Geert van de Wouw, managing partner of Shell Ventures, is one of the 100 leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

Geert van de Wouw is a veteran corporate investor, having been at the helm of Shell Ventures and managing partner since 2012.

Shell, the London-headquartered multinational oil and gas company, has had corporate venturing activities since 1996. During that time, it has experimented with numerous ways to find the right balance between making good financial returns and servicing the strategic needs of the parent company, going from having an internal incubation-focused unit to a mostly external investment team. But this latest iteration of corporate venturing appears to have hit the sweet spot between the two, with van de Wouw, together with Robert Linck, partner and chief investment officer, having presided over Shell Ventures for more than a decade now.

The corporate venturing unit was set up in a way that maintains a careful balance between being close to Shell’s main business and having enough freedom to invest quickly and nimbly.

“We said we want to be close to the business but still independent. What we set was a structure where we have our own legal entities, one for the US, one for outside the US and then later one for China. We have our own governance and our own capital allocation,” van de Wouw told GCV in an interview last year.

The ventures team also has a clear mandate agreed with Shell’s management, which specifi es the unit’s position with the parent company and outlines how and why Shell Ventures invests. It is the clarity of this document that has allowed Shell Ventures to remain steady in its investment strategy, through two changes of CEO, in 2014 and 2023, and a shift in 2016 to move the investment unit to be part of the new energy division of the company.

Shell Ventures has a team of around 45 people, spread across offices in the Netherlands, US, UK, Germany, Poland, China and, most recently, India. The team has been deliberately put together to include a mix of VC investment professionals from outside the company and Shell insiders who can bring expertise about the parent company’s needs.

“We said we want to be close to the business but still independent. What we set was a structure where we have our own legal entities. We have our own governance and our own capital allocation.”

Shell Ventures has become increasingly focused on climate change mitigation technologies over the past few years. Its most recent fund, raised in 2021, was a $1.4bn vehicle for investing in energy transition startups.

Van de Wouw says his team focuses on two areas: technologies that can make a difference now in reducing the emissions of old fossil fuel companies and, in parallel, backing solutions that will reduce those industries in the future. For example, on the emissions reduction side, it invested in Daphne Technology, a Swiss scale-up company that reduces the toxic emissions of industries such as shipping, by stripping out methane and sulphur oxides from their exhaust gasses. It has also backed Avnos, a Los Angeles-based startup that has developed a novel way to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.

At the same time, Shell Ventures is backing Verdagy, a California-based startup developing electrolysers that can create hydrogen at an industrial scale for use as a fuel source, and Antora Energy, a California startup developing thermal batteries that are heated using renewable energy.

Carbon capture using methods such as agriculture is also something that interests van de Wouw, who has a degree in molecular sciences from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“We are going to continue to use oil and gas whether we like it or not. The transition is multidecade, but in the meantime, we need to do something to start taking carbon out of the atmosphere,” he told Global Corporate Venturing last year. “There is an opportunity for agricultural and energy companies to work together. Soil is a material way to capture carbon from the atmosphere at scale, medium to short term.”

The team has made investments in more than 111 startups and has seen a number of large exits for its portfolio companies, including the stock market listing through a special acquisition company for self-driving car company Aurora, and the acquisition of energy data company Autogrid by Schneider Electric, the French multinational energy management company.

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.