Intuit, the business and financial tools company best known for its TurboTax software, made news last week for its acquisition of Mailchimp, and is now announcing a corporate venture capital arm, Intuit Ventures, to identify growth opportunities and trends beneficial for its key customers — small businesses and consumers.
The company is the latest to get into corporate venture, joining a group that includes WorkDay, Salesforce and Zoom. CEO Sasan Goodarzi spoke exclusively with TechCrunch about the new venture, which will focus its initial investments in the areas of fintech, e-commerce infrastructure, platforms and enablement, virtual experts/digital advice and AI/ML.
The initial idea for the venture arm came about a year ago, when Goodarzi and Intuit’s chief corporate strategy and development officer Anton Hanebrink were discussing the acceleration of internal and external company pipelines and how to align those with the company’s mission and identify big opportunities.
The VC arm is one of the ways they would do this, which would enable the company to accelerate innovation while also learning from companies, Goodarzi said.
“The conversation led to months of work and the decision to create Intuit Ventures,” he said. “Anton and Shveta [Mujumdar] now own this and come to Michelle [Clatterbuck] and I to walk us through their investment opinions.”
Intuit Ventures’ investment strategy will look across the company and touch on a number of areas:
- Connecting people with experts — many customers want to digitize services like bookkeeping, accounting and taxes, so the company provides a virtual expert platform accessible at the touch of a button.
- Capabilities to bolster platform using artificial intelligence, machine learning and knowledge engineering. This is an area where Goodarzi sees Intuit going beyond its current offerings to other industries.
- Unlocking smart money decisions by being a platform where any consumer can run their financial life in one place. “That’s why we acquired companies like Credit Karma and Mint — to be able to pull them together with TurboTax into one platform,” Goodarzi said. “We are now willing to invest in companies like stock trading platforms to add another layer.”
- Helping small businesses get customers — with the Mailchimp acquisition, it is an investment that fuels customer growth, whether omnichannel or through other methods.
- Talent and technology around cryptocurrency and blockchain — another area where Intuit can make an impact for customers, he added.
The venture firm will look at coming into an investment in the Series B and C rounds and may lead a round, but will also work with other venture capital firms. Goodarzi said identifying potential investments will start with “the belief in the talent and the company” and an idea of how by Intuit infusing money into the company, it will be successful.
“We are boundaryless in terms of funds that we will be putting into this,” Goodarzi said. “We have told Anton and Shveta to bring us the investments until the time we say, ‘no,’ but I don’t think there will ever be a ‘no.’ Talent is scarce and good ideas are endless.”
Intuit’s first investment was in Clearco, an e-commerce investment company that was just infused with $215 million from SoftBank in July. It is also an investor in Melio Payments, which provides a platform for SMBs to pay other companies electronically using bank transfers, debit cards or credit. The company raised $110 million, led by Coatue in January.
Goodarzi explained that Clearco was a good first investment because the company is representing diversity and diversity in the companies Clearco is helping. Secondly, its focus on e-commerce and omnichannel, also leveraging artificial intelligence capabilities, aligns with one of the five big bets identified by the company and stated above.
Having started a few companies of his own a few years ago, Goodarzi said he wants Intuit Ventures to be the kind of investor he looked for back then: one that will help get companies off the ground, give advice and be a partner to launch and fuel product growth. He intends investments to turn into partnerships and could lead to Inuit acquiring the company.
One of the best ways the venture arm will determine how best companies will fit into Intuit is by exposing them to its platform of more than 100 million customers worldwide.
“Our platform is what makes us attractive to companies like Melio or Clearco,” he added. “Many of these companies are building out things we don’t have. The biggest way we can understand the places they want to play in is to give them access to our platform. That will be the key to seeing if the company is going to be successful.”
Shveta Mujumdar, vice president of corporate development at Intuit and head of the venture program, and Clearco’s co-founders Andrew D’Souza and Michele Romanow, will be on hand to discuss the fund further at the TechCrunch Disrupt panel, “How to approach fundraising from corporate VCs” on September 22 at 2 p.m. PT.