Scoop: TotalEnergies dismantling its venture arm
The oil and gas giant TotalEnergies is shuttering TotalEnergies Ventures, its climate-tech investment arm, and replacing it with an accelerator, three sources tell Axios.
Why it matters: With investors crowding clean energy and climate-tech — and sending valuations skyward — some corporate VCs are pushing into earlier stages to break away from the competition.
- An accelerator model, with the smaller investments it brings, offers a way to mitigate early-stage risk while still gaining access to potential innovations, customers and new business models.
Driving the news: The head of TotalEnergies, Girish Nadkarni, announced last winter his plans to retire — and that may have presented an opportunity for TotalEnergies to reassess.
- Energy insiders noticed when Edouard Bulteau, formerly a director at TotalEnergies Ventures, moved to the company's accelerator in December and wasn't replaced at the venture operation.
- Later-stage rounds have become far more competitive, and climate tech valuations are soaring. That's challenged corporate VCs, which typically have less capital than traditional VC firms, to keep pace.
- Transitioning to an accelerator allows a corporate VC to connect with startups at their earliest stages.
Background: Sources tell Axios that TotalEnergies is winding down its fund, Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures, which had managed about $400 million.
- Autogrid, Getaround, LevelTen, Solidia, and SparkMeter are among the venture's portfolio investments.
- TotalEnergies in March announced the debut of an accelerator for startups focused on the electricity sector.
- Total launched Total Ventures in 2008.
Yes, and: In its early years, Total Ventures made large investments in biofuels — a sector that at the time seemed the least alien and most aligned with the oil major's core business, but which was a long way from becoming profitable.
- The venture arm pivoted in 2017 with new leadership, refocusing to invest in climate tech sectors like electricity, mobility and building materials — and delivering healthy returns.
💭 Our thought bubble: Corporate venture arms are often among the first to go when companies start tightening their belts amid widespread volatility and uncertainty.
- Long-term investment in startups ultimately doesn't do much for most companies' bottom lines, especially in a down market.
TotalEnergies did not respond to a request for comment.