Crispin Leick, managing director or EnBW New Ventures, is one of the 100 leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

EnBW New Ventures is the second corporate venture fund that Crispin Leick has built during his career. He initially founded a corporate venturing unit for German energy company Innogy in 2010 and ran this for five years before being asked by EnBW, the German utility company, to build a unit for the business.

Leick says he was able to put his previous experience of founding and running a fund into creating a unit at EnBW that was set up in the right way to succeed. The EnBW New Ventures unit is structured as an evergreen fund. It received just one $100m initial cash injection from its parent corporation, and Leick has promised that the unit will be self-sufficient from here, recycling the gains from startup portfolio company exits to fund future rounds of investment.

“I went to the board on day one and told them that if they gave me $100m they would never have to give me a penny more than this maximum risk. This resonated well with them.”

“I went to the board on day one and told them that if they gave me $100m they would never have to give me a penny more than this maximum risk. This resonated well with them,” he told Global Corporate Venturing in an interview.

The evergreen structure, Leick believes, allows the corporate venturing unit to have independence and shields it from being shut down or unduly influenced by management or strategy changes at the parent company.

The EnBW New Ventures team has so far made 55 investments in 18 startups and has realised fi ve successful exits for its portfolio companies. The unit has set itself a target of making 2-3x returns on its investment, a similar level of returns that venture capital firms generally aim for. Leick says the team is so far on track to achieve this.

Leick is somewhat unusual among his corporate investor peers in that he believes CVC teams should not have multiple strands of activity such as venture building, incubation and accelerators programmes. Instead, he believes it is better for a CVC unit to have a laser-like focus just on equity  investments. “I am convinced that one of the biggest errors that you can make is putting all these operations into one unit, because they are completely different,” he says. Leick believes corporate investors have to focus solely on the startup entrepreneurs as their “clients” while people with broader corporate innovation remits will be more involved in serving the business units and the people in the corporate strategy team.

EnBW does have an incubation operation and other venturing tools, and while Leick collaborates with these teams, they do not come under his remit. “One of the reasons we can be so focused on our VC business model is because there are the other tools that deal with other things, while we can focus on the best VC deals,” he says.

Leick has a team of 12 at the EnBW New Ventures unit. Half are focused on making investments, while the other half are in operational roles.

The team has always invested three megatrends in the energy industry: and electrification, digitalisation. decentralisation These megatrends lead EnBW New Ventures to invest in sustainability-related startups, but the unit does not actively seek investments with specific carbon-reduction targets or similar ecologically-focused goals.

The venture team tends to invest in asset-light startups that are solving problems in the energy utility business. A good example is the team’s investment in Ease-Link, an Austrian startup developing automated wireless charging for electric vehicles, eliminating the need to plug cars into a wall cable manually.

The EnBW New Ventures also backed a virtual call centre startup, an intra-day energy trading business and several security-related startups, as well as investing in startups working on AI-assisted road and infrastructure management.

“We believe in these enabling business models and companies that make life easier for an owner or operator of infrastructure,” says Leick. These types of startups, he says,  are also more aligned with the business needs of a large energy utility company such as EnBW.

Leick has a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He has a history of working at energy companies, such as Wingas and Enron, before moving to the investment side of the energy industry.

Powerlist cover

The Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist represents the 100
individuals spearheading the future of the corporate venturing industry.

These individuals excel in terms of their venturing approach and structure, number and quality of portfolio companies and in their contributions to the corporate venturing profession.

See the full 2024 Powerlist here.