Smart green VCs you should know
There are many smart green VCs in Europe and the US that back startups in energy, mobility, buildings, cities, materials and food to create impact and returns for their fund investors. In the VC food chain, early stage investors love to invest, at lower valuations and higher risk, in young startups that still work on product-market fit. On the other hand, late stage VCs prefer a shorter time-to-exit and successful startups with more than €2M revenues, strong management teams and fast growth. At the same time, the majority of corporates have adopted an open innovation and corporate venturing strategy and want to do business with startups, too. The result are different investment strategies and portfolios that startups should know before pitching. Let’s co-invest and accelerate the best smart green startups to fast growth and global impact.
The investors are sorted in alphabetical order as fund performance – the really interesting thing – is a well kept secret that is only shared with LPs (Limited Partners). It so happens that most US VCs only invest in US startups and ask European startups to move their HQ to America, exceptions are KPCB and GE Ventures. It makes sense that investors like to be close to their portfolio companies in order to add value by giving advice and making introductions. Crossing the Atlantic for a personal board meeting is a suboptimal use of time.
ABB Technology Ventures
ABB Technology Ventures (Switzerland and USA – early and late stage) is a corporate VC which brings the global technology and distribution power of ABB to the table. The swiss corporate did not allocate a dedicated fund but makes investment decisions deal by deal if a business unit sponsors them. ABB has got 12 active investments including PointGrab, Trilliant, Takadu and ROMO Wind. ABB acquired the EV fast charging startup Epyon in July 2011. Kurt Kaltenegger gave a great presentation at ECO12 Berlin.
Adaxia Capital Partners
Adaxia Capital Partners (UK – late stage) follows a late stage investment strategy focused on resource efficiency and currently raises a new fund. Their portfolio includes Power Plus Communications, Nualight and Neura.
Aster Capital (France, EU and USA – early and late stage) is a very interesting multi-corporate VC financed by Alstom, Schneider Electric, Solvay and the European Investment Fund. Aster closed its second fund at €107M. The portfolio includes Avantium, Iceotope (Peter Hopton on Ecosummit TV), The CosMo Company (Hugues de Bantel on Ecosummit TV) and Lucibel. Partner Fabio Lancelotti pitched Aster at ECO16 Berlin, Andreas von Richter recently joined Aster as Partner.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures
Breakthrough Energy Ventures is a new $1B fund initiated by Bill Gates and a few of his billionaire friends around the world. The strategy is to invest in early stage startups with disruptive technologies that can make the world a better place and accelerate the global energy transition to a 100% renewable energy system. Currently, they are setting up and hiring the investment management team. So it is still too early to send them pitch decks and business plans. Simply speaking, we love this initiative and can’t wait to make smart green business together.
Capricorn Venture Partners
Capricon (Belgium – early and late stage) has a strong cleantech portfolio that features promising startups such as Avantium, Green Biologics and FRX Polymers. The Capricorn Cleantech Fund held its final closing in August 2008 and amounts to €112M.
Chrysalix (Canada – early and late stage) is a famous cleantech VC active in North America. Among their portfolio companies are Primus Power, Enbala, Liquid Light and Glasspoint. CEO Wal van Lierop is exactly the visionary smart green investor that many startups would love to have in their board.
Cleantech Invest (Finland and Sweden – early stage) is a super cool early stage VC based in Helsinki and Lund. The publicly traded fund invested in 15 portfolio companies including Swap.com, Enersize, One1, Oricane, MetGen, Savosolar, Aurelia Turbines (Matti Malkamäki on Ecosummit TV), Watty and PlugSurfing (Adam Woolway on Ecosummit TV). In January 2015, 12-time Swedish national Judo champion Alexander Bigge Lidgren joined as new CEO from Swedish Energy Agency. Recently, portfolio company Nocart closed a $200M supply contract delivering a hybrid power plant to Zambia.
DBL Partners is an impact VC based in San Francisco that is one of the most visionary and successful smart green VCs on the planet. They are very close to Elon Musk and only invest in the US. Managed by Nancy Pfund and Ira Ehrenpreis their portfolio includes Tesla, SolarCity, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Off Grid Electric and SpaceX.
