While global tech giant IBM has so far focused mostly on investing employee time and energy into the emerging technology, it’s only just now gearing up to take an equity stake in an industry startup. In what will no doubt be taken as a sign of the blockchain industry’s maturity, for IBM Ventures, investing cash is finally becoming more attractive. And with several hurdles removed from the investment firm’s strategy – including, most notably, the need for the rounds to be Series B or higher – IBM Ventures has got its eyes on candidates.
A blockchain company could be square in IBM Venture’s sights, but there are several conditions that now need to be met. For starters, IBM’s investments are expected to occur within 18 months to five years of the company’s maturity – the widespread adoption of its product – and further, investments are limited to purveyors of business-to-business products.
IBM’s main priority continues to be to creating critical mass around its blockchain platforms (IBM Blockchain Platform and Hyperledger Fabric), and this trumps generating revenue on any investments. In order for a company to attract Auer-Welsbach’s attention, then, it has to have a proven, repeatable successful business model, with multiple clients, making it better suited for the kinds of interaction that create a strong sense of community around a platform.
For example, IBM Ventures recently opened up its coffers as the lead investor of a $15 million round in Lightbend, an open-source platform for users of the Scala machine-learning language that already has multiple corporate customers.