Q&A with Erin Hallock, managing partner, BP Ventures
1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it.
I am a managing partner at BP Ventures, which is BP’s corporate venturing division. I lead on origination, appraisal and portfolio management of our investment activity across what we term Innovation and Engineering. My investments are expected to be a catalyst for exploring and accessing emerging digital technologies across our business units to support BP through the energy transition. I have over 13 years’ investment experience across mid-market buyouts, growth capital and venture capital and have been with BP Ventures for two and a half years.
2. What attracted you to CVC?
Before joining BP Ventures I previously worked for two generalist, financial private equity funds. When considering my next career move, I was keen to work for a thesis-driven investor and one that was also able to positively impact our environment through its investment activity. I had the opportunity to support some great businesses in my previous roles but did not feel that my investments were making a difference. As a seasoned investor, I was also acutely aware that the relationship between the investor and founder can at times feel a bit one-sided. My role gives me the opportunity to meet with a number of exciting and innovative businesses and entrepreneurs; however, because it is the entrepreneurs who give you permission to do this job, I wanted to work with a fund that was able to provide value in addition to the capital and I think CVCs are uniquely able to do that not only through revenue but also by leveraging their own resources to lower the costs of commercialising innovation.
3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?
Working on the steering committee which laid the foundation for establishing BP LaunchPad, which is our incubation engine whereby we support breakthrough technologies to become digitally-led businesses, helping us to re-imagine energy.
4. What have been your biggest challenges?
I believe the energy transition is the greatest industrial transformation of our lifetime and the challenge to shift BP from a global oil and gas producer to a net-zero energy provider is monumental; however, I also think to be afforded the opportunity to play a role in transforming BP, is exciting and a challenge that I am looking forward to tackling.
5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?
To make sound investments that support BP’s energy transition.
6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?
I think we are perhaps too humble, particularly when compared to our peers in financial VCs. I think we should champion both the advantages of partnering with a CVC and our success stories.
7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?
Whilst the pandemic has created a host of challenges and although we have all had our ups and downs throughout the last nine months, there have been several occasions where I have been particularly proud to work for BP: providing fuel to first responders and providing logistical support so that a portfolio company, Carbonfree, could donate bleach – a commercial bi-product – to hospitals in Texas. That said, I do not think the pandemic has altered our technology requirements or strategic ambitions.
8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?
With two young children, I wish I had free time to run along the banks of the Thames, join a Pilates class or sleep in. Instead, I tend to spend my time away from work exploring local parks, pretending to be an amateur photographer and cooking – often rejected – family meals.
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