On the hunt for game-changing green technology
The growing investor appetite for all things green has come as no shock to Statkraft, which has existed for more than a century as a ‘green’ company, long before the term was even coined.
It was 2015 when Statkraft saw an opportunity to invest in other environmentally angled companies where there was potential to stimulate the renewables market. That was the start of Statkraft Ventures, designed to open the renewable energy giant’s eyes to the fertile ground of start-ups.
Five years in, the time is ripe for Statkraft Ventures to grow and expand. An independent operation, with Statkraft knowledge and know-how at its back, Statkraft Ventures is increasing its aspirations to stimulate green innovation in the start-up world, starting with its own expansion to Oslo.
Start-up success can take Ironman-like endurance
Leading this ambitious arm of Statkraft is Anders Prietz. He previously served 15 years in leadership roles within mergers and acquisitions, investment analysis and corporate strategy for Statkraft, roles that set him up well to lead a blossoming venture business. He also happens to be an Ironman triathlete, which makes him no stranger to patiently plugging away, over time, to meet extreme goals.
“We are now increasing our ambitions in the venture market, increasing staff opening Statkraft Ventures second office, in Oslo, meaning we do not want to miss out on any good deals” says Prietz.
The growing outfit evaluates more than 1,000 prospects per year, and as their reputation grows, so do the number of in-bound leads. Statkraft is a known player in the renewables market, which as Prietz explains, helps them to be “among the leading clean technology venture companies in Europe.”
“Our focus is on helping the entrepreneurs build a good business. Because if they do well, we do well.” Mutual gain is the key to any venture capital relationship. As Prietz sees it, Statkraft stands to benefit in three key ways, should the start-up succeed:
“The energy environment is changing, and our venture business gives us the opportunity to keep our eyes and ears open to the market, to help Statkraft understand the developments.
“We also want to participate in advancing green technology; technology that we may one day use. And thirdly, we want to evaluate new businesses for Statkraft, which could be of interest down the road, to buy and develop.”
From the moment they say ‘I do’…
When the company finally decides to invest in an energy-related start-up, it marks the beginning of a long-term relationship, somewhere in the range of four to eight years. Statkraft Ventures takes a board seat in all its investments, cementing its advisory (rather than instructional) role in the company’s development.
“It takes time to grow, step-by-step. You have to be patient. We’re in the same boat as the founders; what’s profitable for them is profitable for us, and this usually takes more than four years,” Prietz explains, adding that it’s especially important for a venture company to stick around and prove itself as a serious investor.
While there’s no one magic word to hook Statkraft Ventures into investing in a start-up, there are some common themes among the companies it has chosen so far. Two such themes are artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. These technologies are proving themselves worthy in terms of innovating operational maintenance and remote inspections, for example.
“In addition, we focus on series A companies that has a connection to clean energy. The closer it is to our core business of hydro, wind and solar power, the more we feel we shouldn’t miss out on it.”
Prietz is quick to stress that a good idea isn’t enough
“We want them to define the problem that they are solving with their new technology,” he says. This is followed by demonstration of scaling the solution and its market potential.
“Last but certainly not least is the management team of the start-up. They need to be skilled for the task they have set out to do. Success boils down to these people.”
The race to profitability can be a long and tiring one, and many corporate ventures simply don’t have the stamina to stick around. It’s a reputation that Prietz is determined for Statkraft Ventures to never earn. It perhaps helps that he’s certainly no stranger to endurance.
“You will have downturns, but it’s important to stick around and do a good job. Number one priority is to yield superior financial return – we are a professional financial investor and if we are perceived in the market as anything else, we have failed. This does not mean that we as a corporate venture arm shall not seek to also make strategic return for Statkraft. We do take learnings from out in the world and bring it back home to Statkraft, supporting Statkraft to become one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies.
It’s full power from here on out for Statkraft Ventures
Prietz’s team is growing and so is their portfolio of future-focused founders who aim to change energy as we know it.
“We saw it coming in 2015, and now it’s exploding. Statkraft Ventures is right where it should be, expanding and on the hunt for game-changing green technology.”