The top 25: Girish Nadkarni, president, Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures

In October 2019, France-based broad energy company oil and gas supplier Total pivoted its corporate venture capital (CVC) fund’s focus to carbon neutrality and renamed it Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures (TCNV). Girish Nadkarni joined the unit, then known as Total Energy Ventures, in mid-2017 as its president.

Patrick Pouyanné, chairman and chief executive of Total, said: “The TCNV fund will fully support Total’s ambition to become the responsible energy major. It will allow us to expand the reach of our low carbon-businesses beyond our own borders.

“Over five years, the $400m fund will invest in startups whose technologies or innovative solutions could contribute to carbon neutrality.”

Nadkarni added: “In addition to carbon neutrality, TCNV has also started investing in sectors such as biofuels, bioplastics, circular economy and recycling.

“The key here is not just to find innovative technologies or business models, but help them commercialise with speed, scale and profitability. This way you address both the urgency of the situation and ensure a sustainable solution.”

In 2019, TCNV closed 10 deals including carpooling platform Scoop Technologies, same-day car refuelling service Booster and online clean energy marketplace operator LevelTen Energy. It also made three follow-on investments such as for Solidia, whose technologies have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% to 40%, save trillions of litres of freshwater and sequester or consume 240 kilograms of carbon dioxide each year in the production of cement and concrete.

Nadkarni is proud of TCNV’s diversity, remarking: “Women from different parts of the world play a critical role at TCNV and head our teams in Asia, emerging markets and North America as well as driving growth in Europe.”

Out of the unit’s seven managing directors, four are women: Cindi Choi, Xin Ma, this year’s Global Corporate Venturing Rising Star Ademidun ‘Demi’ Edosomwan, all of whom are based in Paris, and Severine Lalande in San Francisco.

“To improve the support we give our portfolio companies as well as extract value from them, we have appointed a senior person to drive business development and the results are already spectacular,” according to Nadkarni, referring to head of business development Marc Fischer who connects TCNV-backed startups with Total’s business units.

“TCNV is also actively anchoring, advising and promoting new funds in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, hydrogen economy and smart energy in China,” added Nadkarni, with Ma heading up the Asia division.

Nadkarni serves on the board of directors of the OGCI (Oil and Gas Climate Initiative) Climate Investments, the 12 corporate-sponsored scheme focused on low carbon technologies.

He explained: “This is a $1bn-plus fund created by the world’s largest oil and gas companies – including BP, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), ENI, Equinor (formerly Statoil), Petrobras, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco and Total – to invest in projects and startups in areas such as carbon capture, methane, energy efficiency and transportation.

“The fund’s mandate is to concentrate on areas where there has been a market failure, for example, because a certain technology is too expensive or risky for any one company to invest in. The fund’s focus is on achieving a measurable reduction in GHGs over the next 10 years.”

Nadkarni also serves on the investment committee of Creadev, the VC arm of the Mulliez Family Office, the largest family-owned business in France which owns businesses such as department store chain Auchan, sporting goods retailer Decathlon and home renovation and gardening retailer Leroy Merlin.

An active mentor to entrepreneurs and global CVC groups and a speaker at numerous global venture and industry conferences, Nadkarni has also served as an adviser to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and was on the selection committee to choose the WEF Technology Pioneers for several years. He was recently appointed to the board of advisers for the newly formed Institute for Carbon Management at University of California, Los Angeles.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF