26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Amy Francetic, Energize Ventures

Since January last year, Amy Francetic had been managing director of the Invenergy Future Fund, which evolved into Energize Ventures in September.

It is sponsored by Invenergy, the world’s largest independent renewable power developer, and with third-party corporate limited partners (LPs) that include power and industrial equipment producer General Electric (GE), France-based energy management and automation technology producer Schneider Electric, electricity and natural gas provider WEC Energy and a number of family offices, foundations and endowments.

Invenergy Future Fund, a $150m fund, had invested about $30m in five data-focused companies which allowed energy and industrial operations to be more accessible, dependable and safe. They were industrial cybersecurity software provider Nozomi Networks, artificial intelligence technology developer SparkCognition, data platform operator DroneDeploy, electric vehicle charging infrastructure provider Volta Charging and cloud-based platform for energy settlements developer Aquilon Energy.

Francetic told Greentech Media that LPs including GE and Schneider “have a number of partnerships with our portfolio companies” and that she believed that “these companies have to have a partner to gain commercial traction and scale up their businesses”.

Energize Ventures, equipped with $120m, has invested in startups developing energy storage and distributed energy resources. It led a $23m series B round for US-based weather analytics software provider Jupiter Intelligence in March this year, and a month earlier, a $15.9m series A round for edge virtualisation software developer Zededa and a $20m series A round for cloud-based solar photovoltaic engineering software developer Aurora Solar.

Francetic, senior vice-president for new ventures and corporate affairs at Invenergy, was hired in February 2016 to create the first fund.

Francetic said: “In the energy industry, startup companies need to deploy their solutions most often through intermediaries like utilities, manufacturers and system integrators. That means that large players control the destiny of startups, so entrepreneurs must engage with these stakeholders early and carefully.

“Additionally, traditional sources of venture capital fled the energy industry following the losses of cleantech 1.0. I wanted to work with investors who could be important customers for startups and who could help the energy industry transition to a cleaner future.”

And while she was “proud of how much we have accomplished in our first year of operations”, she said the challenges were in “flying the aeroplane while building – doing investments while fundraising”, and “trying to stay focused on our vision of a clean energy future while our federal leadership tries to resurrect the past”.

Fortunately, her experience has helped. After two years as a principal at MVC Capital, Francetic was chief executive and co-founder of a technology accelerator, Clean Energy Trust, in Chicago. She said: “We made over 30 early-stage seed investments in clean energy companies across the Midwest, including some really difficult to fund companies that were doing hard technology science innovation.

“Earlier in my career, I co-founded and then ran a consumer electronics company, Zowie, that spun out of a lab that connected toys to the computer. We sold that company to Lego in 2000.”

And, having been a photographer right after she graduated from Stanford University and travelled through West Africa documenting the role of women entrepreneurs in rural villages, Francetic has a clear way for the corporate venturing industry to do better: “Bring more women executives in the fund, into the board room, into the portfolio.”