- Nacho Gimenez joined BP in 2001 as a mechanical engineer.
- He worked his way up to head of BP Ventures, the venture capital arm of the oil company.
- He said BP Ventures, which invests in climate technology, is “critical” in helping BP reach net zero.
Nacho Gimenez, a managing partner in BP’s venture capital arm, had never really seen himself as a venture capitalist.
Gimenez, who worked his way up through various trading and shipping positions at BP and joined the company in 2001 as a chemical engineer, said he “didn’t really know” what venture capital was when the opportunity arose to move to BP Ventures.
“I didn’t know anything about board seats or functions. I didn’t know anything about how to bring best governance or best practices to companies. It was all for me to learn,” he said. “It was exciting.”
Gimenez quickly learned about the industry – now, five years later, he leads a global team of 14 at BP Ventures.
Corporate venture capital differs from traditional venture capital in that corporate VC organizations typically do not focus solely on achieving high returns, but look for strategic investments to achieve specific goals. BP has said its goal is to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
Gimenez said BP Ventures has “never been more critical” in helping the oil and gas giant achieve its net-zero ambitions. He spends his day scanning for new renewable technologies and business models, looking at what’s available and how BP can help its customers reach net zero.
“For me, it’s about where I can have a bigger impact,” he told Insider, pointing to the resources BP can put behind its investments.
BP Ventures is investing between $5 million and $10 million, or about $5.3 million to $10.7 million, in Series A to D rounds, but the sweet spot is Series B.
Gimenez said he’s looking for climate tech startups that have traction, can scale, and have a good team that listens to customer feedback. “A bad team with great technology is not going to get anywhere,” he added.
Recent investments include BTR Energy, a software company that claims to be decarbonising the US transportation sector; BluSmart, a company that transports electric vehicles; and Flylogix, which uses drones to detect methane.
Gimenez said he is most excited about tools that can help scale natural climate solutions, the carbon markets and electric mobility, as well as tools that support BP’s customers in decarbonisation.
‘Be brave, be courageous and don’t be afraid of the unknown’
Gimenez started working at one of BP’s oil refineries in Spain after dropping out of a doctoral program. His job was to ensure safety in the factory where fuels were produced.
He then moved to the trading floor in London, where he coordinated the purchase of crude oil. Gimenez spent two years using mathematical models to look at market conditions, what type of crude to buy, what products would come from that crude, and how those products would be sold.
Gimenez also coordinated with the supply department, which would determine whether there would be a particularly busy holiday season or a cold winter.
He rose internally and spent the next 10 years analyzing long-term trends in the market to ensure BP had a sustainable business model. He noted a market shift towards environmental sustainability.
“In early 2007, there was a lot of attention in the heavy oil market,” he said. “Slowly things started to shift towards more light products and gas that produced fewer emissions.”
He said he was being asked more and more about renewables and solar energy — and those questions coincided with becoming a father. “I started to think I wanted to have a deeper meaning in what I was doing,” Gimenez said.
He said his interest in innovation was sparked by a New Yorker cartoon that said, “Yes, the planet has been destroyed. But for a moment, we created shareholder value.”
—Marc Benioff (@Benioff) 28 Dec 2014
Gimenez said that while his move into venture capital was somewhat the result of being in the right place at the right time, he was always curious and open to new opportunities.
He said his advice for anyone looking to get into VC is to “be flexible.”
“Create a range of options that could be opportunities and explore why you think of them. How do they align with your values? There’s nothing worse than playing a role where your values don’t align – it makes the job very, very difficult .” said Gimenez. “Be brave, be brave and don’t be afraid of the unknown.”