How to screen and scale-up the best tech solutions for a sustainable future? At the occasion of the fifth edition of Viva Technology, Europe’s biggest start-up and tech event, we met two insiders of BNP Paribas’ start-up strategy and ecosystem to understand their perspective on investing in sustainable technologies: Laura Wirsztel, Investment Director for Principal Investments – Ecological Transition Capital, and Marième Rocchi, Head of Company Engagement Projects & Partnerships for BNP Paribas CIB.
What are BNP Paribas’ investment and partnership strategies for tech start-ups?
Laura Wirsztel: We are investing initial tickets of €1m to €5m in early to late stage startups involved in the ecological transition. Our target is to build a diversified portfolio ranging from lower risk, fast-growing software-technology companies to higher risk, higher impact, disruptive deep tech companies. In terms of geographies, we are focusing mainly on Europe and the United States. Making sure the solution answers a material and global need is crucial. We focus on scalable business models that can be replicated in numerous jurisdictions (at European scale but also backing solutions that are “ocean-crossing” material). Our investments are mainly in Series A to D equity rounds and our capital aims at accelerating the growth of startups and their commercial development or industrialization.
Marième Rocchi: Beyond direct investments described by Laura and depending on the maturity of the start-ups, BNP Paribas can introduce also them in our ecosystems and partnerships. We have a start-up incubator, the WAI – standing for We Are Innovation. When it’s the right time, BNP Paribas can open the doors of its networks of established corporations, institutions, cities – who are already our clients and partners. Our goal is to sparkle the strategic dialogue about their respective needs and solutions, to accelerate their development and then altogether, to embrace even faster the sustainable challenges. Another concrete example, we presented several start-ups to the Solar Impulse Foundation to get labelled as efficient, clean and profitable solutions with a positive impact on environment and quality of life.
Investing in the Ecological Transition
In May 2021, BNP Paribas announced the creation of a €150 million fund in partnership with the Solar Impulse Foundation. BNP Paribas will allocate €75 million in the fund, an investment marking the next chapter in the Bank’s commitment to sustainable start-ups. Indeed, following the COP21 summit in 2015, BNP Paribas had launched a dedicated team in charge of investing in energy transition start-ups and committed €100m of its own capital to this end, extending it in 2020 by a second envelope of €150 million, for a total of €250 million dedicated to ecological transition startups. It includes new solutions in energy transition, smart mobility, sustainable food and agriculture, biodiversity and circular economy.
How do you get involved with sustainable start-ups?
L.W.: We are screening hundreds of investment opportunities each year and are selecting a few in which we deploy capital. As such, we have directly invested in ten companies located in the US and Europe on various topics such as energy storage, energy efficiency or sustainable mobility. Our team is also an indirect investor in close to 25 sustainable start-ups thanks to its investments in funds dedicated to the energy transition in Europe and the US.
When we invest in Europe, we usually take a Board of Director position as this enables us to have a close proximity with the management team and add value to the companies we invest in. As a Bank, we also have specific banking services dedicated to French start-ups (including credit lines) as well as more standard products that can support their growth (export finance, leasing, etc.). We also aim at providing visibility for the start-ups we invest in, for example by showcasing them in large conferences such as Vivatech.
M.R.: We constantly aimed at having concrete actions and testing new or disruptive solutions. For instance, BNP Paribas is also a long lasting partner of Movin’On, an international ecosystem on Sustainable Mobility, alongside of more than 250 companies. In this framework, our Community of Interest on Energy Efficiency intends to foster concrete collaborations to boost business opportunities and generate gains for its members, be they revenues for start-ups providing Energy Efficiency solutions or savings for companies implementing them.
Another interesting example is the partnership of BNP Paribas CIB IT with the start-up 2CRSI, whose Direct Liquid Cooling solution helps reducing our servers farms’ carbon footprint. Less electricity is consumed overall, to keep microprocessors at the same temperature and to warm the rest of the buildings, as the heat is recycled.
From your perspective, what is the main interest of an event like Viva Technology? What opportunities do you seek there?
L.W.: By gathering investors, corporates and start-ups, Vivatech allows us to discuss with many stakeholders in a short amount of time and exchange on current technology and market trends. This is a great opportunity to better explain our investment strategy and BNP Paribas’ commitment to sustainability as well as meet with start-ups that could tomorrow become part of our portfolio. Meeting in person is important, and attending such conferences can allow multiple meetings in an informal way, fostering idea exchanges and market insight.
