The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Sam Salisbury & Christophe Defert, Centrica

Sam Salisbury and Christophe Defert, directors and co-heads of Centrica Innovations (CI), have scaled up a unique blend of corporate and impact venturing for the UK-listed energy utility.

Centrica launched CI in January to invest £100m ($125m) over the next five years in startups and incorporate its existing £10m Ignite social impact fund started in 2014.

Iain Conn, Centrica’s group chief executive, said: “The launch of Centrica Innovations is an important step in identifying and responding to the changing needs of our customers. The new venture will ensure innovation is embedded across our business and will allow us to invest in the technologies that can support our customers into the future. We are already investing £1.2bn to 2020 in our connected home and distributed energy and power businesses, helping residential and business customers take control of their energy and save money.”

Salisbury added: “This builds on what we have already achieved through Ignite, which began funding enterprises in 2014. Ignite will continue and will become part of CI. We will embed social and environmental impact into our investment decision criteria. CI will also support an internal culture of innovation. Learning from outside companies and entrepreneurs will help Centrica teams incorporate the mindset and ideas of startups and entrepreneurs to embed them into our ways of working. To help achieve this aim, CI will support in-house ventures.”

Both London-based Salisbury and San Francisco-based Defert have each spent nearly seven years with Centrica. After being a consultant at Arthur D Little, Salisbury worked in corporate strategy and then Ignite, first as an investment principal under Julia Rebholz, who was included in the GCV Powerlist 2016, and then leading it after her departure last summer.

Defert’s time at Centrica has been in mergers and acquisitions, business development and most recently as chief of staff for the CEO of the Direct Energy subsidiary in North America. Additional hires are expected in New York and Israel.

The Ignite fund, which won GCV’s corporate impact venturing award in 2016, had three clear goals. First, to create commercial benefits for the parent company by working with new, disruptive and profitable business models and technologies.

Second, Ignite’s investments and partnerships would give Centrica’s employees the chance to broaden their experience and increase their skills by working as mentors or non-executive directors. Finally, the fund was a way to support social enterprises delivering positive outcomes – from increased employment to reduced carbon use – to the communities in which Centrica operates. Salisbury said last year’s accomplishments had reflected these goals.

He said: “We have had a number of financial successes with our Ignite social impact investment portfolio. We have had two exits – the acquisition of E-Car Club by Europcar and the refinancing of Energise Barnsley, which allowed our construction financing to be repaid by a combination of bank loans and a community bond issue.

“We have also seen substantial jumps in valuation in three of our enterprises – because they have received new investment – and secured further investment from Ignite for four enterprises already in our portfolio. We have now committed £9m of investment to 14 enterprises and have received £2m of sale proceeds and repayments. In January we took on a further nine teams into our pre-investment accelerator program.

“Through our investment and support, Ignite has created over 100 jobs and 26,000 people benefit from the services of our portfolio companies.

“We continue to give Centrica employees a chance to broaden their experience and increase their skills. They work as mentors, non-executive directors and on projects with our enterprises. Last year more than 100 employees worked with one of the enterprises in our portfolio.”