money moves

Houston energy tech PE group raises $3B third fund

Ara Partners has announced the closing of its third fund. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based private equity firm that focuses on industrial decarbonization investments has closed its latest fund.

Ara Partners has secured over $3 billion of new capital commitments for its Ara Fund III, closing $2.8 billion of limited partner commitments, which represents an oversubscription of its $2 billion initial target.

"We are grateful for the extraordinary interest in Fund III demonstrated by Ara's increasingly global, blue-chip investor base," Charles Cherington, managing partner of Ara, says in a news release. "The strong support from new and existing investors, is a testament to their confidence in our talented team, our investment strategy, and the compelling opportunities in the industrial decarbonization sector."

The third fund's institutional investors includes pension funds, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, endowments, and foundations from around the world. Ara Fund III will continue the firm's mission of investing in and buying out decarbonization-aligned industrial companies, specifically targeting ones headquartered in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

"The growing, global presence of Ara's platform and portfolio directly reflects the industrial economy's continued demand for the technological innovation and infrastructure needed to decarbonize," Troy Thacker, managing partner of Ara, says in the release. "The support we have received for Fund III will enable the Ara team to continue investing in high-growth companies globally that are positioned to build value while achieving positive environmental impacts."

The newly closed fund has already made four investments:

  • Vacuumschmelze, a global producer of advanced magnetic materials and rare earth permanent magnets
  • Genera, a sustainable pulp and packaging producer
  • CFP Energy, a provider of market-facing solutions in environmental and green energy products to industrial customers across Europe
  • CycleØ, a fully integrated developer of distributed biomethane facilities

Founded by Cherington and Thacker in 2017, Ara has around $5.6 billion in assets under management. It's previous fund closed in September 2021 at an oversubscribed $1.1 billion.

Trending News

A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

---

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Trending News