From left to right: Marie Capitaine (TotalEnergies), Benoit Savattier (TotalEnergies), Antoine Delafargue (TotalEnergies), Jean-Marc Bally (Aster), Chama El Shamy (Aster)
Tailor-made support to meet the seller’s expectations
Following a competitive process, Aster was chosen by TotalEnergies to take over most of the assets of its CVC arm, TotalEnergies Ventures. The portfolio is made up of minority stakes in about twenty companies, mainly located in Europe and the United States. This deal allows Aster to notably demonstrate once again its international experience, its expertise in technologies and innovative solutions contributing to carbon neutrality, and its capacity to support start-ups in their respective growth projects.
Aster is also pleased to welcome North Sky Capital as an investor in the specially created FPCI fund (Fonds Professionnel de Capital Investissement), and endowed with a significant share to support the portfolio companies in their future financing needs. For its part, TotalEnergies will maintain a close relationship with Aster and will be interested in the future performance of the FPCI. Jean-Marc Bally, Managing Partner of Aster “this unprecedented operation testifies confidence in the Aster model and in our ability to develop solutions fully tailored to the needs of our subscribers”.
This announcement is a concrete step towards the building of a broader approach to support players interested in transferring and monitoring their venture capital investments.
The ambition to develop a secondary activity
With this solid first experience, Aster positions itself as a new entrant in the private equity secondary market. Aster can offer several liquidity and/or support solutions tailored to a smooth transition, and above all aligned with the evolving needs of the strategy and positioning of venture capital players, including in particular industrial corporates looking for liquidity or a new balance for their CVC activities and investment portfolios.
According to Fabio Lancellotti, Partner at Aster, “the economic context, combined with the cyclicality of venture capital investments, create opportunities to take over minority positions held directly by players wishing to reposition themselves on their core activities. We want to energize the secondary market with a constructive, tailor-made approach adapted to the strategic changes of large corporates, particularly industrial ones”.
Beyond the secondary buyout of assets, Aster is able to articulate multiple and varied approaches to come to a proposal adapted to each context, and to each team. Whether it is an on-the-spot audit, the takeover of management -directly or via a service provider role-, or even the sale, the options are numerous to best serve the interests of players wishing to reorient or stop their initiatives in the venture capital area.
Aster is a venture capital firm based in Paris. Since 2000, we have managed several generations of funds raised from major industrial and institutional groups. We have built our expertise in Climate Tech with investments in the mobility, energy and industry sectors in particular. We finance start-ups at all stages of development, preferably from seed phase, and choose entrepreneurs who make the fight against climate change a priority mission of their projects. EkWateur (energy supplier that aims to accelerate the energy transition, sold in 2022) or Betterway (pioneer in the employee mobility solutions, sold to Edenred) are among our most recent success stories.
More broadly, Aster acts as a catalyst for its ecosystem, with Aster Class, a training organization that provides a framework for the dissemination of Aster’s expertise, and Aster Fab, a new kind of consulting firm unlocking the net zero transformation of hard-to-abate sectors by tapping into the startup gold mine.
EyeLights has announced the completion of its €20 million Series A. We’re delighted to welcome this company to the Aster Family, an investment we made with other news investors, Shift4Good, BPI France and EIC – Innovation Fund, as well as with other key existing shareholders.
After an initial seed round back in 2018, this Series A will help the talented duo Romain Duflot and Patrice Nagtegaele, to strengthen their capabilities to scale their head-up display (HUD) technology in the motorcycle sector and accelerate its deployment in the automotive space.
We have seen several attempts to turn augmented reality (AR) technologies into industrial or more specifically automotive applications, but all have had a hard time to successfully scale in such conservative environments. In general, these attempts have failed due to two major issues: lack of technology and product readiness on the one hand, and lack of compelling business/use cases on the other.
With EyeLights and its HUD technology, we believe that AR applications are getting one decisive step closer to reality, as the performance of early prototypes has impressed several industry leaders. Additionally, the business case is very clear: by revolutionizing car cockpits, there is a dual benefit of avoiding several plastic components and increasing driver safety.
