Q&A: UPS Ventures’ Managing Partner Todd Lewis on Building Relationships and Adopting New Technologies
“As a company, we’ve recognized the importance of building relationships. Being a partner is going above and beyond to help companies hit scale.”
As UPS looks to expand their investments, their philosophy focuses on products, services, and technologies that will not only benefit their business but will also reshape other industries. Their goal is to provide their customers with the best service by utilizing technological developments across multiple sectors. The company is investing in international markets to discover emerging technologies and new business models. Most recently, UPS announced their investment in 170 million gallons of renewable natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of its ground fleet. UPS Ventures’ Managing Partner, Todd Lewis, spoke with Hemi Ventures’ Amy Gu about his strategies for running UPS Ventures.
Amy: What has been your biggest success and greatest learning from working at UPS?
Todd Lewis: I never expected our corporate culture to have such an impact across the entire enterprise. Whatever level you’re at, it comes down to the people. It’s an incredible sense of legacy and loyalty to the brand that’s embedded into every single UPS employee. Being a millennial among my partners, it’s easy to say that’s a generational thing, but it was really interesting to learn, not just that it exists, but how it actually benefits the company when you’re willing to get in the trenches with anybody at any given point in time.
UPS is willing to take the risks needed to be an innovator. You have to be willing to put in the work to throw those ideas on the table. You have layers that you have to go through to get approval, but the company across all the different levels has an openness to trying new things, supporting people like myself who want to do more in different ways.
As a company, we’ve recognized the importance of building relationships. Being a partner is going above and beyond to help companies hit scale. Ultimately, UPS wins along the way as well. Now I run UPS Ventures. The strategic enterprise fund, as it was formally known, was around for about 20 years. We just recently rebranded to UPS Ventures. Part of my mandate was to rethink and redesign the team to be more founder-focused and more capability-driven. I’m trying to drive value for UPS and drive more value as an investor in early tech.
A: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
T: Once upon a time, I was cast for Survivor, but I never showed up for the final call. When I was in college, I worked at REI, and the producer’s mother came in. We spent hours together talking while she shopped and she put me in touch with her daughter, who was the casting director for Survivor. The final call was during finals week, so I missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
I also used to be a social worker, and I used to run a fatherhood program for military dads. That’s what I went to school for. I loved working with people, and I still do.
A: Looking forward, what upcoming projects, plans, or geographic expansions are in the pipeline?
T: From a project perspective, we have many opportunities in front of us and really amazing people to tackle those problems with. Geographically we are looking to expand our venture reach. It’s our goal to have a more global perspective on how we can plug ourselves into those opportunities earlier so we can help the founders and help ourselves to drive those technologies upstream.
From a platform perspective, technology, in general, helps UPS engage with its customers, making the experience even more technologically driven. Over the next 10 years, that’s a huge undertaking for our company. We fully recognize that there’s a massive opportunity for us to continue to invest in our tech and the resources around it to win more business.
We have core areas that our investing is focused on: high growth markets, healthcare, e-commerce (B2b), small to medium businesses, and the underlying technology. Top leadership made those decisions. Scott Price, our chief transformation officer, has done a terrific job at setting the direction we are heading. His strategy is complementary to what we’re trying to do and how we want to evolve.