Demeter Partners (France – early and late stage) is a French cleantech VC that merged with Emertec in November 2016. Together they manage €800M AUM. Their large portfolio includes Smart Home International, Schnell Motoren and Fermentalg. Benjamin Wainstain manages the Demeter 3 Seed Fund that includes Qualisteo and Zenpark.
The DOEN Foundation (Netherlands – early stage) is one of Europe’s most important and most active impact VCs in the Netherlands that is active globally with direct and fund investments. DOEN’s portfolio includes We Share Solar (Sven Pluut on Ecosummit TV), Bleeve (Paul Geurts van Kessel on Ecosummit TV), Black Bear (Martijn Lopes Cardozo on Ecosummit TV), Taxi Electric (Ruud Zandvliet on Ecosummit TV) and Qurrent (Richard Klatten on Ecosummit TV).
Ecapital (Germany – early and late stage) has 12 promising cleantech portfolio companies including Heliatek, Greenergetic, Milk the Sun and Sonnen. In 2012, Ecapital was the most active cleantech VC in Germany by backing Geo-en, Smart Hydro Power and Subitec. In 2013, Ecapital successfully sold its stake in Novaled to Samsung. In July 2016, Ecapital announced a first closing of their fourth fund at €40M. Managing Partners are Paul-Josef Patt, Michael Mayer and Willi Mannheims.
Ecomachines Ventures (UK – early stage) is a London-based smart green VC focused on early stage startups. The portfolio includes Q-Bot (Mathew Holloway on Ecosummit TV) and PointGrab. Recently, the CEO Ilian Iliev sold their stake in Recycling Technologies (Adrian Griffiths on Ecosummit TV) and celebrated their first exit.
Electranova (France – early and late stage) is the corporate VC of the French utility EDF. In fact, EDF decided to partner with the French VC Idinvest Partners to manage this fund. Electranova made 10 investments including Off Grid Electric, Actility, Seatower (Petter Karal on Ecosummit TV), Forsee Power, Enlighted, Techniwood and Sunfire (Nils Aldag on Ecosummit TV).
Emerald Technology Ventures
Gina Domanig, Managing Partner of Emerald Technology Ventures (Switzerland and Canada – early and late stage), first presented at ECO11 Berlin looking back at 10 years of venture capital investing in cleantech startups in Europe. Emerald’s 3 funds under management are 100% cleantech and the portfolio includes Takadu, EnOcean, MetGen, O-Flexx, Elcore and Visedo. Nowadays, Emerald calls cleantech rather “industrial innovation”.
EnBW New Ventures
EnBW (Germany – early and late stage) is the third largest utility in Germany. In 2015, they launched their corporate venturing business EnBW New Ventures with a dedicated €100M fund. In July 2015, the Karlsruhe-based corporate VC made their first investment in Hamburg-based DZ-4, Germany’s Solarcity. In January 2016, Crispin Leick joined as Managing Director from RWE Innogy Venture Capital. In April 2016, EnBW New Ventures co-invested in Lumenaza together with IBB.
Eneco Innovation & Ventures
Eneco is probably the most innovative utility in the Netherlands, working hard on their transformation to a smart green utility. In July 2015, they announced Eneco Innovation & Ventures, a new €100M corporate VC fund based in Rotterdam. The portfolio includes Quby (Joris Jonker on Ecosummit TV), Peeeks (Wouter Robers on Ecosummit TV) and Nerdalize.
EON Strategic Co-investments
EON Strategic Co-investments (Germany and US – late stage) is the corporate VC of EON. The German utility is one of the most active corporate co-investors in smart energy startups. EON’s added value is rolling out the products of their portfolio companies to their 35 million customers, increasing startup revenues one market after the other. This turns out to be a very useful market entry strategy especially for US startups planning to enter Europe. EON’s portfolio includes Orcan Energy, Thermondo (Philipp Pausder on Ecosummit TV), Autogrid, Firstfuel, Sungevity, Opower and Bloom Energy.
