February 5, 2021
As the Executive Director and General Manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, Chris Moran is looking for that 1 percent of innovators who are on the right team, with the right chemistry, for the right problem.
“I think the real magic is finding the folks with the right combination of vision, passion, and reality,” Chris said on a recent episode of BMNT’s radio show and podcast, The Innovators. In these entrepreneurs, Chris sees the drive and strategic know-how to take an idea to the next level — as long as they also have the good sense to know when they could benefit from the right strategic partner that can provide much-needed feedback, new information, and fresh perspectives.
Founders who are not curious and open to new ideas raise a red flag for Chris, since “they’re not going to be coachable.”
Another part of the puzzle for Lockheed Martin Ventures, the venture arm of the global aerospace and defense company, is seeing how an entrepreneur and his company fit within the strategic mission of Lockheed and its projects, Chris said. This fit with a strategic investor is important for entrepreneurs to remember when they’re fundraising: It’s not all about the money; it’s also about how a startup and a VC can be bigger and better together.
“Half my time is spent talking to people inside (Lockheed) to find out what they need, what they think they need, what’s important to them, and what problems they have.” Chris couples this with getting out of the building to meet up-and-coming entrepreneurs at events, showcases, meet-and-greets — you name it. This helps him and his team find investments that can have a big impact on Lockheed’s priorities.
Finding dual-use solutions is key, he explained. Oftentimes, startups in a commercial space can, with small adjustments, produce solutions that have military applications, reducing the time it takes for mission-critical solutions to make it to the frontlines in defense.
“In the commercial world, some things progress really, really fast,” Chris said. For example, while many people, including those in the Department of Defense, were caught off guard with advancements in artificial intelligence, the commercial world had in the meantime already spent billions in developing AI for ad recommendations.
“If we’re not playing in that, or participating in that, or paying attention to it, we’re going to get left behind.”
For Chris, that means keeping a focus on the strategic mission of Lockheed and an open mind to the entrepreneurs that he meets.
His advice for other investors? “Just listen, to whoever they are — be it an esteemed professor, a Nobel Laureate, a new grad. Can they tell a story? Does the story make sense? Don’t look at who’s talking, just find out what they’re saying.”
That’s, he said, where the journey to great partnership begins.
Listen here or go to the time stamps below for some other great insights into mission-driven investing.
1:52: The groan-inducing pitches Chris has heard…
3:20: …and the pitch that grabbed a billion-dollar market
6:24: A telltale sign that an entrepreneur has the right attitude to make it big
8:21: How someone with a couple of degrees from MIT ended up in venture capital for a large defense company
14:52: How to find the right innovators for the job
20:34: A peek in Lockheed Martin’s investment portfolio
28:47: What startups should expect from partnering with a VC
35:00: Why constrained resources make people much more innovative
39:00: 100 pitches for every deal
43:35: How a VC stays motivated
48:50: The top three deal killers
56:00: What the shift from the “built to last” era to the “built to sell” era means for startups and VCs
1:00:00: How to think about strategic investors
The Innovators Radio Show and Podcast highlights the best and brightest mission-driven entrepreneurs — people dedicated to making the world a better place. The show airs Mondays at 11 am PT/2 pm ET on Stanford University radio station KZSU, 90.1 FM, and is streamed at kzsu.org, Past episodes are archived here.
Taking an incremental approach can de-risk your innovation effort.