NOVA • The Strategic Corporate VC of Saint-Gobain

Nova Saint Gobian VC Deep Dive
(Image: Nova By Saint-Gobian)

The building and construction industry is hungry for more innovation, but many parts of the industry are still operating the same way it did 100 years ago. NOVA, the venture arm of Saint-Gobain, seeks forward-thinking startups whose philosophies align with Saint-Gobain’s focus on well-being and sustainability toward supporting their purpose of Making the World a Better Home, and the vision of light and sustainable construction. Saint-Gobain is committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 by contributing to the global effort to fight climate change, protecting natural resources and providing comfortable and decent housing to all. NOVA is investing across many different verticals, including automation, robotics, pre-fab, in addition to new materials to improve energy efficiency, air quality, and more.

Fund Snapshot

  • Stage:  Seed to Series B
  • Check Size: $ 100k – $ 3.0M
  • Geography: global
  • Lead/Follow: flexible
  • Revenue/Valuation Thresholds: flexible

About the Fund

Why was the fund created?

Saint-Gobain launched NOVA in 2006 to serve as a bridge, working collaboratively with startups to provide them with access to Saint-Gobain’s internal resources and support to form long-term partnerships. They have venture managers based in Europe, the Americas, and Asia with the primary mission of expanding their understanding of new and potentially disruptive developments in our areas of strategic interest.

What type of portfolio support does NOVA provide?

NOVA has helped create triple-digit numbers of partnerships for transformative innovation with startups in various stages and forms, including co-development, licensing, commercial agreements, direct investments and joint ventures, and we currently maintain an active portfolio of about 30 companies. NOVA is also a limited partner in a number of global funds. As strategic investors, they are primarily focused on expanding their perspectives and learning from our startup partners versus investing strictly for generating a financial return.

Through engagement with business partners, they help portfolio companies validate the key assumptions in their business model to advance their development. They provide access to the competencies across the Saint-Gobain organization and actively help their portfolio companies scale their business and explore opportunities in other regions. NOVA also provides support from Saint-Gobain in terms of intellectual property expertise, development, scale-up and commercialization. As a large multinational company, Saint-Gobain can sometimes be complex to navigate so their venture team helps startups engage with the right partners within the global organization.

About Investments

What differentiates NOVA from other investors (why take NOVA's capital over another)?

NOVA is strategically driven and committed to establishing “win-win” partnerships with portfolio companies. NOVA will only consider investment in a startup when they believe they can make a meaningful contribution to helping the startup succeed. It’s important to know that NOVA is not primarily motivated by financial gain, but rather the endeavor to work collaboratively with portfolio companies and to learn right along with them.

In order to work with a strategic investor like NOVA, potential startups seeking investment from NOVA need to do their research! Explain why Saint-Gobain would be a good partner and how the startups’ technology and innovation would support their purpose of Making the World a Better Home.

Through engagement with business partners, they help portfolio companies validate the key assumptions in their business model to advance their development. They provide access to the competencies across the Saint-Gobain organization and actively help their portfolio companies scale their business and explore opportunities in other regions. NOVA also provides support from Saint-Gobain in terms of intellectual property expertise, development, scale-up and commercialization. As a large multinational company, Saint-Gobain can sometimes be complex to navigate so their venture team helps startups engage with the right partners within the global organization.

What would make NOVA consider deviating from their typical criteria?

We would consider deviating from our typical criteria if the startup is a strong, strategic fit for our business and presents the opportunity for us to create a strong impact in our business now or in the future. The technology would also need to be innovative and allow us to differentiate from other players in the market. And, we would also want the team to be passionate about their concept.

How can startups receive investment from NOVA?

Startups can connect with NOVA in many ways.

First, startups can learn more about what the NOVA team looks for when making an investment by visiting its website at nova.saint-gobain.com.

NOVA also has strong partnerships with several incubators and accelerators who provide startups with the resources they need to scale their business and achieve their goals. As one of the early organizations that partnered with Greentown Labs to help early-stage startups begin their journey into entrepreneurship, NOVA’s team has worked with many Greentown Labs startups relevant to Saint-Gobain. In fact, five finalists were recently announced for the Healthy Buildings Challenge, their second accelerator program with Greentown Labs, in partnership with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Over the next six months, the Healthy Buildings Challenge will provide the five participating startups engagement opportunities with Saint-Gobain, opportunities to explore potential partnership outcomes, and unique visibility to the Saint-Gobain top leadership team.

Third, industry events, such as Builtworlds Venture Days, CEMEX Venture Days and many others offer direct contact with startups and a way to build relationships where the team can potentially find a fit for investment.

Lastly, NOVA works directly through venture managers, who are always on the lookout for startups where they can develop a “win-win” partnership with one of their global business teams. NOVA works collaboratively with the start-ups to advance business objectives and, ultimately, see them reach tremendous success in their endeavors.

About The Author

Daniel Kriozere

Daniel Kriozere

Co-Founder @ The Impact

Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a Product Manager. Outside of his day job, he is a Principal at C3, Tech Scout at For ClimateTech, and Venture Scout at Prithvi. He also works with various climate incubators/accelerators (Cleantech Open, Techstars, and Joules Accelerator) and runs The Impact and Innovate Climate – both are newsletters covering startups in the climate space.

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