Corporate VCs: What Venture Funds at ADM, Solvay, and Toyota Look for in Climate Tech Startups

Multinational businesses know that sooner or later, policymakers and consumer pressure will force them to ditch fossil fuels, address historical emissions, and implement cleaner technologies. Of course, developing all these technologies in-house isn’t realistic. So, corporate venture capital (CVC) funds have become very active in climate tech, investing $23.2 billion in 2021—over half the $44.1 billion global total recorded by Pitchbook.

At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual), we gathered a panel of the most prolific CVC investors in climate tech. How do they select and vet climate tech startups? What kind of resources and support can they uniquely offer? 

CVC is a compelling option for climate tech startups ready to sell their products and services. In addition to capital, a CVC fund and its parent company can provide industry credibility, resources for co-innovation, and sales staff and distribution channels. 

That said, CVC has a mixed reputation. Some funds have been accused of blocking deals, wasting time, or acquiring startups just to neutralize them as threats. Others, though, have earned a well-deserved reputation for helping startups scale up and make a difference for the planet.    

To learn how CVC works in climate tech, we turned to leaders from three of the most active funds.

Founded in 1902, ADM (Archer-Daniels-Midland Co) is among the world’s largest nutrition companies with a market cap of $43 billion (NYSE: ADM). Based in Chicago, ADM purchases, transports, and processes crops to make almost every ingredient imaginable. Naturally, ADM Ventures invests in food and AgTech startups including Air Protein, which makes carbon-negative proteins using air, water, and renewable energy. The portfolio also includes two graduates of SOSV’s IndieBio startup program: Geltor, maker of animal-free proteins for beauty and wellness, and Perfect Day, an alternative protein “unicorn” known for its dairy. Daniel Griffis, Managing Director of ADM Ventures, represented the firm.

Solvay SA (EBR: SOLB) is a chemical company with over 22,000 employees in 61 countries and over €13.4B in 2022 sales. Founded in 1863 and headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, Solvay is increasingly focused on sustainability and material innovation. Its CVC arm, Solvay Ventures, maintains a €80M “global evergreen fund” that makes investments ranging from €500k to €3M. Its 12 portfolio companies include Dynamic Metabolic Control (DMC), a precision fermentation startup developing bio-based chemicals, and 9T Labs, which sells a 3D printing solution for creating lightweight, waste-free carbon fiber parts that can replace heavier, energy-intensive metals. Solvay Ventures is a member of IndieBio and Mayfield’s Genesis Consortium, an alliance of VC firms and corporations that leverage biotechnology to promote human and planetary health. Coppelia Marincovic, Partner at Solvay Ventures, joined the panel.

Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM), the world’s largest carmaker by volume with a market cap of $286B. Interestingly, its CVC fund, Toyota Ventures, has branched beyond transportation with two funds. Its Frontier Fund focuses on cutting-edge digital technology (AI, robotics, etc.), while its Climate Fund has closed 15 deals across many verticals. The portfolio includes Alora, an SOSV-backed startup that farms staple crops in the oceans, Brilliant Planet, a carbon removal venture using algae pools, and Universal Hydrogen, which aims to decarbonize commercial flight. Lisa Coca, Partner at Toyota Ventures, joined the discussion.

Jon Shieber, Venture Partner and Editor-in-Chief at Footprint Coalition and former TechCrunch Senior Editor, moderated the discussion. 

What do corporate venture funds bring to climate tech, and when are they the best option for startups?   

Watch the panel here, and catch all the session in demand here.

Learn more about the Summit.

The Speakers

Daniel Griffis photo

Dan Griffis

Dan Griffis is a Managing Director for ADM Ventures, the corporate VC arm of Archer Daniels Midland Company, focused on stage agnostic investments in food, agriculture, and climate technologies. Prior to ADM Ventures, Dan held strategy and investing roles at Zymergen and Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, respectively. Previously, Dan was a founding Associate at iSelect Fund, a Food & Agri-Tech VC, and an investment banking Analyst at Progress Partners, an M&A advisory. Dan earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a B.A. from Bucknell University.

Coppelia Marincovic photo

Coppelia Marincovic

Coppelia Marincovic is a Partner at Solvay Ventures, the venture capital fund of Solvay. Coppelia invests in start-ups developing technologies that leverage chemistry to tackle large climate issues. She sits on the board of companies developing new technologies in batteries (Sepion, Sionic Energy), biotech (DMC), composites manufacturing (Plyable and formerly MultiMechanics), plastic-free personal care (Nohbo), and carbon capture. Trained as a chemist, Coppelia specialized in environmental sciences, and worked in the labs of two Nobel Laureates. She holds an MBA from INSEAD, MSc. in Environmental Sciences from Harvard University and MSc. in Chemistry from Chimie ParisTech.

Lisa Coca photo

Lisa Coca

Lisa Coca is a partner for Toyota Ventures where she leads the firm’s Climate Fund, which focuses on investing in innovative solutions for carbon neutrality. Prior to Toyota, Lisa served as a managing director and entrepreneur-in-residence with Intel’s emerging growth and incubations division where she led teams creating disruptive new businesses. Lisa was also a founding member of GE Ventures. She serves on the boards of BizWorld and the Girls Middle School. She is also an independent board director for Broadscale Acquisition Corporation. Lisa graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with Honors, and earned an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Jon Schieber photo

Jon Shieber

Jon Shieber is a venture partner and the editor in chief at Footprint Coalition. He was a senior editor at Techcrunch and previously worked as a senior reporter for Dow Jones & Co., covering venture capital and private equity investment in cleantech, climate tech, and energy from Los Angeles, New York and Shanghai.