National Grid, the Northeast’s natural gas and electricity company, is planting a flag in Silicon Valley with the launch of National Grid Partners.
Led by former Intel Capital vice president and managing director Lisa Lambert, NGP has $250 million to invest in growth-stage technology startups over the next two to three years. Based in Las Gatos, NGP plans to invest in 10 to 15 startups per year.
“We want to disrupt ourselves before we are disrupted,” Lambert told TechCrunch. “That’s the only way to protect yourself in a world where really nobody is safe.”
Deal size will vary, according to Lambert. NGP plans to back cleantech companies across sectors such as artificial intelligence, smart assets, enterprise SaaS, security and blockchain.
The purpose of the in-house venture fund is to bring a much-needed infusion of innovation into the utility industry.
“You can’t be satisfied with the status quo,” Lambert added. “If the telecom sector could do it all over again when mobile broke out — I think they would have done it differently. We don’t want to be in the same situation where we are resting on the strength of our asset profile or the fact that we are regulated; other industries had that same profile, it was hard for startups to break in and still, they got disrupted — massively disrupted.”
NGP has deployed capital to five startups so far, including big data analytics startup AutoGrid, which aims to help with predictive maintenance and commercial industrial demand response in the U.S.; weather forecasting startup ClimaCell; distributed energy resources marketplace Leap; Omnidian, a provider of protection plans for investments in residential and commercial solar energy systems; and Sitetracker, a SaaS platform focused on utilities and telecom.
The fund will also support early-stage startups looking for product-market fit and will mentor and train aspiring investors through a venture fellows program.