Apr. 21, 2017 – Kate MacArthur – Chicago Tribune
Greg Wasson, the former CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, has chosen startups as his next act.
“I’m going to call this my relaunch,” Wasson said, borrowing a phrase he heard from another CEO he wouldn’t name.
After investing in a series of startups through a family investment office, he joined forces earlier this year with a group of serial entrepreneurs to form Innventure, which works with Fortune 50 companies to identify and spin out innovative technologies. They’re currently partnering with packaged-goods giant Procter & Gamble.
Wasson, who spoke about the venture this week, calls Innventure’s model a “circle of life”: Partners like P&G give Innventure access to their proven technologies, then Innventure identifies promising ideas and creates new businesses out of them, from which the partner can also benefit.
Neil Jordan, vice president of corporate R & D and P&G Ventures, said in a statement that Innventure will complement P&G’s research and innovation efforts.
The name Innventure was originally used separately by Wasson’s now-colleagues, Michael Otworth and John Scott. Then they partnered with Wasson’s family office investment company, Wasson Enterprise, in January 2017 and formed a new company under the Innventure name.
Scott previously ran a company called XL TechGroup that used a similar business model; Otworth ran some of XL TechGroup’s companies. That company also had a partnership with P&G.
XL TechGroup created 11 companies over 20 years, including six that went public, according to an Innventure spokeswoman.
According to public filings, XL TechGroup was founded in 2002 and based in Melbourne, Fla. It went public as XLT in 2004 on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange. The IPO raised about $40.3 million, before expenses, and the company was valued at about $129.4 million, according to a company press release.
A Securities and Exchange Commission filing from one of XL TechGroup’s companies described XL TechGroup as being “an inactive holding company” after 2008.
Otworth and Scott founded the first iteration of Innventure in October 2015. That company also worked with P&G, spinning out a company called PureCycle Technologies in 2015. PureCycle uses technology that P&G developed to recycle a type of used plastic.
At the new Innventure partnership with Wasson Enterprise, Wasson is chairman and Otworth is CEO. Scott is chairman of investor relations and chief science officer; Rick Brenner rounds out the team as chief operating officer.
“They bring serial startup experience, and I bring what I hope is experience leading large-scale corporations and commercialization of new businesses,” Wasson said.
Wasson retired from Walgreens in 2015 after a 35-year career that saw him rise to CEO in 2009; he left the company one month after Walgreens merged with Alliance Boots. Later, he drew criticism for his early enthusiasm for startup Theranos, maker of a blood-testing technology Walgreens adopted but that was later debunked.
In January 2016, Wasson co-founded Wasson Enterprise to fund early-stage companies across three sectors: clean and efficient energy innovation, innovative customer and shopping solutions, and health tech.
He said Wasson Enterprise has made 12 investments, primarily in Chicago and the Midwest. Those include Bolstr, a marketplace lending platform; Opternative, an online eye exam; Explorer, an interactive surgical playbook; Pangea, a mobile money transfer company; SwervePay, which lets patients pay medical bills by text; and Brideside, an online wedding concierge.
Wasson also serves on the boards of Verizon Communications and PNC Financial Services Group.