- Nacho Gimenez started working for BP as a mechanical engineer in 2001.
- He worked his way up to become the head of BP Ventures, the oil company’s venture-capital arm.
- He said BP Ventures, which invests in climate tech, is “critical” in helping BP reach net zero.
Nacho Gimenez, a managing partner at 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, having started at the company in 2001 as a chemical engineer, said he “didn’t really know” what venture capital was when the opportunity arose to shift to BP Ventures.
“I didn’t know anything about board seats or positions. I didn’t know anything about how to bring best governance or best practices to companies. All that was for me to learn,” he said. “It was exciting.”
Gimenez soon got up to speed on 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 tend not to focus solely on making big returns but look to make strategic investments to achieve specific goals. BP has said its goal is to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Gimenez said BP Ventures has “never been more critical” in helping the oil-and-gas giant deliver on 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 get to net zero.
“For me, it’s about where I can have a bigger impact,” he told Insider, noting the resources BP is able to put behind its investments.
BP Ventures invests between 5 million and 10 million euros, or about $5.3 million to $10.7 million, in Series A to D rounds, but its sweet spot is Series B.
Gimenez said he’s on the hunt for climate-tech startups that have traction, can scale, and have a good team that listens to customer feedback. “A bad team with a great technology will not get anywhere,” he added.
Recent investments include BTR Energy, a software company that says it’s helping decarbonize the US transportation sector; BluSmart, an electric-vehicle ride-hailing company; 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 those that support BP’s customers in decarbonizing.
‘Be brave, courageous, and don’t be scared of the unknown’
Gimenez got his start at one of BP’s oil refineries in Spain after dropping out of a doctoral program. His job was to ensure safety at 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 running mathematical models looking at market conditions, which type of crude oil to buy, which products would come out of that crude oil, 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 cold winter.
Climbing the ranks internally, he spent the next 10 years analyzing long-term trends in the market to ensure BP had a sustainable business model. He noticed a market shift to environmental sustainability.
“In the beginning of 2007, there was a lot of focus in the market towards heavy oils,” he said. “Slowly, things started changing towards more light products and gas that created less emissions.”
He said he was asked more and more about renewables and solar — and those questions coincided with his becoming a dad. “I started to think that I wanted to have a deeper meaning in what I was doing,” Gimenez said.
He said his interest in innovation was spurred by a New Yorker cartoon that said: “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created shareholder value.”
—Marc Benioff (@Benioff) December 28, 2014
Gimenez said that while his transition to venture capital was somewhat the result of being at 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’re thinking of those. How do they align with your values? There’s nothing worse than being in a role where your values don’t align — it makes work very, very difficult.” Gimenez said. “Be brave, courageous, and don’t be scared of the unknown.”