Q&A with Girish Nadkarni, president, TCNV

France-headquartered energy company Total announced in October 2019 that it would focus its global venture fund on fostering carbon neutrality. The fund, named Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures (TCNV), would increase its capital to a cumulative $400m within five years’ time. Its investments would support startups that develop innovative technologies and solutions which help companies to reduce their energy consumption or the carbon intensity of their activities.

Patrick Pouyanné, chairman and CEO 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.”

The unit closed 10 deals and three refinancings globally in 2019. 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,” Nadkarni said. “This way you address both the urgency of the situation and ensure a sustainable solution.”

Women from different parts of the world play a critical role at TCNV and head the unit’s 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 – Marc Fischer, head of business development who connects TCNV-backed startups with Total’s business units – to drive business development and the results are already spectacular,” Nadkarni noted.

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.

Nadkarni added: “I now serve on the board of directors of Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) Climate Investments. This is a $1bn-plus fund created by the world’s largest oil and gas companies such as Total, BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Saudi Aramco and others, to invest in projects and startups in areas such as carbon capture, methane, energy efficiency and transportation. OGCI’s mandate is to focus on areas where there has been 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 measurable reduction in greenhouse gases over the next 10 years.

“I also serve on the investment committee of Creadev, the venture arm of the family office for the Mulliez Family, the largest family-owned business in France which owns iconic businesses such as Auchon, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin.

“I was also appointed to the board of advisers for the newly formed Institute for Carbon Management at University of California, Los Angeles.”

Nadkarni’s other activities from the past year include:

  • Speaking at industry and venture conferences globally
  • Advising and guiding corporations from Korea to the Gulf wanting to start CVC groups
  • Advising and mentoring startups and entrepreneurs

 

In April 2020, GCV interviewed Nadkarni regarding his unit’s covid-19 response.

Nadkarni and Edosomwan also featured in a panel during GCV’s first Digital Forum in June 2020:

Leadership Series: Girish Nadkarni & Demi Edosomwan (TCNV)