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Christian Noske, Partner at NGP Capital – Interview Series

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Christian Noske joined NGP Capital in October 2021 as a Partner. He focuses on investments in industrial tech, enterprise software and deep tech.

Prior to NGP Capital, he was Partner at Target Global, the founding Managing Director of Alliance Ventures (Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi) and founding Partner at BMWi Ventures, where he focused on Enterprise Software, Industrial Tech and Automotive Tech.

NGP Capital is a global venture capital firm with over $1.6 billion under management, investing in growth-stage technology companies within the Edge Cloud, Cyber Security, Digital Industry, and Digital Transformation. NGP Capital backs entrepreneurs building a responsible and inclusive world where the confluence of sensors, mobility, software, and cloud solutions will connect people and industries in new ways, transforming how we live and work. Since 2005 NGP Capital has invested in more than 100 companies, 18 of these have achieved unicorn status. NGP Capital is active in the U.S., Europe, and China.

You joined NGP Capital in October 2021, what attracted you to this VC firm?

I first met Bo Ilsoe and the NGP Capital team while I was working with Moovit, one of my investments at BMWi Ventures. NGP Capital came on board to lead Moovit’s Series C funding round, so we had the opportunity to collaborate on that deal, and then continue to work together on several other projects.

One element that attracted me to NGP Capital was that the fund doesn’t just invest in AI driven solutions, it uses AI to make its team better and more efficient investors. Q, NGP Capital’s predictive AI platform, operates at the core of our investment strategy. Scanning, ranking, and quantifying over 2,000,000 companies based on more than 700 different growth indicators. Helping us to surface the most promising companies in real time, reduce decision making bias, and monitor numerous market developments, like headcounts and funding round size.

Having joined NGP Capital last year, I’ve hit the ground running and we have invested in three new companies so far. One in France and two in Israel.

In February 2022, NGP Capital raised a new venture investment fund of USD 400 million from Nokia. What types of companies will this fund focus on?

Our new fund is investing in promising, growing companies, with a focus on data and developer infrastructure, cybersecurity, industrial tech and enterprise software in the US, Europe, and China. We consider AI, Open Source and the emerging Web3 technologies, such as blockchain, to be integral, foundational technologies in those areas.

Our current portfolio includes, amongst others: Scandit, Lime, Coda, SpaceFill, and Nova Labs, and we will be announcing several new investments from Fund V over the coming weeks.

Our latest investment was in Dataloop, who your readers may be familiar with. Dataloop raised $33m last week and NGP Capital led that round. Eran Shlomo and his team build data infrastructure and have developed a hugely robust, flexible data operating system for AI applications. Businesses of every size – from startups to public companies – can use Dataloop’s cloud platform to accelerate the development and deployment of their AI into production. I’d recommend your readers look them up if they are interested in finding out more about their solutions.

Can you tell us about your career as a VC before you joined NGP Capital. How has that experience shaped your current investment focus / strategy?

I’ve been a VC for over a decade. Before I joined NGP Capital and came back to Berlin, I spent 10 years in the USA; first as one of the Founding Partners at BMWi Ventures in New York, and then as the founding Managing Director of Alliance Ventures. Those experiences were invaluable and taught me so much about the real-world impact that modern technology can have on us all. It also taught me that any technology ultimately needs to deliver a real business benefit, whether that is access to new markets, lower costs, or superior customer experience. In addition to finding the best teams in the market, that’s the lens that the NGP Capital team and I use to evaluate companies in our chosen verticals daily, to identify the next game changing businesses to add to our investment portfolio.

What excites you most about the potential of computer vision, autonomous technology, and AI?

Automation, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and active learning technologies, has given rise to multiple new possibilities and the pace of adoption has been rapid, with institutions of all sizes leveraging automation to drive value.  Automating tasks, driving efficiencies, and enabling sectors, like manufacturing, to scale globally. I believe the next few years will see large scale deployment of AI and automation related businesses, alongside its supporting infrastructure. That’s why we are investing in businesses, like Dataloop, who are enabling an automated future.

