Member Spotlight: BHP Ventures

Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we profile the exciting work of our member firms. For this deep dive, we spoke to members of BHP Ventures.

From top left (L to R): Dr Brigid O’Brien, Josh Su, Natalie Cira, Alexandra Iljadica, Michael Buzzo, Susanna Campitelli, Jordan Mitchell

Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?

BHP Ventures is the in-house venture capital arm of BHP. We scour the globe to find and foster emerging, game-changing technologies with the potential to help make BHP’s global operations safer, more productive, and sustainable. This complements and enhances the innovation already underway within BHP by forging new partnerships and creating fresh opportunities to strengthen our portfolio and lower our emissions.

For our partners, BHP Ventures provides the opportunity to collaborate with one of the world’s largest natural resources companies. With more than 80,000 talented people working at top-class assets across Australia and the Americas to produce premium iron ore, copper, nickel, and metallurgical coal for global customers, we have a unique vantage point to support our portfolio companies. Our products are the foundation of energy transition. We understand how to navigate the entire value chain, and we’re experts at shaping capital-intensive projects to bring new products to the global market.

What defines your portfolio?

BHP Ventures targets game-changing technologies and teams to support future growth for BHP by:

  1. Driving innovation in our core operations (electrifying our fleet, low/no-CO2 fuels, and site-electrification).
  2. Growing our resource base in key commodities (new exploration and extraction technologies).
  3. Exploring potential growth opportunities for BHP tomorrow (new energies and minerals, low emissions steelmaking, battery recycling, carbon removal).

We seek a robust financial return on the capital we deploy, as well as strategic returns for BHP through the unique insights we source, the partnerships we make, and the options we create.

How is the firm different today than when you first started?

Since BHP Ventures launched two years ago, we have rapidly grown a global portfolio of more than 15 holdings, as well as built a diverse team spanning the U.S. and Australia. We see a deep pipeline of investment opportunities and have quickly established ourselves as a collaborative and nimble CVC. We’ve established a global ecosystem to collaborate with top-tier accelerators, partners, universities and co-investors​. BHP has recently committed more capital to our multi-year investment fund because of the success we are seeing to date.

We’ve built trusted relationships across BHP’s internal network to help create unique value for our portfolio companies. For technologies that may have an application in our business today, we can run pilots or demonstrations in our operations. For some start-ups, we may look to jointly develop new business opportunities together. For others, we may make introductions to our customers, suppliers and/or regulators.

Why is your firm a part of NVCA?

Although BHP is headquartered in Australia, most of our team and investment portfolio are in the U.S. We know that NVCA is an important player in the venture capital ecosystem and provides us with networking opportunities with like-minded peers, access to valuable training materials, and insights from thought leaders. NVCA is additionally aligned with our diversity and sustainability ambitions.

Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.

The global energy and impact investment spaces are increasingly crowded as new technologies are brought to bear and funds established to invest in them. Specific to the decarbonization sector, while many are attuned to the ‘downside risk’ of decarbonization, few appreciate the ‘upside’ exposure that our business has in sustainably delivering the raw materials needed to decarbonize. For that reason, we are targeting technologies to decarbonize across our value chain which also represent growth opportunities for BHP.

What’s ahead for your firm in 2022?

Climate and deep-tech technologies require long-term, patient capital, which is precisely what BHP Ventures has the experience and capability to provide. Our investment decisions are made on long-term horizons because this is how BHP operates. As such, we’re focused on the partnership potential between BHP and emerging technologies to scale innovation globally. For the rest of 2022, we will be actively and thoughtfully deploying capital from our larger multi-year fund and continuing to build out our team.

In order to scale capital-intensive, hard-tech solutions to meet the world’s energy and climate challenges, BHP’s resources —like nickel and copper— are integral, for example in electric vehicles. It will also require extraction of these resources with fewer and fewer CO2 emissions. Technologies like carbon mineralization, bio digestion of tailings (mine waste), and green steel all provide options for decarbonization. We look forward to engaging with founders of Seed to Series B+ ventures to support BHP’s climate transition action plan.

Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.

Collaborative, respectful, driven, and creative

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