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23 May 2016

GCV Powerlist 2016: Girish Nadkarni, ABB

A member of the top 100 from the Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist

Author: James Mawson, Editor-in-chief

Girish Nadkarni instigated the refounding of Switzerland-based industrial company ABB’s corporate venturing unit seven years ago.

For his 2014 Powerlist award, Nadkarni, managing director of ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), said “We were sitting on a lot of cash and due to the financial crisis the venture capital community was sitting on its hands not doing a lot of investing. Like most large companies, we too suffered from the not-invented-here problem, and setting this up would address a whole bunch of issues. We now have a tremendous amount of acceptance internally.”

That is some understatement for a team that has invested more than $150m in 15 industrial technology and energy companies, exiting six of them.

For this year’s award, Ulrich Spiesshofer, president and CEO of ABB, said: “In the digital environment, technologies are being developed and are converging at a rapid and accelerating pace, challenging business models and transforming industries.

“As a pioneering technology leader, ABB created ABB Technology Ventures seven years ago to broaden our options for the future by scouting emerging technologies and business models, and making strategic investments.

“In this regard, Girish and his team at ATV has done an outstanding job of identifying and investing in areas such as robotics, machine learning, augmented reality and cybersecurity. All of us at ABB share in Girish’s pride in having been chosen once again for this honour by Global Corporate Venturing.”

But it is an award that will not go to his head. Nadkarni said: “In terms of our success, in addition to some modest financial successes – it takes longer for industrial companies to get traction – we measure success in terms of identifying emerging technologies and companies and helping our businesses transition from an analog world to a digital world. [This is both] in terms of both technology and business models, along the way making them more paranoid. This is not a trivial task in a large company which has been a technology pioneer in its domains and is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

“Our future plans are to focus more on areas like robotics, sensors, machine learning, augmented reality, cybersecurity.”

He said ATV had already made three new investments this year in these areas: PointGrab, Soft Robotics and, last month, in Automata.

Nadkarni is on the boards of Nupharo, Takadu, and Pentalum Technologies of ATV’s current portfolio , according to LinkedIn. Aquamarine Power, on whose board he has sat, has been exited. In addition, he sits on ActvContent’s board following a personal angel investment.

Before setting up ABB Technology Ventures, Nadkarni was senior vice-president of ABB’s robotics division. He also worked at venture capital firm View Group, and as an entrepreneur at startups VSimplify and Uniprise. Among other roles, he has worked at industrial conglomerate GE, financial group Prudential and law firm Shearman & Sterling. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and studied law, economics and statistics at University of Mumbai.

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