Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures launches Fund III

The Gates Foundation’s climate venture fund raised $1.25bn for its second vintage in 2021 and $1bn for its first vintage in 2019 from billionaires including Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and George Soros.

Bill Gates’ climate venture firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures has launched its third flagship fund, according to a market source and an SEC filing.

Gates said last year that BEV would aim to raise $1 billion for Fund III, speaking in a podcast published by Bloomberg. It is not clear whether this is still the target for BEV III, and the firm did not respond to a request for comment.

Fund II from BEV’s flagship strategy closed on $1.25 billion in 2021, while Fund I closed at $1 billion. Fund I was raised with commitments from the personal wealth of 28 billionaires, high-net-worth individuals and family offices, Gates announced in 2016 in a since-deleted blog post. These investors included Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Richard Branson, George Soros, Masayoshi Son, Mark Zuckerberg, Mukesh Ambani, Reid Hoffman, venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and John Doerr, and hedge fund manager John Arnold. Gates founded and anchored Breakthrough Energy Ventures through the Gates Foundation, which is made up of his personal and family’s wealth.

“We are willing to wait a longer time for returns than other funds,” Gates said in another 2016 blog post describing the original fund and its investors. “We have a higher tolerance for technical risk, because we know it’s tough to determine which technologies will succeed in a complicated energy market.” It is not known whether Fund III follows the same strategy and risk/return principles.

Fund I’s strategy involved targeting “scientific breakthroughs that have the potential to deliver cheap and reliable clean energy to the world… [and] help bring promising new zero-emissions energy technologies to market,” Gates wrote in 2016. “Getting a new energy technology from a lab to market takes a lot of infrastructure, a lot of upfront capital, and a lot of time.”

BEV’s flagship strategy invests in start-ups that have created solutions to decarbonize five key themes: electricity, buildings, manufacturing, transport and food. The fund is typically a lead or major investor in Series A venture funding rounds. Among the companies BEV has led investments in are ArkeaBio, which aims to reduce agricultural methane emissions; Blue Frontier, which is developing energy storage technology to reduce the carbon footprint of air conditioning systems; and Viridos, which makes algae-based jet and diesel fuel.

BEV’s portfolio also includes CarbonCure, a CCUS company for the concrete industry, and GeologicAI, which uses “robot geologists” to increase production of minerals.

The firm also manages a €100 million Europe-focused venture fund that was launched in 2019. About half of BEV Europe was committed by the European Investment Bank, with Breakthrough Energy Ventures putting up the other half, according to a 2019 statement.

In addition, BEV manages two other vehicles: the Catalyst Investment Partnership, which launched in September 2022, and the Breakthrough Energy Ventures Select Fund I, launched in January 2023.

BEV led by executive director Rodi Guidero.