How to Secure Corporate Venture Capital: Pitch Practice with JetBlue Ventures’ Jim Lockheed


Ten years ago, Jim Lockheed had just left Boeing and launched a company aiming to convince businesses of new uses for drones. He knew applications would have a wide range – from bolstering marketing to conducting inspections for insurance and roofing companies. Now, as an investor working with travel startups, Lockheed advises founders: if you want to court investors, convince them that there is or could be demand for what you’re selling. 

That’s one of the most important parts of pitching, says Lockheed, who works for JetBlue’s corporate venture arm, JetBlue Ventures. There, he focuses on travel, commercial aviation and sustainability/climate technology. His investments include Air Company, Beacon AI, Universal Hydrogen, Frontdesk, Lacuna, i6, and 3Victors.

“One key that I stick to when I’m talking to early stage founders is to try and find a proxy of demonstrated demand. Something they can show that helps us understand potential product market fit and that people will be willing to pay,” Lockheed says. 

Founders Network members had the opportunity to dig deeper and learn how to pitch corporate venture firms on Nov. 9 when Lockheed hosted pitch practice and office hours. Here are some additional pieces of advice Lockheed offers founders about working with travel startups and pitching to CVCs .

To learn more about how to pitch corporate venture firms, see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.

Travel Startups and Sustainability 

When it comes to making travel more sustainable, it’s not hard to make a case for the demand for sustainable solutions. This is amplified by the pressure to decarbonize the airline industry as soon as possible.

For investors in travel startups, the focus is on supporting founders and companies working on sustainability and climate technology. It’s an opening in the market that’s drawing a lot of attention. 

“So many large corporations are trying to set net neutrality goals but many don’t have a very credible path without some kind of innovation or new technology,” he says. 

As a result, there is a critical opening for startups trying to help industries reduce their emissions. For example, in Lockheed’s world, that means looking for alternatives to jet fuel. Which is the aim of his portfolio companies like Universal Hydrogen (green hydrogen) and Air Company (CO2-derived sustainable aviation fuels). 

How to Pitch to Sector-Based Investors

JetBlue Ventures is specifically interested in companies that could become potential partners in the airline and travel sectors. 

But that focus is probably not as limiting as one might think. That is, if you can make a pitch for it. 

Lockheed and his colleagues at JetBlue Ventures are interested in hearing about “any companies that remotely touch travel, as long as there is a use case in mind, even if a little creative. Founders should be thinking about partnerships and how what they’re doing could benefit the airline. We’re open to ideas,” he says. 

For JetBlue Ventures, that translates to: anything travel-related. Like hospitality. 

The firm’s portfolio includes travel startups like TurnKey, which connects customers to short-term vacation rentals and was sold to Vacasa for $619 million in 2021. And Frontdesk, which is one of the largest operators of high-quality short-term rentals in apartment buildings.

“We want investors and startups to think of us as travel industry investors first, because there are so many interesting ways that travel companies can work with airlines” he says. 

Understand Corporate Risk Management

Corporations like JetBlue aren’t typically inclined to take on an abundance of risk. It’s important to keep this dynamic in mind when pitching to a corporation’s venture capital firm, Lockheed advises. 

“Large corporates want innovation but are most comfortable working with proven incumbents and solutions,” he says. “It can be difficult to try out new things.”

Founders pitching corporate investment firms need to ask, “How can you make this relatively low risk for the corporate to try out what you’re doing?” Lockheed advises. 

To learn more about how to pitch corporate venture firms, see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.

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