Mixed and Augmented Reality find compelling applications in cars
As it has become increasingly evident from the amount of innovative applications that car OEMs brought to the latest CES in Las Vegas (Jan 2023), the in-cabin experience for both drivers and passengers is expected to make leap frogs in the next few years.
We believe that some of the most convincing visual applications are those around the concept of mixed reality. The BMW iVision Dee concept presented at the last CES is a great example. On this concept car, one of the main applications presented was the BMW’s new head-up display, where the key selling proposition is functionality. To put it with the words of Oliver Zipse, President and CEO of BMW, this represents the “perfect blend between virtual and real worlds” and, according to BMW, it’s not an abstract concept, but a system that will be in series production as early as 2025 under the name of “BMW Panoramic Vision”.
Time and time again, we have seen BMW being the early adopter of successful key technologies, such as the i3 model back in 2013, when an all-electric car was still just a concept for most of car OEMs. The technology standard picked by BMW to showcase the new windscreen display is the one adopted by Eyelights, which is based on pure polarization of nanomaterials. EyeLights brings the capabilities of this standard to a new level by using a custom picture generative unit (PGU) as a light source to increase brightness.
We believe that new head-up display technologies, such as the one shown at CES, have the potential to provide car drivers with much safer functionality than current human/machine interfaces. On top of that, with the windscreen becoming a single large display, we can expect completely new possibilities for the design of future vehicles.
Impact driven company
While many market observers see in-car displays getting too big, worsening the carbon footprint of cars and increasing potential distraction elements for drivers, Eyelights’ technology can remedy these shortcomings by turning windshields into displays, making all sorts of new gen entertainment features possible, while reducing the use of plastic, and hence contributing to a better car carbon footprint. The elimination of large dedicated display/pads inside cars will lead to a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions: on average, an iPhone screen accounts for about 100kg of CO2 and a large car display can account for up to 500kg of CO2 just for its production. Indirect advantages will also come from weight reduction (from removing screens and plastic cockpits) and reduction of plastic use (removal/reduction of cockpits).
While the automotive market will be the primary focus of the company’s product development efforts, Eyelights will also address the motorbike head-up display market to increase rider safety by helping them focus entirely on road trajectory, as opposed to current navigation features.
Joining forces with a high-potential founding team that is undertaking a long journey to crack the automotive interface space.
While several attempts have been underway for years by Car OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, the tech and price challenges associated have massively reduced any opportunity for HUD wide market adoption so far. We believe that technological advances in optics, coupled with convincing entertainment and in car applications, make this the perfect moment to invest in a promising startup addressing such a market opportunity.
We are proud to back the two co-founders of EyeLights and, while this is their first startup founded and led together, we believe their previous experience is very relevant to what they are trying to achieve.
Romain worked at Dassault Aviation, and later at Airbus Flight Test to improve the certification process of new aircraft versions.
Patrice spent a few years at the Ecole Normal Sup Paris-Saclay after graduation to complete his PhD in optics. He then joined Carduan Technologies, the French specialist in advanced solutions for the characterization of nanoparticles and nanomaterials, where he stayed for about 8 years. He later joined Savimex, a French player specialized in the design and production of optical polymers. This is where Patrice met Romain in 2017 and later joined him at EyeLights.
Their first-hand experience in highly demanding industrial environments, solid engineering and physics background as well as their strong commitment to becoming the mobility interface category leader, makes us even more excited to join forces now, at the beginning of the journey to conquest. 🚀
We are proud to announce today our successful exit from Betterway, a fast-growing provider of employee mobility solutions. The exit took place as part of a new funding round of €4m with Edenred, a global leader in employee benefits.
We are extremely pleased with the growth and success that Betterway has achieved since our initial investment. We have been proud to support the company’s innovative approach to employee mobility solutions, and we are confident that their partnership with Edenred will continue to accelerate their growth and success.
Betterway’s platform enables businesses to provide their employees with seamless access to various forms of transportation, including public transit, ride-sharing, and more. This allows employees to have greater flexibility and autonomy when it comes to their daily commutes, while also helping businesses reduce their carbon footprint and transportation costs.
