HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 145
When it comes to Houston's potential to lead the energy transition, Jim Sledzik, North American managing director of Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, says it's a no-brainer.
"We understand the energy business — we understand size and scale. And the size and scale of the challenges in front of us to get to net zero is enormous,” he says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators podcast. “The basics are here. We just need to tap into the talent and experience."
Over the past decade, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures has invested $320 million into 33 portfolio companies in the United States. Sledzik, who's worked in various energy services roles around the world before entering in to investment, explains that the corporate venture model is ideal for scaling big technology — and fast.
“When you’re using the venture model in a corporate setting, you have the company and the balance sheet behind you, which brings different benefits to companies you’re investing in,” he says. “These entrepreneurs who are looking to figure out how to deploy technology at scale becomes the real interesting item. All entrepreneurs want to grow — and they want to grow fast."
Scaling fast is risky, but big corporates — like Aramco — can help address the risks by providing a foothold in the market, a place to roll out the technology, and more.
“With corporate venture, you can bring the assets and the application of those technologies, and you can work to scale it in a manner that’s somewhat derisked,” Sledzik says on the show. “In corporate venture capital, you have other levers in which to pull to add value to the entrepreneurs you’re investing in. The private side brings different values.”
Earlier this year, Aramco announced a partnership with the Ion, representing its dedication to the Houston innovation ecosystem. Sledzik says Aramco being named a founding partner at the Ion opens the door to more collisions with Houston entrepreneurs. Starting later this month, Sledzik and his team will host office hours every other Friday.
"Ion is the place where you can find those collisions,” he says. “You just never know when serendipity is going to be created.”
He shares more about the types of technology Aramco is looking for and his advice to energy tech entrepreneurs on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.