Former GE Ventures exec raises $250 million to make breakthrough energy investments

Key Points
  • Piva, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, announced on Wednesday that it raised $250 million for its first fund, which will focus on the next era of energy, industry and materials.
  • The sole limited partner is Petronas, Malaysia's state-owned oil and gas company, although the fund operates independently.
  • "Clearly, there has been huge progress on renewable ... but we see that now it's the right time really to be in the middle of things since there's huge potential in the next 10 to 20 years to do even more," CEO and managing partner Ricardo Angel said to CNBC.
Palm Springs, California
Murat Taner | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

A new venture capital firm that will invest in companies that are fundamentally shifting how the energy sector operates said it has raised $250 million for its first fund.

San Francisco-based Piva on Wednesday announced in a press release that its sole limited partner is Petronas, Malaysia's state-owned oil and gas company, although the fund will operate independently.

Piva is looking to invest in start-ups that have "breakthrough" technologies in the energy and materials space and new operating efficiencies for all industries, CEO and managing partner Ricardo Angel said. This could include companies combining data with AI and sensors, for example, as well as those focused on decarbonization and greater resource efficiency.

Angel left GE Ventures, where he was a managing director and worked for more than a decade, at the beginning of the year to launch Piva. He said now is an opportune time to invest in the next era of energy and energy-saving efficiency because the many key developments over the last decade are accelerating the pace of innovative change.

"Right now, there are a number of elements that really provide us tools to be able to come up with new, breakthrough solutions," he said to CNBC. "Clearly there has been huge progress on renewables ... but we see that now it's the right time really to be in the middle of things since there's huge potential in the next 10 to 20 years to do even more."

The fund is planning to invest in 15 to 20 companies in North America and Western Europe, although the focus will be on U.S.-based start-ups at the early or growth stage. Investments will typically be $5 million to $10 million initially, with an additional $20 million to $30 million invested over time.

Angel described Petronas as a partner, and said that one of the fund's advantages is being able to leverage its connection to the oil giant.

"If we can help Petronas make operations more cost effective and efficient, greener, safer, or have them identify new elements for growth that would be a huge thing for Petronas and a huge thing for our portfolio companies," he said.

He emphasized, however, that the firm and Petronas operate independently. "At the end of the day, whether Petronas acquires them or not that's outside of something we control."

Piva's new fund follows Princeville Capital's announcement in November that it raised $300 million for a fund focused on climate technology, while Clean Energy Ventures said in October that it raised $110 million to invest in clean tech companies.

"When I talk about the future of energy yes it includes renewables, and sustainability and so on, but it's much broader than that. In my view we will have huge energy requirements in the coming years ... the goal is to deliver them in a more efficient, cost-effective and greener way," Angel said.

Piva intends to announce its first investment by the end of the month.