ETF Partners (UK and Europe – early and late stage) is a London-based sustainable innovation VC with a promising portfolio that includes Telensa, 4energy, Vulog, E-Leather, Kebony, Voltea and MWR Infosecurity. ETF prefers to be the first VC to invest in late-stage startups with substantial revenues – quite a difficult dealflow task to achieve. ETF usually spends several years getting to know the startup and the performance of the management team before making an investment. In July 2016, ETF Partners celebrated a €250M exit of Enablon. Partner Arne Morteani pitched ETF Partners at ECO16 London.
GE Ventures (US and Europe – early and late stage) is the corporate VC of General Electric that has a very big energy, lighting and IoT portfolio including Sonnen, Stem and Tendril. As a European smart green startup you should be talking to Jonathan Pulitzer who is based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Generation Investment Management
Generation Investment Management (US and Europe – late stage) is a private and public equity investment firm focused on sustainability that was co-founded by Al Gore and David Blood. The Atlantic published a great story about Generation’s investment strategy and fund performance. Colin le Duc is the key partner responsible for their VC investments and just relocated to San Francisco to open an office there. Alois Flatz (formerly at Zouk) is a senior advisor looking for investments in the DACH region.
Gimv (Belgium – late stage) is around for 30 years and has €1.8B under management of which 30% is venture capital. Partner Hansjoerg Sage points out on Ecosummit TV that cleantech investing is about solving very big problems and is driven by fundamental trends such as climate change, energy supply security, urbanisation, scarcity of resources and environmental concerns that will be a top human priority for the next couple of decades. However, cleantech investments have a particular risk return profile that needs to be managed. Gimv’s portfolio includes thinkstep.
Greencoat Capital (UK – late stage) is a UK-based cleantech VC focused on late stage investments and backed by one LP, the Irish utility ESB. Greencoat’s portfolio features Nualight, Cylon and Wind Energy Direct.
High-Tech Gründerfonds (Germany – early stage) is Germany’s leading seed investor which manages 2 funds with a total volume of €576M, 401 seed investments, €915M follow-on investments from third parties and 49 exits since 2005. More than 10% of its portfolio is cleantech which makes it the biggest German cleantech VC in terms of number of deals. 89% of its second fund comes from the German government (BMWi and KfW), 11% is invested by 18 German corporates committing €2M each. Many people think that successful early stage investing in cleantech can only be done with public funding. However, venture capital has got many success factors, above all the know-how and execution of the startup’s management team, the VC’s management team and the proactive support of the fund’s LPs. The cleantech portfolio of HTGF includes Heliatek, Smart Hydro Power, EcoIntense, WeSustain and OneShore Energy (Philipp Kunze on Ecosummit TV).
Icos Capital (Netherlands – early stage) is a Rotterdam-based cleantech VC focused 100% on early stage startups – that’s where the risk and the fun is. Their portfolio includes Greenclouds and Dutch Rainmaker which converts air to water combining wind, water and cooling technology. Icos Capital works very closely with their corporate LPs and recently announced the first closing of their third fund at €50M.
Idinvest Partners (France – early and late stage) is one of the leading VCs in Europe and their partner Nicolas Chaudron gave an inspiring talk about the French cleantech market at ECO16 Amsterdam. Nicolas leads Idinvest’s practice Energy & Cities and the corporate partner funds Electranova Capital and Ecomobility Ventures.
InnoEnergy (Europe – early stage) is financed by EIT and a large number of LPs. Their very large portfolio is packed with promising early stage startups from all over Europe. Dirk Bessau manages the Berlin office and gave a cool pitch at ECO15 Berlin. CEO Diego Pavia gave an update on InnoEnergy at ECO16 Berlin. In particular, InnoEnergy is a good match for early stage energy startups.
Innogy Corporate Ventures
The new CVC of the German utility Innogy is called Innogy Corporate Ventures, led by Thomas Thomas and Matthias Engel, that is ready to do new investments. The old CVC is called Innogy Venture Capital and currently divests its existing portfolio. In February 2016, Innogy Vertrieb invested in Greenergetic. Inken Braunschmidt, Chief Innovation Officer, leads the Innogy Innovation Hub and pitched Innogy’s new innovation strategy at ECO16 London.
