Rongtao Sun, managing director at Sinopec Capital, is one of our emerging leaders in corporate venturing in 2023.

Rongtao Sun, managing director at Sinopec Capital, started his career as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, but after a year stuck behind a laptop he felt he need to do something where he could “see more people and add more value.”

He joined Schlumberger, working on the digital transformation of the energy company’s oil fields, followed by an MBA from Kellogg School of Management, and a stint at Boston Consulting Group. He later returned to the energy sector, joining BP’s corporate venturing team as Asia Pacific lead.

This put him at the heart of some of BP’s most ambitious sustainability projects, including working on a joint venture with ride-hailing company Didi to set up a fast charging and battery swapping business in China.

“I think there are three or four key success factors to be successful in corporate venture. Number one is communication.”

Sun joined Sinopec, the Chinese state-owned oil and gas company, in 2021, taking on a big team — around 40 investors, with additional resources for back-end management and portfolio development— and a big remit. The team aims to invest between $1bn and $1.2bn a year, making between 20 and 40 investments with a minimum ticket size of $10m.

Sun enjoys the fact he is at the cutting edge. “The energy industry used to be a traditional industry, but the carbon neutral trend has turned it into the main driver of tech-driven innovation,” says Sun.

He’s watching several emerging technologies closely, such as membranes and catalysts for hydrogen production and a transition away from silicon-based solar cells.

“I think the next two years is a critical two years for it to change the whole industry,” he says.

Unusually for a corporate investor Sun emphasises financial performance over strategy. “I don’t have to have these very close strategic synergies that most corporate venturers talk about. They are very difficult to define,” he says. He says he invests to make money — but also to create options for Sinopec.

“I think there are three or four key success factors to be successful in corporate venture. Number one is communication,” says Sun. A close second is deep industrial knowledge. Just understanding finance is no longer enough for today’s corporate investor — you have to really understand your sector, he says.

See the full list of Emerging Leaders 2023 here.

Maija Palmer

Maija Palmer is editor of Global Venturing and puts together the weekly email newsletter (sign up here for free).