Back in 2017, together with Contrarian Ventures, Ignitis Group launched the first energy sector venture capital fund in the Baltics – Smart Energy Fund powered by Ignitis Group, managed by Contrarian Ventures. The fund was established to enable the transformation of the sustainable energy transition sector by financing early-stage technology companies with innovative and disruptive energy technology solutions. The Fund also attracts talent and ideas from the outside organization, which can increase the quality and efficiency of the Group’s services and raise Lithuania’s competitiveness in the energy and smart mobility sectors.
Over the past 4 years the fund has screened over 2,000 companies most of them developing energy-tech or smart mobility technology solutions. Over 700 companies have been reviewed in 2020 alone, indicating an increasing awareness of the fund’s activities in the sector and recognition as an important and leading VC investor in Europe and Israel.
The Fund manager Contrarian Ventures has invested more than EUR 6.5 million of capital into 17 different companies in 7 countries, with 6 of those companies coming from Lithuania. With an average of EUR 1.5m investments per year the fund aims to maintain the same investment tempo until the end of the investment period.
The fund’s 60 co-investment partners include some of the biggest energy and venture capital names in the industry such as energy giant British Petroleum, utility companies E.ON and Energias de Portugal and one of the most recent co-investors in the Series A funding round of Israel-based start-up H2Pro – Breakthrough Energy Ventures, founded by Bill Gates, with well-known business leaders Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Alibaba’s Jack Ma as investors and board members.
In 2021 February, in a Series A funding round the fund invested in the Israel-based company H2Pro which is developing an innovative, clean, inexpensive and safe hydrogen production technology which is called E-TAC (Electrochemical-Thermally Activated Chemical) that produces 30% more hydrogen than traditional electrolysis per kWh and reaches 95% efficiency.
Contrarian Ventures invested more than EUR 0.4m in H2Pro during the Series A round following its earlier investments in 2019 and 2020 and now its total investment in the company has reached close to EUR 1m. The high-tech start-up H2Pro is led by Talmon Marco, the CEO and investor of the company and founder of Viber and Juno which successfully exited with a total value of $1.1bn.
Venture capital fund investments are usually associated with certain risks and uncertainties with the performance of portfolio companies, however, among the start-ups that the fund has invested in, there are several companies that have already increased their market value significantly after successful business expansion and attracted subsequent funding rounds at a higher valuation.
The fund’s partnership with its portfolio companies helps create innovative solutions and services for Lithuanian customers, assisting in increasing the reliability of the national electricity network. In 2020, Ignitis Group partnership with Estonian start-up FuseBox enabled the company to carry out expansion into Lithuania as the first independent aggregator of electricity demand in Lithuania. Thanks to this new service, by utilizing the existing network infrastructure, Lithuanian businesses will have the opportunity to receive additional income in exchange for their flexible consumption, which helps the grid operator to improve the reliability of the grid.
The fund‘s activities also directly benefit the Lithuanian economy as start-ups create additional jobs and pay more taxes to the state as the businesses continue to grow and expand, such as portfolio company PVcase, which has to this date created over 50 jobs and paid more than half a million EUR in payroll taxes since its inception in 2018. Overall the fund‘s Lithuanian portfolio companies have created over 100 jobs with over EUR 700k of taxes paid to the state budget.
There is also the case of promoting the adoption of new technologies in Lithuania – in November 2020 the Lithuanian hydrogen platform was established with a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Energy and 19 business associations and companies, including Contrarian Ventures and Ignitis Group. The Group will contribute to the development of hydrogen technologies for the future use of hydrogen both as green energy and as an energy storage solution.
Contrarian Ventures is also involved in creating an inclusive and active energy community. Industry-leading events such as “Energy Tech Summit” and “Energy Tech Challengers” bring together the world‘s top energy, mobility and sustainability minds and ideas while the monthly newsletter “Bye, Fossil Fuels” and global climate VC ranking “Climate 50” help promote the importance of sustainable energy transition and engage community globally.
Smart Energy Fund powered by Ignitis Group is one of the four pillars of the Ignitis Innovation Hub, which aims to attract innovations and talents from the energy sector to the group and to promote the growth of energy start-up businesses.
For more information about the fund and its portfolio companies please visit https://ignitisgrupe.lt/en/Ignitis-Innovation-Fund
If you have any questions related to the fund – do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]