Inven Capital (Germany and Central Europe – late stage) is the new corporate VC of the Czech utility CEZ Group. Inven Capital made their first investment in Sonnen in July 2015. They actually met for the first time at ECO14 London. On 23 November 2015, Inven’s second investment in Sunfire was announced. Sonnen’s CEO Christoph Ostermann introduced Sunfire to Inven Capital and they held their first meeting at ECO15 Berlin. During their ECO16 Berlin presentation, Petr Mikovec and his Inven Capital team announced their €20M investment in Tado, one of the fastest-growing smart green startups in Germany. The Munich-based late stage startup provides climate control services to households by controlling heating and air conditioning systems. Tado was founded in 2011, pitched at Ecosummit Berlin 2012 for the first time and grew their team to 100 employees. Sunfire (Electranova/EDF and Inven/CEZ) and Tado (Statkraft Ventures and Inven/CEZ) are multi-utility syndicates, the best way to maintain startup independence and do business with lots of utilities at the same time. By the time they have fallen in love with a startup, Inven tries to get into the deal at the next opportunity. The result is a very strong portfolio with global startup brands.
According to Stephan Schulze of IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Berlin is a smart green business location for startups that has changed tremendously during the last 25 years. In fact, we count more than 30 fundable smart green startups in Berlin of which 6 are backed by IBB: Ubitricity (Knut Hechtfischer on Ecosummit TV), Thermondo (Philipp Pausder on Ecosummit TV), Geo-en (Nikolaus Meyer on Ecosummit TV), ECF Farmsystems, Qinous (George Hanna on Ecosummit TV), eMio (Valerian Seither on Ecosummit TV) and Lumenaza (Christian Chudoba on Ecosummit TV). IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft was founded in 1997 as a 100% subsidiary of Investitionsbank Berlin, the business development bank of Berlin. Next to venture capital, IBB provides a lot of support to SMEs including grants, public loans, bank credits, guarantees and mezzanine capital.
IP Group (UK and USA – early stage) is a publicly listed London-based evergreen fund following an early stage investment strategy in very close cooperation with top universities. They have a portfolio of 100 companies of which 13% are in cleantech and want to make their first investment at Seed or Series A. Robert Trezona pitched IP Group at ECO16 London and explains how they make money with smart green university startups.
Khosla Ventures (USA – early and late stage) is definitely smart and green. Vinod Khosla was probably the most successful cleantech VC in 2011 with 3 successful IPOs. Vinod is a big role model for the Smart Green Economy as he is not afraid of taking big risks, ready to fail in order to succeed, focused on the relevance of the Chindia price (unsubsidised price competitiveness in China and India) and defines himself as a venture assistant helping entrepreneurs build relevant companies. Vinod’s amazing big bets include Calera, KiOR (IPO) and TerraPower.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (USA – early and late stage) is without doubt one of the top VCs in the world. Their smart green portfolio includes Opower (IPO), Proterra, Silver Spring Networks (IPO), Relayr, Enlighted, Beyond Meat, Orcan Energy, Elcore and Nest (sold to Google).
Munich Venture Partners
Munich Venture Partners (Germany – early and late stage) is a German cleantech VC with deep pockets that closed their second fund at €130M in 2013. The European Investment Fund is the largest LP. MVP’s exciting portfolio features 50% cleantech deals including Bekon, Sortech, Kebony, Luxexcel, Harvest PowerSonnen, Relayr (Josef Brunner on Ecosummit TV) and Cobi. Partner Martin Kröner spoke at ECO15 London.
The German corporate Siemens recently launched next47, a new business unit that integrates all global startup activities and plans to invest €1B over the next 5 years in external and internal startups. Focus areas of next47 include decentralised electrification, connected mobility, artificial intelligence, autonomous machines and blockchain applications. Susana Quintana-Plaza joined as Partner from EON and currently looks for new investment opportunities.
SET Ventures (Netherlands – early and late stage) has got a focused smart energy portfolio which includes, EnOcean, Luxexcel, 4energy and Sonnen. The Amsterdam-based smart green VC was founded in 2007 and invests in technology companies that are in the early growth stage and have a sustainable impact on the future use of energy. SET Ventures successfully sold Epyon to ABB in 2011, Alertme to British Gas in 2015 and Sefaira to Trimble in 2016. On 5 February 2016, SET Ventures announced the first closing of SET Fund II at €60M and now has €100M assets under management (AUM). At ECO16 London, SET Ventures announced their investment in Energyworx.
