Money makers

Chevron Technology Ventures launches $90 million fund

Chevron Technology Ventures' new fund will seek out "high-tech, high-growth startups." Getty Images

Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures announced today that it's launched a new $90 million fund to focus scalable tech companies that could improve and advance Chevron's oil and gas business.

Fund VII, according to a release from CTV, will target early- to mid-stage companies and limited partnership funds.

"CTV serves as an excellent source within Chevron for new business models and novel technologies that can deliver value to the enterprise through their integration," says CTV president, Barbara Burger, in the release. "We are using venture capital as a conduit for early access to innovation and to build a pipeline of innovation for Chevron."

Chevron's last fund was a $100 million fund in June of 2018 called the Future Energy Fund, according to a release. The goals of that fund were to find solutions regarding lower carbon emissions and cleaner energy, the release states.

Chevron's venture arm has made 90 investments over its 20 years of existence and has fostered innovation inside the corporation and within the energy landscape as a whole. The firm boasts of being the longest-running continuously operating oil and gas corporate venture capital group.

According to its website, CTV's portfolio includes projects in both of its upstream and downstream businesses — including startups focusing on communications, information technologies, alternative energy, and more.

In January, CTV entered into a partnership with The Cannon to further develop the entities commitment to Houston innovation and startups.


Barbara Burger is the president of Chevron Technology Ventures.Courtesy of Chevron

Syzygy Plasmonics, which is creating a cleaner energy source that runs on hydrogen, closed a $5.8 million round. Photo via plasmonics.tech

A Houston technology company is doing something that, for many decades, wasn't thought to be possible. Syzygy Plasmonics is creating a hydrogen fuel cell technology that produces a cheaper source of energy that releases fewer carbon emissions.

The hydrogen-fueled technology originated out of research done over two decades by two Rice University professors, Naomi Halas and Peter Nordlander.

"There are rules in chemical engineering, and you can't break them, but we follow them in a different way," CEO Trevor Best tells InnovationMap. "What we're doing is fundamentally different. We're using light instead of heat to drive chemical reactions."

Syzygy's technology is structured more like a battery than that of a combustion engine. Inside the technology, there are cells, lights, and mirrors making as bright as possible, which then spurs a reaction that creates energy. It has the potential to be cheaper — it's made with cheaper materials — and, of course, cleaner than traditional fueling technology with fewer carbon emissions released.

This new photocatalytic chemical reactor has the potential to shake up the industrial gas, chemical, and energy industries — something that hasn't gone unnoticed by investors. Syzygy just closed a $5.8 million Series A round led by MIT's The Engine and Houston-based The GOOSE Society of Texas. Evok Innovations, a previous investor in the company, and angel investors from the Creative Destruction Lab also contributed to the round.

The funds will allow for Syzygy to continue to develop its technology and grow its team. Best tells InnovationMap that he expects to launch a full-size pilot by the end of 2020 and is already in talks with potential clients who are interested in the technology for industrial purposes.

"We're starting to solidify relationships and get customers ready," Best says.

Earlier this year, the company also received funding from the Department of Energy and from the National Science Foundation SBIR Program. The DOE tasked Syzygy with creating a reactor that transforms ammonia into hydrogen for fueling purposes. For the SBIR Program, the company is creating a reactor that processes carbon dioxide.