worlds – a large technology-focused corporation with massive reach and innovative startups with speed and talent to scale. On VC panels, she is the one to unapologetically argue that CVC brings more to startup founders than many traditional investors.
“We move faster than we ever have,” she said. “We think about how innovative ideas can benefit the corporation, while also focusing on ways the corporation can help our portfolio companies grow.”