money moves

Here's what corporate venture programs are looking for from startups within the energy industry

At the recent Global Corporate Venture conference, two corporate venture execs peeled back the curtain on what they look for from startups. Getty Images

One of the challenges for Houston energy startups is not knowing what potential big corporate partners want from them. At the recent Global Corporate Venture, two corporate venture execs shared what all they're looking for and the challenges they are facing.

Diana Grauer, director of external technology engagement and venture capital at Technip FMC, and Bradley Andrews, president of digital at Worley joined a panel with moderator Wade Bitaraf, founder of Plug and Play Energy & Sustainability. The panel, entitled "How globalization and diversification can boost a local innovation ecosystem," explored what each exec looks for in potential partnerships with startups.

At TechnipFMC, which has a newer corporate investment group, Grauer says her team looks for startup technologies within four key categories, industry 4.0, digitization, materials and processes, and energy transition. Within those categories, she says they aren't looking for startups that will provide a big return on investment, rather technologies that will advance the company's capabilities.

"We're focused on strategic returns, not necessarily your conventional financial returns," she says.

Andrews echoed this point, admitting that while a big exit for a portfolio company is never bad, but Worley would rather have technologies that benefit their business platform.

"As long as [a technology is] under core strategy and driving internal strategy, we're kind of in," he says. "Anything around data science, automation, new energy, sustainability, those are all kind of sweet spots for us."

A big challenge, Andrews says, is communicating companywide the importance of looking outward for innovative opportunities, rather than relying on the company's staff.

"The idea of corporate tech startups coming to fruition within our industry is kind of new. We used to build from within," Andrews says. "We're still as an industry trying to figure out how to do this."

Grauer says that, similarily, her biggest challenge is getting pushback from within TechnipFMC of people who just think their company should fund its current workforce to find solutions. But Grauer responds to them explaining that the company needs to move faster than that and the way to do that is through working with startups. That's why the company has created an Open Innovation Program. According to Grauer, the organization expects to make its first investment by the end of the year.

For Andrews, the state of Houston's innovation ecosystem is exciting, and he notes that he looks at emerging technologies across industries. A technical solution in medicine might have an application in energy, for example. And, considering the state of the energy industry, now is the time to be more collaborative within Houston as more and more global challenges emerge.

"I think Houston has everything it needs to make a stake in this," Andrews says. "We're not competing with each other in this industry. We're competing against what the world is going to demand from us. It's time for us in corporate land and set our egos aside."

Grauer says she's seen the city's innovation resources grow over the years, noting the emergence of The Cannon, Rice Alliance, and Plug and Play.

"I really think that the energy industry in Houston is really starting to catch up and blossom," she says.

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Building Houston

 
 

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's new Houston-area facility will open in 2022. Photo courtesy of HPE/GHP

Thousands of potential jobs are coming to the Bayou City region with a major move by a Fortune 500 company. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have announced that HPE will relocate its global headquarters to Spring, Texas from San Jose, California.

The headquarters will be located in a new state-of-the-art campus that will open in early 2022, and will build on the company's established presence in the state of Texas, according to a press release. The new campus, being built in the 60-acre Springwoods Village development, will consist of two five-story buildings with some 440,000 square feet of combined space. HPE already boasts a significant footprint in the Houston region, with more than 2,600 area employees, the Greater Houston Partnership notes.

HPE cited Houston's diverse talent base and low cost of doing business as key factors driving the move to the digital tech hub and global headquarters city.

A global enterprise information technology company that helps customers drive digital transformation by "unlocking value from all of their data," HPE delivers unique, open, and intelligent technology solutions, per the GHP. It works to create a consistent experience across all clouds and edges, to help customers develop new business models, engage in new ways, and increase operational performance. HPE has a long Houston pedigree, as Hewlett Packard merged with Compaq Computers in 2002. The company was founded in 2015 following the separation from HP, Inc., and is currently ranked 109 on the list of Fortune 500 companies.

Texas is already the site of HPE locations in Austin, Plano, and Houston. It currently operates major product development, services, manufacturing, and lab facilities in Houston and Austin.

The Houston move would no doubt be a boon to the local economy and create myriad jobs in the sector.

"As we look to the future, our business needs, opportunities for cost savings, and team members' preferences about the future of work, we are excited to relocate HPE's headquarters to the Houston region," said Antonio Neri, CEO of HPE, in a release. "Houston is an attractive market to recruit and retain future diverse talent and where we are currently constructing a state-of-the-art new campus. We look forward to continuing to expand our strong presence in the market."

Abbott applauded the move in a statement, noting, "We are excited that Hewlett Packard Enterprise has chosen to call Texas home, and I thank them for expanding their investment in the Lone Star State by relocating their headquarters to the Houston region. Hewlett Packard Enterprise joins more than 50 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Lone Star State, including 22 in the Houston area alone. That is because Texas offers the best business climate in the nation. Our low taxes, high quality of life, top-notch workforce, and tier one universities create an environment where innovative companies like HPE can flourish. We look forward to a successful partnership with HPE, as together we build a more prosperous future for Texas."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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