By Andre Turenne, Vice President, Pathfinding and Incubation, National Grid Partners.
Yes, my (new) official title at National Grid Partners is “VP of Pathfinding and Incubation.” And, yes, I know “pathfinding” is an unusual word to find in a corporate title. But let me tell you what it means—and why it makes sense in the context of our mission and our industry.
National Grid created NGP to “future-proof” itself and ensure its leadership in the global energy economy’s transformation. With a $400 million funding allocation to date, we’re investing in companies at the intersection of energy and emerging technologies — such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, the Internet of Things, Smart Grid, and infrastructure security. These investments are enabling us to more aggressively pursue National Grid’s goals of digitization, decarbonization and decentralization.
Organizationally, we’ve divvied up NGP’s investments into two domains. One is comprised of companies ready to engage now with National Grid business units. These companies are deploying, piloting, or in deep discussions with our business units about forward-looking solutions to accelerate the transformation of our operations. This investment domain, called Corporate Venture Capital, is led by my colleague Pradeep Tagare.
We’ve chosen to call the domain under my direction “pathfinding,” because my team seeks out investment opportunities with companies that offer high potential growth but will likely not engage directly with National Grid business units for some time. These investments are thus “pathfinding” in the sense that they keep our parent company closely aligned with the future we see for energy further down the road.
(Another term-of-art in the corporate venture capital community for these types of investments is “North Star” — because they represent the longer-term time-horizon NGP’s portfolio is designed to navigate.)
I should also note that the “incubation” in my title is just one of many engagement models under my purview. When appropriate, we will bring entrepreneurs with great ideas and talents in-house, so we can nurture them with our own resources, expertise, and facilities. My team, however, isn’t limited to incubation: Our goal is simply to engage with companies we believe will play a useful role in the future of energy. So if that requires investing in a later-stage company that’s already well on its way, so be it.
While they focus on different domains, NGP’s CVC and pathfinding/incubation teams share a common philosophy and mission. We both are highly flexible investors that conscientiously seek to do what’s best for National Grid and the other investors involved. And we both tailor our investments to match the needs of the portfolio company, while ensuring we contribute world-class strategic value from NGP’s business development and Innovation teams. To date, we’ve been the lead investor in 63 percent of our deals, with dollar amounts ranging from $500,000 to $20 million. Like I said, we’re flexible.
Needless to say, the pathfinding mandate is both highly rewarding and highly demanding for a venture veteran like me. It’s rewarding because NGP’s large investment allocation affords my team lots of opportunities to engage with innovators who’ll contribute significantly to the future of the energy sector as a whole and of National Grid in particular. It’s demanding because the future of energy is attracting so much great talent, vision, and capital right now — which means it takes a lot of hard work and diligence to pinpoint the best of the best.
The bottom line is that NGP is acting assiduously as National Grid’s eyes and ears on the future. And by doing so, we’re greatly enhancing National Grid’s role as a catalyst for that future.
Andre Turenne is Vice President of Pathfinding and Incubation investments at National Grid Partners. He has more than 30 years of venture capital, business development, operating and technical experience in the technology sector. Andre was previously a senior vice president of D. E. Shaw & Co., a global investment and technology development firm, and a Partner at D. E. Shaw’s venture capital unit. Prior to that, he was a managing director of NeoCarta Ventures and senior manager of strategic investments at Intel Capital, the venture capital unit of Intel Corp. His investment experience spans a wide range of areas, including enterprise software & services, SaaS/cloud, IT & network infrastructure, IoT/connected devices, wireless and security. Andre has also held roles in engineering, operations and product marketing.