Member Spotlight: Lutz Stoeber, Evonik
Silicon Foundry’s expanding network of Corporate Members are driving transformation at some of the world’s most respected global brands — from leaders in mobility, mining and telecom, to beauty, retail, energy, financial services and beyond.
Lutz Stoeber is an Investment Director at Evonik Venture Capital (EVC) and is based in New Jersey where he represents EVC in North America. Prior to joining EVC in 2012, Lutz was involved in investments in advanced materials, 3D printing, biotechnology, healthcare solutions and industrial companies for more than 15 years, having helped establish Pardus Capital in 2005 and running its European office. Lutz holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry and is an inventor of advanced materials technology. He is actively engaged with the following portfolio companies: Modern Meadow, Tech Council Ventures II, Pangaea Venture Fund III, mySkin, Wiivv Wearables, Algal Scientific, NIS and Vivasure.
In your current role as Investment Director at Evonik Venture Capital, what are your focus areas?
Since joining the team in 2012 as an Investment Manager and being promoted to Investment Director the following year, I’ve been responsible for all investments in North America. That means identifying and investing in companies with innovative technologies and high-growth potential in areas of strategic relevance to Evonik, such as Sustainable Nutrition, Healthcare Solutions, Advanced Food Ingredients, Membranes, Cosmetic Solutions and Additive Manufacturing.
Over the years at Evonik, what have been some of the most challenging or rewarding aspects? What are some of the areas you look back at and are most proud?
For a corporate venture capital unit, it’s always an initial challenge to define your objectives and establish a close link to your parent organization’s innovation programs and business interests. I’m particularly proud of how we addressed that by building a cross-functional team with members from within Evonik and others from the outside. This allowed for strong functional expertise in investments and direct communication with the operational business units.
To us, success isn’t just about financial returns; it’s about producing strategic value that will benefit each of Evonik’s business units in the long run.
What specific superpowers have you picked up from past roles that you bring to your current role?
I think my superpower is actually a combination of two: my technical and investment skills. Taken together, they position me to understand the deep tech concepts behind potential investments and execute on those deals from a tactical perspective.
Are there any particular examples of corporations and startups in the specialty chemicals landscape working together in a way that you can point to and think ‘now that’s how it’s supposed to be done’?
Corporate venture capital has dramatically matured over the past few years. I’ve been impressed with how corporate investors are entering investments at the optimal stage, exercising financing discipline and engaging more fully with their venture businesses.
The same is true for investments into Hard Tech-related technologies that solve the
world’s most important challenges through the convergence of breakthrough physical science, engineering and thought leadership. These are game-changing technologies that span advanced manufacturing, biotech, deep software & AI, energy, materials science, quantum computing, robotics and other new technologies. Given the associated complexity, Hard Tech startups often require longer development cycles, scale-ups and higher capital needs at the early stage. I’m pleased to see investors and founders discussing these challenges early in the development of Hard Tech startups and addressing them proactively.
If we were startup founders, what’s the advice you’d give about working with Evonik?
One of the biggest challenges for a founder is to engage with corporates effectively. My best advice is to engage early — and often — with corporates, as it takes time to establish those relationships. Corporate venture groups can be a great entry point to facilitate corporate engagement because we have such extensive networks.