Energy corporate venturing goes digital (data bytes meet drill bits) – Houston Nov 1st

“We’re increasingly seeing companies that are as appealing to the oil and gas sector as they are to renewables,” says Geert van de Wouw, MD, Shell Technology Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of the Netherlands and UK-based energy major.

“For example, we invested in Maana, a big data solution for us and other players in oil and gas. But their knowledge and capabilities are equally applicable to the renewable energy domain,” says Geert.

Maana, the California-based start-up, will be among the corporate venture-backed technology businesses presenting at ‘Corporate Venture Houston’, Global Corporate Venturing’s first conference in the world’s energy capital on November 1st, which I will be co-chairing, with GCV’s Tim Lafferty.

Funded by Intel and GE, as well as the oil majors Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Saudi Aramco, Maana is symptomatic of increasing co-investment among software-focused and hardware-focused corporate VCs, who are investing across both renewables and hydrocarbons.

GCV Analytics shows that corporate VCs from outside the traditional energy industry are beginning to venture more actively in energy.  We’re seeing the likes of Intel and Microsoft co-investing with the energy majors.

“This underlines the profound change happening in the energy industry,” explains Geert. “Having more corporates around the table that take a long-term view and have the balance sheet to invest long-term, is great. For example, we have already co-invested with tech-giants like Google and Intel, and there will be likely more to follow.”

Alongside Maana, the other data-driven venture-backed digital innovators presenting in Houston include:

  • Beyond Limits (backed by BP Ventures)
  • Kelvin Inc (backed by Evok and EIC)
  • Amalence (backed by Intel Capital)
  • Spark Cognition (backed by HorizonX/Boeing and Verizon)
  • Veros Systems (backed by the venture units of Chevron and Shell)

These companies are fundamentally digital. But their biggest applications and markets are to be found across energy infrastructure (both hydrocarbons and renewables) and Houston is the best place for them to present their business models.

“It’s the logical centre for innovation and entrepreneurship in energy,” says Geert. “Digital entrepreneurs with relevance to oil and gas are flocking there.”

They will be joined at the conference by VCs from Shell, Chevron, BP (and several other oil & gas majors), from Intel, ABB, In-Q-Tel, HorizonX (Boeing), Jet Blue, Evonik, GE, Caterpillar, Breakthrough Energy Ventures and several others.

I’d like to thank the conference co-sponsors, Chevron Technology VenturesShell Technology VenturesBP VenturesBaker BottsBCG and Future Planet Capital. We’d like to also thank Partnership Tower, our host and conference venue.

Our purpose is to champion the resilience of the Houston-based and broader Texan venture capital and innovation industries. Rather than charge delegate fees, as is our typical business model, GCV asks delegates to donate to Entrepreneurs for Houston, E4H, a charity providing an entrepreneurial edge to Houston’s ongoing post-hurricane recovery efforts.

If you’re a VC or venture-backed business and would also like to attend the November 1st conference, please contact me.

Our full interview with Geert will be in the October edition of Global Corporate Venturing.  Please let me know if you’d like a copy.

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