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Contxto – Argentine oil tycoon YPF recently launched Latin America’s newest VC firm, YPF Ventures. With energy distributor Sustentator and the U.S. electric scooter startup Bird already part of its portfolio, the new group wants to promote projects involving mobility, lithium and artificial intelligence.
YPF Ventures intends to accelerate innovative energy initiatives, especially those that compliment YPF’s larger operations. Although YPF hasn’t announced any official figures or quotas, chosen projects could receive a ticket of up to US$4 million from the company.
“A venture capital fund allows us to test high risk, but with low capital,” said Daniel González, CEO of YPF. “YPF Ventures captures and rescues the entrepreneurial spirit of our company and projects it into the current scenario of innovation and technological disruption.”
With Shell and BP having their own ventures, YPF is not the first oil company to premiere a VC fund. In terms of regional history, though, YPF Ventures is one of the firsts of its kind.
“YPF is a leading company in Argentina and in the region,” said Tomás Ocampo, president of YPF Ventures. “With this fund, we want to be leaders in disruptive innovation in Argentina, in the Southern Cone, and other places.”
YPF Ventures will have two models: a bridge fund and seed fund. The first will act as a link between influential energy research centers and the South American nation. Known as the Argentina Energy Bridge, it hopes to reduce the risk of introducing new technology to the country.
A relevant example of this is YPF’s support for U.S. micromobility startup Bird Technologies. Electronic scooters are popular means of alternative transportation in the United States but still gaining a foothold in Latin America. However, this may change with YPF Ventures’ assistance.
“Our participation in this company is not very relevant in terms of percentage,” said Ocampo. “But with this agreement, the U.S. company is opened to a market of 600 million people.”
Secondly, the YPF Early Stage Fund will involve equity-free capital for regional startups to strengthen research and development. YPF hopes to select projects based on their potential as company partners, such as Sustentator.
Prior to this development, YPF assisted Argentine energy distributor Sustentator. It began in 2008 but has since become one of the leading solar energy producers in Argentina. According to the YPF President, Sustentator will remain autonomous.
“We have relevant and strategic participation in Sustentator,” said Ocampo. “This company will operate independently and, if necessary, will compete against any YPF company that operates in that market.”