26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Crispin Leick, EnBW New Ventures

Crispin Leick is a 10-year veteran that has held the managing director position at three corporate venture capital funds he helped launch.

He first raised €90m ($100m) in RWE Innogy Venture Capital in early 2008 for Germany-based energy utility RWE’s renewable energy subsidiary RWE Innogy, then he devised a spinoff fund of €25m ($28m) in Innogy Venture Capital in the middle of the cleantech meltdown in 2011, before eventually setting up EnBW New Ventures with a and €100m ($110m) corpus in late 2015 for Germany-based energy utility EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg. The funds raised totalled at more than €200m ($230m).

While Leick was at Innogy Venture Capital, he made Global Corporate Venturing’s Powerlist in three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014. Under his guidance, two junior members at Innogy Venture Capital team have grown into senior investment professionals.

EnBW’s chief financial officer Thomas Kusterer said in his nomination of Leick: “Crispin is building and leading EnBW’s Corporate Venturing arm since its inception 2016. EnBW’s venturing activities are an open innovation platform, driven by financial return and focusing on scaling smart infrastructure startups, that could make a difference in the future.

“EnBW New Ventures is the platform that enables EnBW to cooperate fruitfully with entrepreneurial teams, while at the same time all efforts of our New Ventures team are focused to support the entrepreneurs to build sustainable and profitable businesses.

“EnBW’s ability to work closely with the successful entrepreneurs of the future will define EnBW’s own success in new sectors that are not our home turf as of today.

“Two cooperation examples, where the open innovation is already showing strong growth is EnBW’s electricity and gas subsidiary Yello’s solar decentral rental product for residential PV [photovoltaic system] and storage with Germany’s first decentralised electricity supplier DZ-4 as well as the digitisation of our parking spaces with Germany-based car parking technology developer Cleverciti.

“Crispin and his team act as translator and moderator between the dynamic startups and EnBW and as flexible tool to enable future growth options for EnBW.”

Leick’s central philosophy as a corporate venturer is to give entrepreneurs the freedom to drive their business while having a strong financial return-driven focus, enabling but not forcing open cooperation with the corporate investor. To measure a startup’s success, however, he looks at not only the money raised but also sustainable business built and future job creation in the long term.

As Leick strongly embraces open innovation, he built CVC schemes twice with independent decision bodies and VC incentive structures, to counter the belief still held by many CVCs in internal strategic investment groups that often have conflicts of interests.

In total, Leick has been involved in more than 50 VC transactions in the past 10 years, leading and co-leading investments in more than 20 startups. Of these, he said his best exit delivered close to 10-times return.

Being a forerunner in driving the innovation theses of the utility sector, Leick made bold moves before they became mainstream. For example, he invested in decentralised renewables in 2008, small scale batteries in 2009, decentralised energy management in 2010, rooftop solar system in 2015, peer-to-peer software in 2016, smart parking in 2017 and smart datacentres in 2018.

From 2008 to 2015, he led Innogy Venture Capital’s efforts in cleantech and enabling technology, financing 12 startups, of which four of them were successful, creating more than 200 jobs:

  • Germany-based energy market internet-of-things platform developer Kiwigrid, owned partly by corporations.
  • Germany-based solar film developer Heliatek, majority owned by multiple corporations.
  • Germany-based energy forecaster Enercast.
  • Sweden-based gas-liquid heat exchangers maker Airec, acquired by Sweden-based industrial product maker Alfa Laval.

From 2016, Leick has been running EnBW New Ventures, identifying smart infrastructure in energy, mobility and cities, and two new deals are expected to close in the first quarter of 2019. His current focus is on smart critical infrastructures.

During this time, he has made investments in six startups, two of which have become successful and have created nearly 200 jobs:

  • Germany-based rooftop solar and battery rental model supplier DZ-4.
  • Germany-based smart parking technology developer Cleverciti.

Three of EnBW New Ventures’ current portfolio companies have entered a commercial relationship with EnBW:

  • DZ-4 provides a white label product for Yello Solar, an EnBW brand.
  • Germany-based energy and utilities control technology developer Lumenaza has multiple contracts with EnBW subsidiaries providing a white-label platform for regional power products.
  • Cleverciti is currently installing its smart parking solution at EnBW for its employee and guest carparks.

Leick added that EnBW New Ventures also takes diversity seriously, with half of its current team being female. Currently, the unit has four investment professionals – one senior and three juniors – hired upon their university graduation and promoted from analyst to associate in January this year, while two further hires are also expected this year.

Leick holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.