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27 January 2016

Global Corporate Venturing Rising Stars Awards 2016: #1 Lisa Lambert

The Top 20: #1 Lisa Lambert, vice-president and managing director, Software and Services Group and the Diversity Fund at Intel Capital

Author: Toby Lewis, Editor

It is rare to find an executive who has had as much of an impact as Lisa Lambert. She has secured organisational and deal successes and set up the powerful women’s group Upward.

Lambert is the managing director of Intel Capital’s software and services group and its $125m Diversity Fund, which oversees a portfolio of 71 companies. She has spent the past 16 years at Intel Capital in investment roles, having previously spent three years as a product marketing engineer at Intel.

Although she did not originally plan a career in corporate venturing, the Harvard MBA graduate was drawn to Intel and the Silicon Valley region as a whole. She wanted to take part in the innovation revolution centred around it. After three initial years, she sought a way to put her MBA as well as her Penn State University experience as a software programmer to use in Intel. She found her home at Intel Capital.

“I discovered what was then the corporate business development unit, now branded Intel Capital,” Lambert said. “I started working for the Itanium group, the Intel-64 fund, which was launched in the mid-1990s as an individual contributor. I was investing on behalf of the fund.

“After that, I was promoted to run the e-commerce team. I was later a sector lead running the enterprise software team. This was followed by a promotion to become managing director of software and services in 2006. I was promoted to vice-president in 2010 and was given the Diversity Fund in 2015.”

Lambert is proud of all the deals she has authorised for her team. She has personally led a number of deals that went on to successful exits. These include Intel’s $218.5m investment into software firm VMware in 2007, its backing of data warehouse appliance vendor Datallegro, as well as MySQL, JBoss, search and discovery engine Endeca, and marketing analysis firm [x+1], which exited to artificial intelligence firm Rock Fuel last year.

Lambert said the biggest challenge for a corporate venturer is managing the complexity of dealmaking. She said: “Dealmaking for a corporate venture is more complex than it is for a private venture firm.

“We have got the added responsibility of needing to source high-quality strategic deals. Deals with a great outcome financially, but which also help Intel as a corporation strategically. That added level of complexity compels us to have as strong relationships internally as we do externally with the entrepreneurial community and the venture capital community. We have to build rapport with the business units we are responsible for. We must understand their strategies and find companies that align with those strategies.”

Lambert said corporate venturing needs more consistency. “One of the things corporate venturers get criticised for is their lack of long-term commitment to venturing. “One of the things that helps Intel Capital stand out is that since 1990, we have persisted in this. The reason we have been able to do so is that we have a mandate to not only increase our financial returns, but to also generate strategic value. We need a longer-term commitment by corporate venturers – many of whom, entered the market in the 1990s and then exited quickly as the market declined.”

Lambert said other corporate venturers needed to show the conviction Intel has displayed. She thinks they need to avoid damaging the reputation of corporate venturing as a whole by disappearing after devising one round of investment. To other corporate venturers, she advised: “Be consistent. Fulfil your commitments. Help companies succeed. Apply your resources and help deliver on strategic or business commitments you make when you get into a deal.”

Lambert also hopes there would also be more collaboration between corporate venturing units. “It is not something we explicitly do. I is more happenstance than formal engagement. Corporate venturers have a lot more in common than one would think. The resources we can bring to bear to help companies succeed is immense. When you think about what an individual corporate venturer could do, think about what a collective of corporate venturers could do to really help companies. I don’t think there’s that level of collaboration in the industry yet. That would be really helpful.”

Lambert plans to develop Intel’s Diversity Fund over the next five years. After that, Lambert wonders what the next level is for her. “I have managed more than $1bn in current value, $870m in original investment. There are lots of realised gains and unrealised gains in getting towards a 25% internal rate of return.

“I have managed a very large portfolio and achieved a great deal of success. The next level for me would be to manage an investment group, whether that is at Intel or another group. Being the managing director of a large fund independent of my responsibilities here would be pretty compelling.”

Outside of Intel, the Harvard graduate is also having a major impact on supporting women’s professional ambitions. She started a non-profit organisation at the start of 2013 called Upward, which is a global network of female executives with the mission of accelerating their careers and building professional relationships as well as offering support.

“One of the things I discovered when I started looking at this is that women in all geographies, but particularly in the US, enter the workforce in large numbers. We have more degrees than men in America and the numbers. The problem is when you get to a certain level,” said Lambert. “I formed Upward to help director-level women and above get to the next level and get into executive positions or CEO positions or start their own company.”

Since launching, the network has expanded internationally to include over 2,600 members with chapters in the US, Israel and the UK. “It has become a movement. I did it because every day I would go to meetings and I was the only woman in the room and, after a while, you want to change that.”

The work is also directly related to the work Lambert is doing in the Diversity Fund. “A lot of women within our community are entrepreneurs, so we have a number of CEOs and founders. I did a lot of research with those members as I was preparing to launch the Diversity Fund.”

Calling it “good old girls’ network”, Lambert has created a support infrastructure that can help women achieve those goals. “I call it that in a playful way, but it really is that. I think it is time to come together and really help one another. There is this perception that because there are only so many ‘women’s seats’ at the executive level this means that there is more competition among females than there is collaboration. My theory is that we need to set that aside. If we are really going to change the demographic in the top positions in the top companies across the world, we are going to have to do it by proactively helping each other get to the next level.”

Highlighting research that suggests companies with more women higher up do better as a whole, Lambert said: “To me, this is not a community project. This is a professional, good for business, economics project. Women produce returns. Whether they are on the board or at executive level, you get better results, better cash management, better venture capital and better revenue. It is a marriage made in heaven.”

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