Total Energy Ventures: Innovating with Startups
Innovation is not just for R&D units and large corporations. Since 2008, Total has had a team - Total Energy Ventures - that identifies opportunities for cooperation with energy startups, and supports them by acquiring holdings. With more than 2,500 proposals analyzed and investments made in over 20 startups since it was set up, Total Energy Ventures gives the Group clearer insight into the changes affecting some professional fields and helps it to plan for long-term growth. From biofuels to water treatment, and from the oil technologies of tomorrow to energy storage and networks, the startups supported by Total Energy Ventures help to shape the landscape for energy that is plentiful, more environmentally friendly, and cheaper and easier to access.
LightSail Energy has developed innovative new air compression technology to store energy efficiently and unlock the potential of renewable energy by absorbing the heat energy from compression for restoration during expansion.
OpenField Technology provides integrated sensor systems for the most demanding environments. Its micro-sensors, easily deployed and based on proprietary technologies, accurately measure fluid properties in the harsh well environment.
Aquion Energy, a company founded in 2008, manufactures sustainable, safe and low-cost saltwater batteries. These batteries are used for stationary applications such as storing electricity from solar panels.
Sunfire GmbH develops and manufactures reversible fuel cells that can both cogenerate electricity and heat from a wide variety of liquid and gaseous fuels, and produce synthetic fuels from renewable electricity.
NexSteppe uses advanced breeding techniques and analytical technologies to develop scalable, reliable and sustainable feedstock solutions for the biofuels, biopower and biobased product industries.
Sunverge provides intelligent and distributed energy storage systems. Integrated with solar systems in homes or businesses, and connected to the grid, each unit runs automatically to lower electricity bills, improve reliability, and protect the grid.
Total is a committed partner, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the innovative startups it invests in.
In Pursuit of Innovative Energy Startups
As part of Total's commitment to a better energy future, Total Energy Ventures constantly tracks the startups ecosystem in order to identify, promote and capitalize on breakthrough innovations that might deliver:
- major improvements in our operations, in terms of safety, effectiveness and environmental footprint;
- new solutions or professional fields that might in the long term become growth drivers for the Group.
For Total, this tracking is essential in a world where traditional businesses are now seeing the emergence of startups that succeed thanks to innovation, often in the space of just a few years. Startups have proliferated in communications, the media, marketing and all forms of commerce. Transportation and energy are also increasingly being affected by these rapid and extensive changes.
It is the revolution in access to knowledge, especially thanks to IT, that has given everyone, everywhere, the ability to innovate. This applies equally to opportunities for pooling skills, publicizing and financing projects, and distributing new products and services far and wide.
Innovative startups are most often identified through Total Energy Ventures' external networks: private equity players such as startup incubators, industrial entrepreneurs, investment funds, and public sector innovation support bodies. They are then analyzed with the help of all the Group's innovation stakeholders, in its central management and professional fields.
Selective Investments in Promising Startups
When it comes to innovating in industries like energy, which are over a century old and fully mature, projects are long, expensive and complex. For Total, a good way of positioning itself in forward-thinking sectors while keeping control of its financial exposure is to invest in innovative startups. If they focus on a clear goal, and are supported by serious shareholders who bring to bear their expertise and networks, and share the risk over the long term, startups are an investment in the future.
The startups supported by Total Energy Ventures meet a demanding set of specifications. The chief selection criterion is the learning value for the Group, assessed by a steering committee on which business segments' strategy and R&D teams are represented.
“Total Energy Ventures’ focus is much less short-term than most Venture Capital (VC) investors. The potential to bring new solutions to energy markets has been a key driver in our discussions.” Eric Donzier, CEO Openfield Technologies.
As an investor, Total Energy Ventures also evaluates the quality of a startup's technological capacity, business plan and management, and carries out a financial analysis to determine the ROI prospects.
“During the due diligence process, Total Energy Ventures displayed a thorough understanding of our technology and the performance criteria associated with the achieving of our objectives. This knowledge, virtually unheard of in a venture capital investor, demonstrated a genuine desire to look beyond a simple return on investment.” K’Lynne Johnson, CEO Elevance.
Ultimately, Total Energy Ventures invests in 1-2% of proposals analyzed.
Working Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Startups
Total is a committed partner, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the innovative startups it invests in. Total Energy Ventures usually sits on a startup's board of directors as an observer, and maintains a constant relationship with the management team and other shareholders. The Total Energy Ventures team encourages and facilitates discussions and cooperation between the Group's business units and startups. Numerous commercial or technological agreements have been signed or are being prepared.
“We wanted to work with a strategic investor, and we see Europe as a key market both in the short and long term. Total was a logical choice.” Steve Crane, CEO LightSail Energy.
Our commitment is to work even more closely with startups, not only in the USA and Europe in the major innovation hubs where we already operate, but also further afield in all growth areas.