National Grid , a big utility provider in the northeastern U.S., has launched a new venture capital arm to invest in startups bringing innovation to the energy industry. Lisa Lambert, a former Intel Capital executive, will lead the investment program from Silicon Valley. Part of her job is to be the eyes and the ears of the publicly traded utility, which has 7 million customers but doesnt want to get caught flat-footed by disruptive changes in the field. I wouldnt be here if I wasnt hopeful, Lambert said. Cleantech 1.0 was about manufacturing, complex supply chains, and low-margin businesses in things like biofuels and solar. A lot of venture capital went into it. Today, a lot of the areas of Cleantech 2.0 are in software, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and security. I call this a renaissance in the utility sector. Lambert said in an interview with VentureBeat that the company has already invested $19 million in five tech startups. The National Grid Partners division will focus on innovation, incubation, investment, and business development. Lambert said the company will lead investments or cooperate with other firms in co-investments, as needed. NGP invests in energy startups that are building a smarter and more renewable energy future. With increased consumer expectations around energy, the firm is positioned to source, fund, and build companies that are addressing innovations in energy and information technology. From artificial intelligence to smart assets to enterprise SaaS and distributed energy marketplaces, NGPs launch companies reflect the groups investment focus, ensuring that consumers enjoy a more seamless, reliable, efficient, and cleaner energy experience. NGP takes a multi-functional approach, and Lambert said she is enthused about blockchains potential in improving security. The vulnerabilities around cybersecurity are immense, especially for critical infrastructure, she said. I did a lot of investing in AI at Intel and the Westly Group. Everything is now generating data via the internet of things. That has dramatically increased the amount of data produced day by day. The utility sector needs efficiency of operations and AI that can predict maintenance. National Grid continuously strives to exceed the expectations of its customers, said AutoGrid Systems CEO Amit Narayan, in a statement. We at AutoGrid share this vision, and we hope our state-of-the-art suite of energy internet applications allows National Grid and other energy and utility industry leaders to deliver clean, affordable, and reliable energy services in a distributed energy world. Lambert spent 19 years at Intel Capital, investing in a variety of software and other kinds of tech companies. She was a leader in the companys investments in diversity and was directly involved in the creation of a $125 million diversity fund at Intel. Diversity starts at the top, and the more diverse the top of the company, the more diverse your team will be, Lambert said. Lisa Lambert of National Grid. Lambert left Intel in 2016 after a change in leadership at the chipmakers investment arm. She joined the Westly Group to help raise an investment fund and invest in software. In January, she joined National Grid as its chief technology and innovation officer and as senior vice president of NGP. Joining Lamberts leadership team are Kareem Fahmy, Dillon McDonald, Brian Ryan, and Pradeep Tagare — all veterans in the technology sector. Lambert and the team will oversee innovation, incubation, corporate venture capital, business development, and the venture fellowship program. Lambert said the company will invest $250 million over the next two to three years, making about 10 to 15 investments a year. It has invested $19 million so far in the first five companies, and it will spread investments across the U.S. and Europe. The focus will be in electric cars, residential solar, and energy.
National Grid, the Northeasts 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 fund 10 to 15 startups per year. We want to disrupt ourselves before we are disrupted, Lambert told TechCrunch. Thats 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 cant 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 dont 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.