Don't Get Blurred: Clear Up the Difference Between CVC and VC for Your Startup's Sake

Explore the fundamental differences that matter between CVC and VC in terms of evaluation criteria, pros and cons, and implications for startups.
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Min Read
August 21, 2023

When raising funds for your startup, you have two main options: venture capital (VC) or corporate venture capital (CVC). But what is the difference between CVC and VC, and which is right for your business?

You've likely heard of VCs—venture capitalists who provide funding in exchange for equity in promising startups. VC's primary goal is a financial return through an eventual exit like an IPO or acquisition.

But CVC is a relatively newer concept. CVC refers to the venture capital arms of large corporations that invest in startups. The goals of CVC are wider than just financial returns. They include:

• Gaining insight into new technologies  

• Scouting for potential M&A targets  

• Creating partnerships and network effects

• Distributing risk across more ventures

While a VC will judge your startup solely on its financial potential, a CVC evaluates you based on your strategic fit with their parent company. They want to identify how your venture could complement or enhance their corporation's interests.

The pros and cons of CVC vs. VC funding for your startup come down to:


Pros - Less strings attached, pure financial focus      

Cons - Narrower network, potential loss of control


Pros - Access to corporate resources and networks      

Cons - Less autonomy, more complex relationship

In the end, the best funding option for your startup depends on your strategic goals, growth plans, and willingness to potentially partner with or be acquired by a large corporation one day.

What is a CVC? Corporate Capital Comes with Corporate Interests

When a large corporation provides venture funding through a CVC arm, their objectives go beyond simply financial gain. As an investor, a corporate venture capital fund brings a different outlook compared to a traditional VC.

While financial returns are still important, CVCs have additional strategic reasons for funding startups. They aim to:

Stay on top of emerging technologies:  

Corporations keep abreast of the latest innovations by funding promising startups working in areas relevant to their industry. They gain a front-row seat to new technologies that could impact or disrupt their business in the future.

Scout for potential acquisitions:  

CVC arms serve as a means for corporations to identify startups that could be a good strategic fit for acquisition. This allows them to integrate new technologies or capabilities into their organization in an efficient way.

Create strategic partnerships:

Funding the right startup leads to collaborative partnerships that provide benefits for both the venture and the corporation. Such synergies are a major goal of corporate venture capital.

Distribute risk across more ventures:    

By investing in a portfolio of startups rather than just one or two, CVCs are able to mitigate risk through diversification. If some ventures fail, the gains from successes still provide an overall return.

While VC focuses primarily on a startup's potential to generate returns, CVC evaluates how your venture could complement or benefit the interests of their parent corporation. Corporate capital comes with corporate interests, something to remember when considering CVC funding for your startup.

What is a VC? VC Funding Means Financial Focus Above All Else

When venture capitalists provide funding to startups, their ultimate goal is to generate a high return on their investment. While VCs may have secondary goals like gaining experience or networking, financial returns remain the primary objective.

VCs aim to achieve returns through one of two exit strategies for the companies they fund: an initial public offering (IPO) or an acquisition. In both cases, the VC firm's gains depend on the startup's financial performance and valuation.

In the United States, Harvard Business Review says “We estimate that more than 80% of the money invested by venture capitalists goes into building the infrastructure required to grow the business—in expense investments (manufacturing, marketing, and sales) and the balance sheet (providing fixed assets and working capital).”

As a result, VCs evaluate funding opportunities based mostly on financial criteria. They look for startups that show:

High growth potential:

VCs want to fund companies that have the prospects for rapid revenue growth and increasing valuations over time.

Disruptive business models:

Venture capitalists seek out startups with business models that could revolutionize existing markets and generate outsized financial returns.

Scalable technology:

The technologies powering a startup must be capable of scaling to meet significantly higher demand, opening the path to greater profits.

A clear path to an exit:

VCs want evidence that a startup could eventually be attractive for an IPO or acquisition, allowing them to generate returns from their investment.

While VCs may provide guidance and resources for startup success, the fundamental focus remains on financial outcomes. VCs judge your startup primarily on its potential to generate high returns - not on its strategic fit with any specific goals or interests.

VC funding means accepting venture capitalists as shareholders who will push for decisions that maximize the financial value of their investment. If an IPO or acquisition is on the horizon for your startup, VC funding may be the best option.

From Growth to Goals: The Fundamental Differences That Matter

Now that you understand the core motivations behind CVC and VC funding, let's summarize the key differences and how they impact your startup: 

Evaluation criteria:

VC judges your startup solely based on financial potential and your ability to generate high returns.  

CVC evaluates how well your venture complements and enhances the strategic goals and interests of their parent corporation.  

