26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Iain Cooper, Schlumberger

Iain Cooper has been managing technology investments for oil services company Schlumberger’s corporate venturing deals since 2007, after having served 15 years at the company. For more than a decade, he has overseen early-stage technology scouting and corporate venturing for Schlumberger and is regarded as an ideal boss to Andrea Course – this year’s Rising Star – and Tyler Durham as venture principals for his levels of support to colleagues, insights and freedom for them to achieve their goals. His persistence and ability in venturing has also paid off with the company committing to a larger initiative.

Ashok Belani, executive vice-president of technology and chief technology officer at Schlumberger, said: “The Schlumberger venture group is an integral part of the technology development ecosystem, which comprises science, engineering, universities, manufacturing, technology lifecycle management and startup companies. It has been a successful business venture, not only having led to commercial products and services, but it has also given Schlumberger a deep insight and network into a broad range of potentially impactful new technology domains outside of our traditional business areas.”

Cooper added that Paal Kibsgaard-Petersen, Schlumberger’s chairman and chief executive, has been “very supportive of our group during the downturn”. He added: “We maintained a team of three during a downturn. No mean feat when you look at what happened to many of the other oil company VC groups.”

Cooper said for 2017’s profile: “In terms of achievements we had a nice exit with Liquid Robotics – with a pretty good multiple [in the sale to Boeing] – and with an eye to the future, we undertook the first investments for Schlumberger in the renewable energy and oil and gas decarbonisation spaces with Kite Power Solutions [raising £5m ($6.5m)], Alphabet Energy [raising $23.5m] and GHGSat [for its satellite-aircraft hybrid detection of methane emissions].”

Cooper reviewed the company’s corporate venturing activities in 2018, saying: “This year has primarily been the year of follow-ons.” He said Schlumberger was involved in nine follow-on deals, including:

  • A $10m series A round for Canada-based greenhouse gas emissions monitor GHGSat.
  • A $30m series B round for US-based workplace robotics technology provider Sarcos Robotics.
  • A $20m series B round for US-based intelligent systems and robotics technology developer Houston Mechatronics.
  • A $29.7m series G round for US-based memory storage developer Nantero.
  • A $31m series C round for US-based enterprise cybersecurity technology producer Onapsis.

He said there was only one new investment last year, which was undisclosed. In total, the 10 deals from 2018 totalled $97m in investment in three countries – the US, Canada and Norway. Along with 34 different co-investors, Schlumberger invested in seven industries – oil and gas, robotics, additive manufacturing, electric vehicles, clean energy, materials and cybersecurity.

Cooper said he was also “pulled into both M&A transactions and some side projects”, for example, “I have been working with a well-known space launch company on their plans for Mars colonisation and their drilling and sub-surface imaging needs.”

An unnamed portfolio company is under acquisition investigation: “We are in deep negotiations on it, as we have been through most of last year,” Cooper said. He is hopeful that it will go through this year.

Other portfolio companies – US-based shippable metallurgical system developer Molyworks, Canada-based nanocrystalline cellulose producer CelluForce, as well as Sarcos, Onapsis and Houston Mechatronics – have either development or commercial contracts with Schlumberger.

Cooper sits on the selection committee for the Propel Energy Conference and the Banff Venture Forum, where “we look at many deals in Canada”, he said. “I also developed our strategy for Schlumberger’s participation in the energy transition and how we participate in this space.”

Cooper himself gained a PhD in meteorology from Reading University in 1992, before which he studied mathematics and physics at Bristol University. He joined Schlumberger as a research scientist in 1992 before working his way up to product development manager by 2007, when he founded the corporate venturing group. He keeps active on the creative side, with at least 26 granted US patents and a few more pending.