Computer vision is another great example of the types of innovation that are enabling the convergence of the physical and virtual worlds. AI/ML can drive major efficiencies in the physical world, but they require digital representation to make that happen properly. The better the physical world is represented by technologies like computer vision, the better advanced, AI-driven technologies can understand, predict, and generate valuable outputs. Ultimately, AI takes care of the mundane tasks most people don’t want to do anymore, as we can see with the current labour shortages in many of these industries. That’s hugely exciting.

How will the next generation of companies incorporate computer vision and AI in manufacturing? What does the future hold in those areas?

The potential for the application of computer vision in manufacturing is huge. I believe it will revolutionise industrial automation and augment ‘human to machine’ interactions. Connected cameras, strong edge-computing and computer vision will be central to the convergence of the physical and virtual worlds that I mentioned above, and enable improved quality assurance, asset management (inspection, predicative maintenance, digital twins), and safety. NGP Capital has invested in Scandit, SVT Robotics and Xnor, amongst others, who are employing and enabling computer vision in manufacturing in various innovative ways.

What are some examples of existing companies that are incorporating some of these technologies?

Eran and the Dataloop team is working with global car giant, Toyota, and Intel to help them to slash the time and costs involved in building high-quality datasets, training models and fast-paced AI solutions. There are some exciting use cases where computer vision is being used in manufacturing too. For example the likes of Plus One Robotics, Covariant, R-Go Robotics and Sevensense are enabling robots to navigate, identify and grab objects. Other examples include automatic identification of product defects (Elementary, Automi.ai), safety hazards (Protex AI, Intenseye) or asset inspection (Anybotics, Energy Robotics).

How important is edge computing to automisation of manufacturing and industrial processes?

It’s important to remember that most industrial automation solutions need to run their compute at the edge. Because edge processing allows for more efficient processing and transfer of data, making them more cost effective and reliable. Edge computing is particularly relevant for wireless devices that are connected to massive amounts data, including visual data, in manufacturing, where compute must be hyper efficient, so it does not drain battery and can operate efficiently in environments with patchy or no connectivity.

What is your vision for the future of the metaverse and Web 3.0?

Web 3.0 is a critical step on the journey to building decentralized, affordable, and transparent consumer and business applications. It won’t replace Web 2.0 entirely, but there is no doubt that it will augment the way we live our lives over the next few years. Especially as we see more and more of the infrastructure, security, and tools Web 3.0 requires coming online and augmenting those experiences.

The Metaverse is a good example one of the technologies that will be boosted by Web 3.0 technologies. In a few years, people won’t think of the Metaverse; it will be just reality and a natural way to interact with information, people, and machines.

What do you personally look for in founders that you invest in?

I am always on the lookout for capable entrepreneurs with a winning attitude. Individuals whose ambition it is to take their company global. I try to back entrepreneurs with a bold vision, who offer something unique, and have the ambition to move the needle in their respective industries. Women and men who have the drive and motivation to create lasting societal impact and economic value on a global scale. I believe that meeting a founder face to face is hugely important. I love getting to know a founder’s strengths and weaknesses and helping them to look at their business from a different perspective. I love learning about their approach and awareness of how they can impact those around them and their vision of the future of their business.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about NGP Capital?

Since 2005, NGP Capital has invested in over 100 companies, and we have exited fully or partially from 62 investments. We currently hold a portfolio of 51 investments. 19 of those portfolio companies have been or are valued more than $1 billion. Our current investment portfolio is split between Europe, the US and Asia.

We are a global team and operate from the West Coast to the Far East. That enables us to analyse our investments through a global lens, and once we’ve invested, we work actively with our entrepreneurs and companies to help them succeed. We are here for our companies, and we are always ready to jump in wherever they need us, to accelerate their growth, or help them to navigate expanding into new territories through our global network.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit NGP Capital.

Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital assets, digital securities and investing. He is a founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council.