The top 25: Girish Nadkarni, president, Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures

Girish Nadkarni is the president of Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures (TCNV), a corporate venturing unit for France-based oil and gas producer Total. In October 2019, Total pivoted its CVC unit towards investing in startups whose technology and services contribute to the goal of carbon neutrality.

In addition, TCNV is involved in a variety of sectors related to its core business such as renewables, distributed energy, energy access and energy storage, as well other areas including artificial intelligence, internet of things, bio-plastics and recycling.

Amit Narayan, chief executive of energy management technology developer Autogrid, which is a portfolio company of the unit, said of Nadkarni: “Girish is not just an influential venture capitalist but also an outstanding human being.

“Girish’s advice and support has been invaluable to AutoGrid over the years. I have found him to be very thoughtful and considerate of the interests of all stakeholders, not just his fund, when making a decision.

“He has assembled an outstanding team at Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures that embodies his style of constructive engagement with companies and management teams. I am proud to count Girish among my friends and mentor.”

Peter Rowe, CEO and co-founder of carbon dioxide recycling technology developer Deep Branch, added: “TCNV are not just an important part of our investor base at Deep Branch, but also a hugely valuable strategic partner. Our shared vision of the future of decarbonization enables us to see synergies beyond our current value chains and work towards developing ecosystems that benefit us both.

“TCNV’s financial support and extensive expertise in the decarbonization ecosystem, such as capture and recycling of CO2 and low-carbon hydrogen production, will accelerate the execution of our vision of scalable, environmentally friendly production processes. Together, we are working to build a regular supply of a price-stable, price-competitive and nutritionally optimal bulk protein.”

The unit, which will deploy $400m by 2023, is investing directly and indirectly in early-stage venture-backed startups as well as venture funds on a selective basis.

In 2020, TCNV secured the trade sale of one portfolio company and exited four others through deals involving special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). The unit also has five exit deals currently under negotiation.

In the past year, the unit has completed eight new investments, 10 follow-on investments and two fund investments. By the end of 2020, Total’s investment subsidiary had 38 companies and 12 funds in its portfolio.

Nadkarni said commercial vehicle manufacturer Hyzon Motors, supply-chain tracing technology developer Circulor and car-sharing service provider Getaround were TCNV’s top three direct investments from the last three years.

Nadkarni began leading the unit in 2017, when it was still operating as Total Ventures. He joined Total from ABB Technology Ventures, a corporate venture capital subsidiary of power and automation technology producer ABB. He co-founded ABB’s strategic investment arm after serving as a senior vice-president in the robotics division at the business.