Léo Fillion has just joined EDF Pulse Ventures as Investment Manager. He explains his role within the EDF Group's corporate venture capital.
What are the roles and missions of an Investment Manager at EDF Pulse Ventures?
As an Investment Manager at EDF Pulse Ventures, my main tasks can divided into three main categories that echo the chronological flow of an investment process:
- Co-leading strategic studies and sourcing investment opportunities: this stage, carried out across the EDF New Business team, is based on the various investment themes defined each year in our strategic framework. We first determine, sometimes with the support of a consultancy firm, the main trends and any technological barriers in the market under review. On the basis of these convictions, we then develop investment criteria. These enable us to assess the potential of the startups we meet, either through direct contacts or by attending cleantech ecosystem events. At the same time, and internally within the EDF Group, we also interview the various stakeholders likely to be affected by the theme to find out what their needs are. The ultimate aim is to match these needs with the solutions proposed by the startups we consider to have strong potential, so as to establish a basis for synergy and be able to prepare an investment application.
- Investment appraisal: during this stage, carried out in pairs by a an Investment Manager and a Senior Investment Director, our tasks are similar to those of a traditional investment fund. Initially, we will carry out strategic, technical, financial, legal and tax due diligence to assess the investment risk and growth potential of the selected company. Once these various points have been validated, we summarise them in a file that is presented to the investment committee for a decision.
- Follow-up of portfolio companies: this last stage, undoubtedly the most important, takes place post-investment and aims to help the company pursue its development, work with the EDF Group and support it through possible changes to its shareholder structure. These assignments are aimed primarily at Senior Investment Directors, but also at Investment Managers as we develop our expertise in the various companies in the portfolio.
What investment themes are you interested in, and why are they relevant to the EDF Group?
Our investment themes are determined each year through a strategic framework. In the second half of 2023, I have the opportunity to work in particular on the HR Tech/Edtech sector, which represents a key challenge for the EDF Group because of the high recruitment needs by 2030 in the nuclear sector and the energy transition. I'm also interested in new renewable energies and the emerging potential of certain technologies to produce low-carbon, controllable and competitive energy. Finally, I'm looking at long duration energy storage solutions to support the growing share of solar and wind energy in the global energy mix.
Other themes are also on our roadmap between now and the end of the year or the beginning of next year: watertech, biodiversity management, decarbonisation of industrial processes, support functions for the new nuclear power plant, etc.
Do you have a theme that you particularly like, and why?
I've always been particularly interested in themes with a “deeptech” component that I believe are likely to bring about structural changes in the energy sector over the long term. New renewable energies are an excellent example: today, most of the technologies are still immature, but it's precisely the role of a player like EDF Pulse Ventures to take the risk of financing them in order to contribute to their emergence.
Why did you choose to work in corporate venture capital (CVC) rather than venture capital (VC)? And why, more specifically, at EDF Pulse Ventures?
Unlike a traditional investment fund (VC), a CVC's involvement with a startup is not limited to financial support. Including the EDF Group's various business lines in the investment process and establishing synergies with them provides real added value, whether in terms of sales, technical support, R&D development, etc. In addition, this win-win positioning and the expertise of the business lines give greater depth to the discussions and enable us to fully grasp the technical challenges of the companies we meet.
More generally, joining a corporate venture capital associated with a group like EDF was an obvious choice for me for several reasons. On the one hand, the brand image conveyed by the Group's history and its international dimension give us a certain legitimacy in the cleantech ecosystem. Secondly, EDF's positioning will place the company at the heart of the energy and decarbonisation challenges facing the economy in the coming years. Given the challenges ahead, there is no doubt that innovation will have its place to play and that EDF Pulse Ventures will continue to have a key role in involving startups in the Group's roadmap.
What advice would you give to startups interested in working with EDF Pulse Ventures?
I would give three main pieces of advice to startups wishing to work with EDF Pulse Ventures. The first is to check that they are aligned with our investment thesis (level of maturity, financial expectations, long-term vision, etc.). The second is to think about the possible synergies with the various business lines of the EDF Group. This will be a determining factor in our decision to go ahead with the investment process. Finally, my last piece of advice is to make sure that the arrival of a strategic investor such as EDF Pulse Ventures in the company's capital makes sense in terms of its development prospects and the position of any existing investors or new shareholders.