Pros and cons:

VC pros

• Less strings attached - VC focuses only on maximizing financial returns    

• Broader network - VC firms have connections across the startup ecosystem

VC cons   

• Potential loss of control - VCs may push for decisions that conflict with your long-term vision

• Narrower vision - VCs view your startup only through a financial lens    

CVC pros 

• Access to resources - You gain connections to the CVC firm's parent corporation  

• Strategic alignment - CVC funding fits with your goals if acquired by the corporation

CVC cons   

• Less autonomy - CVC will want influence over decisions that impact their interests    

• More complex relationships: reporting to both investors and strategic partners

Choosing the right option:  

The best funding for your startup depends on:

• Your strategic goals - Does CVC strategic alignment match your long-term vision?    

• Growth plans - Will VC maximize your financial returns through an exit?        

• Willingness to partner - Are you open to partnering with or being acquired by the CVC corporation?  

Ultimately, the differences between CVC and VC come down to whether growth or goals matter more for your startup currently. Both have trade-offs, so choose based on what fits your unique situation and ambitions.

Funding Options with Far-Reaching Implications: Why VC or Why CVC?

Now that you understand the key differences between CVC and VC funding, how do you determine which is the right option for your startup? The decision comes down to evaluating two main factors:

1. Fit with your strategic goals

The funding source you choose will impact the strategic direction of your startup in the long run.  

VC will push you to primarily focus on growth and profitability to maximize their returns.  

CVC will want you to complement the strategic goals of their parent corporation. They may influence your product roadmap and partnerships in ways that serve their interests.

Consider which funding partner's vision best aligns with and supports your own strategic goals and ambitions. VC autonomy or CVC strategic alignment—which better fits your long-term plans?

2. Fit with your growth plans  

CVC and VC also differ in how they help your startup grow.

VC may provide the financial resources and industry connections to maximize your potential for high growth. They have experience helping startups scale rapidly.

CVC provides access to the resources, customers, and distribution channels of their parent corporation. Depending on your industry and business model, this "shortcut" to growth may be valuable.

Evaluate which funding option is best positioned to fuel the growth your startup needs in the coming years. Can VC maximize growth, or will CVC "shortcuts" get you where you want to go?

Overall, CVC versus VC comes down to trade-offs between autonomy versus access, influence versus independence, and financial returns versus strategic alignment.

Choose the option that best fits:

• Your unique strategic goals as a business  

• The specific growth strategies and runways your startup requires

While either CVC or VC may boost your success, only one type of capital will fuel your ambitions and direction as a company.

Funding is Fuel: Choose the Right Type to Power Your Startup

You now understand the major differences between CVC and VC funding and how each type impacts startups differently. The right choice for your business comes down to whether it fits with:

• Your unique strategic goals and long-term vision  

• The specific growth and resources your startup requires  

CVC and VC help startups succeed, but only one will fit with your company's objectives and ambitions. Choosing the funding source that aligns most closely with your strategic direction and growth plans will maximize the value you gain.


• VC primarily focuses on financial returns  

• CVC evaluates strategic fit with corporate interests


So evaluate both criteria based on:

• Your willingness to potentially partner or be acquired by a corporation  

• Your startup's growth strategies and runways      

Then choose the funding option that will:    

• Maintain autonomy over decisions      

• Or gain access to strategic resources      

Whichever path you take, pursue it deliberately and intentionally. Your choice of capital will influence the trajectory of your startup for years.      

Funding is the fuel that powers your business, so choose the right type to match your unique engine and destination. With a clear goal and plan in mind, both CVC and VC may help get you where you want to go.

I hope this overview has helped demystify the difference between CVC and VC funding. Choose wisely based on fit with your strategic goals and growth needs, then leverage whichever option you select to maximize its benefits for your startup.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I wish you the very best of luck on your funding journey.

Consider Wayra for Strategic CVC Funding

As a startup seeking funding that aligns with your strategic goals, we invite you to take a look at Wayra as a potential CVC partner.

Wayra is the global open innovation hub and venture capital arm of Telefónica, a leading global telecommunications company. Through Wayra, Telefónica provides corporate funding to early-stage tech startups.

Some benefits Wayra could offer your startup:

• Access to investors focused on CVC:  

As Telefónica's CVC fund, Wayra's mission is centered around providing strategic funding that complements their corporate interests.

• Telefónica's global network and resources:

With operations in over 17 countries, Telefónica provides your startup access to their network of telecom customers, infrastructure, and expertise.

• Potential partnerships with Telefónica:  

Wayra funding could lead to opportunities for your startup to partner with or integrate into Telefónica's business in a way that strategically aligns with both companies' goals.

For startups seeking CVC funding that provides strategic benefits beyond capital, Wayra may be an excellent option to investigate. Their focus on complementing Telefónica's goals through incubation, partnerships, and potential acquisitions aligns closely with the objectives of many technology startups.

Learn more about Wayra by exploring our website and exploring our funding and accelerator programs in depth. Reach out to us directly to discuss if our CVC offering could provide a strategic fit for your unique business and goals.

With CVC funding from Wayra, you gain a strategic partner who will invest capital and unlock Telefónica's global network to fuel your startup's growth.

Reach out to us, and let's explore the possibilities.

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Written by
Laura Bonomini
Written by
Laura Bonomini

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