Shell Technology Ventures
Shell Technology Ventures (Netherlands/Global – early and late stage) is the corporate VC of Shell. The Dutch oil & gas corporate is active in renewable energy and corporate venturing for a long time. Moreover, Shell is on a mission to transform into a new energy business that is a strong partner for startups that want to go global and scale quickly. Managing Director Geert van de Wouw pitched Shell Technology Ventures at ECO16 London.
Siemens Venture Capital
Siemens Venture Capital (Germany and USA – early and late stage) is the corporate VC of Siemens that does fund investments and direct investments in startups that fit into the 4 business units energy, industry, infrastructure & cities and healthcare. The portfolio includes Power Plus Communications, Tendril, Sunverge, Chargepoint, BuildingIQ and Powerit Solutions.
Denis Lucquin, Managing Partner of Sofinnova Partners (France – early stage), gave a great presentation at ECO11 Berlin about his investment strategy focused on green chemistry. Sofinnova’s cleantech portfolio includes Avantium, Bioamber, MetGen and McPhy Energy.
StartGreen Capital (Netherlands – early stage) is an early stage VC that manages regional funds and the crowdfunding platform Oneplanetcrowd and only backs Dutch startups. The portfolio of StartGreen Capital included the alternative meat startup Ojah that was just acquired by the Belgian family office Korys. Jeroen van Doornik pitches StartGreen Capital on Ecosummit TV at ECO16 Amsterdam.
Statkraft Ventures (Germany – early and late stage) is a new corporate VC based in Düsseldorf that looks for fast growing smart energy startups in Europe. Managing Director is Matthias Dill and their portfolio includes Tado, DEPsys and Greenbird.
Statoil Energy Ventures
Statoil Energy Ventures (Norway, UK, Europe and US – late stage) is the new corporate VC fund of Statoil from Norway that was established in February 2016. Their portfolio includes United Wind, Chargepoint and Oxford PV.
Total Energy Ventures
Total Energy Ventures is the corporate VC of French oil & gas company Total. Total is a very active CVC and its portfolio includes Sunfire, AutoGrid, Stem, United Wind, Sunverge and Off Grid Electric. Francois Badoual is the CEO of Total Energy Ventures based in Paris.
Vantagepoint Capital Partners
Vantagepoint Capital Partners (USA – late stage) has got a massive cleantech portfolio with some of the hottest startups on the planet. Check out BrightSource Energy, Solazyme (IPO), Alertme, Genomatica, Amprius, Glo and Tesla (IPO).
VNT Management (Finland and Germany – early and late stage) is a Finnish-German cleantech VC with €157M under management that loves smart green hardware and electrical systems. VNT has an office in Munich and they consider Germany to be a key market for dealflow and sales. VNT’s third fund closed at €77M and includes EIF as LP. Their large portfolio features Epicrystals, a startup developing energy efficient RGB lasers for miniprojectors, There Corporation (Kay Rönnlund on Ecosummit TV), a Nokia spin-off that is a smart energy management solution provider with a strong position in Scandinavia, Dilitronics, WeSustain and Visedo.
Wellington Partners (Germany and UK – early and late stage) stopped doing new cleantech deals 3 to 4 years ago. While Bart Markus is now Partner Emeritus being active as board member and advisor, Christian Reitberger still is a partner next to being an active smart green angel investor. Wellington’s portfolio features Glo and Heliatek.
Zouk Capital (UK – late stage) made big news in 2011 when they closed their new €230M late stage fund. The German startup FFK Environment was founded in 1992, is active in waste management and recycling and is one of the 3 deals zouk Capital announced in November 2011. FFK is a typical deal for late stage cleantech VCs such as Zouk who make big efforts to discover unknown deals hidden deeply in the German Mittelstand before competing VCs enter to bid and increase the valuation. The portfolio includes OZZ Electric, va-Q-tec and Mobility House.
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