We believe that Betterway’s innovative approach to employee mobility is the future of the transportation industry, and we are proud to have been a part of their journey. We wish them success as they continue to revolutionize the way we think about transportation in the workplace.
At Aster Capital, we are committed to investing in innovative and disruptive companies that have the potential to transform Mobility. We will continue to seek out opportunities to invest in the most promising startups and entrepreneurs around the world, and we look forward to sharing more exciting news in the future.
We are thrilled to announce today our reinvestment in Hadean, a distributed computing startup that is revolutionizing the way the metaverse is powered.
Hadean has just closed its latest funding round, raising an impressive $30 million in capital. High profile investors including Epic Games, Tencent, Alumni Ventures alongside existing investors Molten, Entrepreneur First, ourselves and other strategic partners participated to the round.
We are incredibly excited to continue supporting Hadean and the company’s mission of building the infrastructure that will enable the next generation of online experiences. Hadean’s unique approach to distributed computing and their focus on scalability, efficiency, and flexibility make them the perfect partner for some of the markets that we serve as we look to invest in companies that are driving innovation and disrupting traditional industries.
With this new funding, Hadean is well-positioned to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the metaverse. The company’s technology has the potential to unlock new levels of creativity and interactivity in online experiences, enabling users to participate in truly immersive virtual worlds.
At Aster Capital, we are proud to be a part of Hadean’s journey and look forward to seeing the company continue to grow and succeed in the years to come. We believe that Hadean has the potential to transform the way we think about computing, and we are excited to support them as they build the infrastructure of the future.
Iceotope, a deeptech portfolio company focusing on immersion liquid cooling for DCs, has secured a growth equity round led by ABC Impact.
We are excited to announce today the closing of a $36m growth equity round led by ABC Impact on our portfolio company Iceotope, a deeptech company focusing on immersion liquid cooling. Other notable new investors are nVent, the US headquarters Corporate, large UK impact funds Northern Grid Stone, SDCL Energy Efficiency Income Trust, Pavilion Capital and British Patient Capital. Existing investors also participated to the round.
It has been quite a journey since the first days of our initial investment back in 2014: investing in a handful people shop proved to be challenging but we have realised over time that the initial investment thesis holds quite a bit. Increasingly the datacenter market – the initial focus for the company – represents a growing portion of the electricity consumed around the world. As the impact of CO2 emissions worsen with major meteorological disruptions across the globe, the major cloud, colo and IT players are confronted to stricter regulations to reduce both water and energy consumption to run increasingly powerful compute workloads. The arrival of crypto/blockchain, the pervasiveness of AI applications – metaverse and auto-generative conversational bots such as Chat GPT – are making the situation increasingly worse. That’s where Iceotope is playing a crucial rule, by enabling datacenter investors and operators to reduce the power efficiency of those machines (Power Usage Effectiveness is the golden standard in this industry) down to world record 1.03 while new born datacenters are typically 20-40% more energy eater (and legacy installations are 100-150% more).
During more than 5 years of research backed by leading research universities such as Leeds and Sheffield (UK), Iceotope has developed a leading immersion cooling solution that is protected by about a hundred patents, and it is now commercialized with some of the largest players of the cloud and datacenter industry.
According to Gartner, Immersion cooling systems can deliver better cooling efficiency than the widely used passive and forced-air cooling systems. It is also more effective than the traditional liquid cooling solutions that route liquid coolant to specific high-power components within the server. This enables high-performance compute systems to be operated in very dense configurations or environments where air-based cooling may not be viable or effective, such as edge infrastructure deployments in a non-data center environment.
With the new money raised and the support of a global set of investors who share the same commitment to enable a digital revolution that doesn’t cost the earth, Iceotope will double down on its US and Asia presence while pushing to keep ahead of competitors through continue recruitment of talent engineers both in the UK and in the US.
At Aster, we are proud to have been one of the earliest backers of Iceotope and look forward to seeing the company continue to grow and succeed in the years to come. We believe that the Company has the potential to transform the way we design and operate cooling in computing, and we are excited to support them as they can massively contribute to a digital revolution that respects our planet.
 Meaning for each kWh of compute power, 1.03 kWh are effectively absorbed by the grid