Despite the headlines in the news, American businesses are moving forward investing in new energy solutions. Chicago-based renewable power generator Invenergy made waves this week when they formally announced the launch of their new venture fund. Amy Francetic is the former CEO of Clean Energy Trust and now is leading the Invenergy Future Fund team to expand access to capital to the next wave of clean energy technologies.
Q: Why is Invenergy starting a fund?
AF: Invenergy believes that now is a great time to be doubling down on energy innovation. Renewable energy is cost competitive, and innovation in technology can help accelerate the transition from older, carbon-intensive infrastructure to cleaner and distributed solutions. The Fund is a great way for Invenergy to continue its meaningful commitment to supporting innovation, and to find disruptive companies to help drive value in the industry.
Q: What is your investment thesis?
AF: We are interested in digital software and hardware that makes energy more affordable, reliable and secure. In other words, the control system layer of energy that resides atop the physical infrastructure. The Invenergy Future Fund team will work with the engineers and operators at Invenergy to source, diligence, and then pilot test new technologies. By leveraging the decades of experience at Invenergy, we think we can get better results as investors and choose solutions that are more commercially relevant.
Q: Have changing political headwinds altered your strategy or goals?
AF: The business case for clean energy is stronger than ever today despite what some people in the federal government purport. It does not make political or business sense to resuscitate aging infrastructure. Hundreds of businesses are making commitments to clean energy along with utilities who are responding to their customers’ demands. We’re moving forward – not backward. As government support for innovation in energy diminishes, the funding gap only gets wider, and the need for other sources of private capital to fill the void is greater.
Q: Have you made any investments yet?
AF: Yes! Aquilon Energy Services is the first investment. They are a company in the suburbs of Chicago that has built a software platform for automatically settling energy trades. We like that they are using software to improve an inefficiency in the energy trading business thereby reducing operational costs. It fits our thesis of making energy more affordable. You can read more about our investment in Aquilon here. We are actively looking for deals in the cybersecurity, predictive analytics, distributed resources and battery control systems verticals.
Q: How many investments do you hope to make in 2017?
AF: We hope to make at least one additional investment this year.
Q: How does this new source of capital impact the landscape for cleantech startups?
AF: We are focused on filling an important gap in the cleantech funding landscape. We know first-hand that finding the capital to commercialize a technology after reaching technical viability is very difficult. Our approach is designed to bring insight and capital through partnering with companies that have demonstrated initial product-market fit but are looking for additional resources to accelerate commercialization (usually in Series B or Series C rounds). In this way, our approach is very complementary to the Clean Energy Trust: we can be follow-on investors as companies continue developing.
Q: Do you have any advice for startups that would be interested in seeking funding from you?
AF: Reach out to me or Juan Muldoon or John Tough via email to get the conversation started. More information on our investment thesis, our point of view, and the team can be found at www.invenergyfuturefund.com.