The Top 25: David Gilmour, BP

David Gilmour took responsibility for petroleum company BP’s venturing activities at the end of 2016 after running Air BP, BP’s aviation fuel supply business. He now leads the BP Ventures’ team as vice-president and has developed what he called in 2017 “a new strategy highlighting the importance of technology and venturing in enabling the transition to a lower-carbon economy”.

The total BP Ventures fund now stands at over $500m, invested in more than 50 companies and 12 funds, the majority of which are actively managed by the team.

2018 was year two of BP’s group strategy where venturing was elevated to one of four strategic priorities. As in 2017, the team increased in size, new offices were opened and annual capital invested grew, this time to over $100m.

During 2018, the unit invested more than $100m, of which, six were new portfolio companies – Israel-based ultra-fast charging battery technology developer StoreDot, UK-based digital energy monitoring company Voltaware, US-based workplace car maintenance services provider Zippity, US-based geoscience AI technology developer Belmont Technologies, US-based autoparts commerce software provider PartsTech and novel carbon dioxide capture process developer C-Capture. Sixteen follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies were also made.

The unit had successful exits in 2018, for example, US-based biolubricant base oil manufacturer Biosynthetic Technologies was acquired by US-based speciality hydrocarbon and fuel products supplier Calumet Specialty Products in April.

In July 2018, BP Ventures invested $10m in the Nio Capital US Dollar Fund to support the fund’s work exploring opportunities in China’s new energy vehicle ecosystem.

Deployment of portfolio companies’ technologies is a key metric for BP Ventures. The unit tracks the number of companies whose technology was deployed as well as the value, as a component of a strategic value target against which the unit is measured.

In 2018, 16 of BP Ventures’ portfolio companies had technology deployed into a BP business unit; deployments were made in BP’s upstream, refining, retail and alternative energy businesses. 46 individual technology deployments took place.

Of particular note from an integration perspective are the following:

  • BP and Johnson Matthey license their Fischer Tropp technology to Fulcrum BioEnergy.
  • Field trial of Freewire technologies mobile charger in BP’s flagship retail forecourt in Hammersmith.
  • More than five projects under way with Beyond Limits across BP’s upstream and downstream.
  • Continuous BP Chemicals and Tricoya partnership to build integrated wood elements acetylation value chain in Hull.
  • Proof of concept of Voltaware energy efficiency monitor with BP Retail to understand how power consumption in a retail environment and identify opportunities to reduce cost and overall consumption – now being deployed in the UK and the rest of Europe.

Of additional note is BP Ventures’ new strategic technology venture alliance with AkerBP, creating opportunities for its portfolio companies to source new investment.

BP has just launched its first advertising campaign in many years – “Possibilities everywhere”. Two of its portfolio companies, US-based advanced materials company Solidia and US-based biofuels developer Fulcrum Bioenergy, were featured in the campaign creating opportunities to showcase their offers to wide, international audiences.

The team under Gilmour’s leadership is made up of experienced investment professionals. Meghan Sharp, managing director of the Americas, is this year’s number two GCV Rising Star, recognising not only her deal quality but also her personal commitment to the diversity agenda within venture capital.

Akira Kirton, former managing director of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia of the unit, was number four GCV Rising Star last year before moving internally to run chemicals and with Ignacio Gimenez stepping up to cover the region. Gilmour, who co-chairs GCV’s London Symposium this year, was number 21 on GCV’s Powerlist last year.

The BP Ventures team continues to grow in line with the fund and the strategic importance placed on venturing by the company.

Two experienced female appointments were made. Daniela Proske, a senior principal based in San Francisco, who joined with a CVC background from BASF Venture Capital, the corporate venturing unit of chemicals company BASF, and co-founded a life sciences company as head of finance which went public. Erin Hallock, who has a private equity background, joined from Business Growth Fund (BGF), the corporate venturing fund backed by Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Lloyds and RBS, as a UK-based principal.

Graham Howes was appointed managing director for BP Ventures Asia-Pacific investments.

Finally, as a mark of the fast-track development opportunities for talented commercial talent, one of the unit’s younger principals, Shaun Healey, led half of its new deals in 2018.

In addition to venturing, Gilmour’s responsibilities include technology commercialisation, as well as strategy and planning activities for group technology. His emphasis is on venturing as a means of business development. “Venturing is now front and centre from a business perspective,” he explained. “My intention is that BP Ventures can lead to the development and growth of long-term businesses within the group.”

It has certainly caught senior managers’ attention, with business unit leaders, such as Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP’s powerful upstream division, exploring US-based venture companies managed by Meghan Sharp.

Furthermore, Lamar McKay, deputy CEO of BP, said: “BP Ventures is playing an increasingly important role in tackling the dual energy challenge – both by identifying technologies that improve the productivity of our current businesses and by helping us transition to new reduced emissions models for heat, light and mobility provision. With a half-billion-dollar investment, and access to $200m capital every year, we have set up BP Ventures to build the future BP.”

For Gilmour, who has a doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Oxford University and has responsibility for technology commercialisation and venturing activities at BP, as well as strategy and planning activities for group technology, these sorts of close connections being formed are helpful.

Before joining group technology in October 2016, Gilmour himself held roles as CEO and chief operating officer of Air BP and a number of different roles as marketing and technology director, strategy director, performance unit leader and global sales director for Castrol Marine.