HP Launches Group to Invest in Startups

HP Inc., a descendant of Silicon Valley’s original startup, plans to bet on the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The company, made up of the personal computer and copiers operations of the former Hewlett-Packard Co., on Tuesday announced the launch of HP Tech Ventures, an investment arm targeting early-stage companies developing technologies that could help its business.

HP’s announcement was mainly a formality. The investment group, which already was operating quietly, grew out of activities begun before the Hewlett-Packard breakup completed in early November, said Shane Wall, HP’s chief technology officer. It has already made a handful of investments.

The group will target fields such as 3-D printing, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, wearable technology and the trend called the Internet of Things, Mr. Wall said.

“What we have been focusing on is investments that help us accelerate a current business, or help us accelerate disruptions that are now in the lab,” he said.

Such corporate investment activity is nothing new. The best-known example in Silicon Valley is Intel Corp.’s venture capital arm, which has taken equity stakes in more than 1,400 companies since 1991. (Intel, which recently announced a major restructuring, is considering selling part of its venture capital portfolio, a person familiar with the matter said in March.)

Mr. Wall joined HP three years ago after a lengthy stint at Intel, where he worked for a time at Intel Capital. Like the chip giant, he said, HP plans to invest with funds from its balance sheet rather than setting aside money in a traditional investment fund.

“We want to put the focus on investments that are critical,” Mr. Wall said, as opposed to hitting “some dollar amount.”

The investment group will have teams in Palo Alto, Calif.–HP’s hometown—as well as in Tel Aviv. Israel is home to some major HP operations, as well as a major center for startups and venture capital, Mr. Wall said.

HP Tech Ventures will be led by Andrew Bolwell, an HP executive who holds the title “chief disrupter.” Mr. Bolwell will report to Mr. Wall.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the other portion of the venture that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established in a Palo Alto garage in 1939. That company, known for products such as server and storage systems, has a separate investment arm called Hewlett Packard Ventures.

Write to Don Clark at don.clark@wsj.com

First appeared at WSJ VC