Events like VivaTech are catalyzers for future partnerships, enabling to enlarge our network, to break silos and to connect the dots to speed up our Bank’s transformation, but also our clients’ transformations.Marième Rocchi, Head of Company Engagement Projects & Partnerships for CIB at BNP Paribas
M.R.: Indeed, VivaTech is a hub of innovation, where to get an up-to-date understanding of tech actors and engage discussions with them. It is very inspiring to meet professionals at the forefront of key macro-trends and disruptions. Such events are catalyzers for future partnerships, enabling to enlarge our network, to break silos and to connect the dots to speed up not only our Bank’s transformation, but also our clients’ transformations. In the global momentum to fight climate change, disruptive technologies are key to bring new solutions, especially when it comes to reach net zero target, but also, as an economic ecosystem, we need to find new business models to preserve resources.
How do you see the road ahead?
M.R.: Tech companies are key to disrupt, change the world and tackle climate change, but innovation is also a matter of information and opinion sharing with every contributor of the ecosystem: clients, partners and employees. It is often a simple process based on trust, communication, continuous improvement and frugality. VivaTech is the perfect place for this, where business meets innovation.
This is an exciting time to invest in the ecological transition where profound changes in consumer expectations, evolution of the regulatory framework, and increasing sustainability commitments from large corporates will support the emergence and growth of innovative solutions in favor of the environment.Laura Wirsztel, Investment Director for Principal Investments – Ecological Transition Capital at BNP Paribas
L.W.: This is an exciting time to invest in the ecological transition where profound changes in consumer expectations, evolution of the regulatory framework, and increasing sustainability commitments from large corporates will support the emergence and growth of innovative solutions in favor of the environment. BNP Paribas, thanks to its principal investment activity today and to the BNP Paribas Solar Impulse Venture Fund tomorrow, will continue investing in innovative start-ups, working on new services or disruptive technologies, that will contribute to the achievement of eight of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Meet the start-ups supported by BNP Paribas at VivaTech
During VivaTech 2021, discover some of the start-ups in which BNP Paribas is an investor, that bring innovative and sustainable solutions in the sectors of fintech, smart mobility, clean and efficient energy:
- Cosmian, securing sensitive data by state-of-the-art cryptography
- Heliatek, the solar films that turn virtually every building into a green electricity generator
- Liquidshare, building market infrastructure for security tokens
- Manaos, offering a comprehensive view of investment portfolios on the first cloud platform at bank-level security standards
- Metron, increasing energy efficiency for more productive and sustainable industrial facilities
- Outsight, making LiDAR-based spatial intelligence become Plug & Play
- Ridecell, powering digital transformation for fleets
To see the full schedule of VivaTechnology 2021, click here.
All BNP Paribas’ news, insights and round-tables are available on our digital booth here.
To learn more about financing the ecological transition, we recommend to watch these panels:
How can technology accelerate Energy Efficiency? on Thursday 17 June, 9:30
Description: To become carbon neutral by 2050, we need a more rational use of energy in all sectors. What can industrials do to increase energy efficiency at large? How can technology accelerate this transition? And what are the financial levers to enable short- to long-term innovation?
- Constance CHALCHAT Head of CIB Company Engagement (BNP PARIBAS)
- Nicolas PETROVIC Chief Executive Officer (SIEMENS FRANCE & BELGIQUE)
- Vincent SCIANDRA Chief Executive Officer (METRON)
The innovative mobility landscape: the case of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) on Friday 18 June at 16:30
Description: MaaS: an ecosystem of mobility providers from the public and private sectors, that enables multimodality and can make mobility more sustainable. MaaS could reduce up to 20% CO2 emissions, so what’s preventing it from scaling-up?
- SAM DAVIES Journalist (SAMEDI MEDIA)
- Thomas DELOISON Director Mobility (WBCSD)
- Asuka ITO Policy Analyst, International Transport Forum (ITF) (THE OECD)
- Ronan PERRIER heaf of mobility for Corporates (ARVAL BNP PARIBAS GROUP)
- Marième ROCCHI Head of CIB Company Engagement Projects & Partnerships (BNP PARIBAS)