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Daniel Uusitalo: Supercharging Innovative and Transformative Energy Tech in Europe

Daniel Uusitalo: Supercharging Innovative and Transformative Energy Tech in Europe

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Daniel Uusitalo, Helen Ventures’ VCV and M&A analyst. Let’s learn about what’s happening there and how Daniel is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Daniel, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Helen Ventures?

Daniel: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Helen Ventures, as the CVC fund of Helen Oy, the Finnish energy company, is working to supercharge innovative energy tech in Europe through minority investments in Seed, Series A, and Series B funding rounds of startups solving problems in the renewable energy transition. We accelerate the growth of early and growth stage companies through our energy market insights and by collaborating with our customers and industry experts.

Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?

Daniel: Energy tech startups are working to solve many of the bottlenecks that our society will face in the broader energy transition, and our role in that is that of a financier for growth and expansion. I was drawn to the energy sector due to its transformational role in the sustainability transition, and VC, because I wanted to work with the most ambitious founders and to support them in their transformational ventures. The world has set clear targets around renewable energy output as a share of total energy output, but the execution path carries challenges. This is where innovative startups come in. By delivering new solutions to the market, which solve existing and emerging bottlenecks, founders in the space play a pivotal role in the transition.

Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Daniel: Helen is going through an existentially important transformation in its energy generation portfolio, and through doing so contributing to renewable energy availability and affordability in the long term. Our target is to deliver a fully carbon-neutral energy system by 2030. We are working to create an increasingly clean, smart, and flexible energy system so as to enable others within our local context to utilize affordable renewable energy to achieve their own aims.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Daniel: We reported that in the next few years we will build a total of more than 2,000 megawatts of capacity to replace fossil energy production. Investments in a diverse production structure in terms of both electricity and heating guarantee our security of supply and maintenance and the continuation of our green transition towards carbon-neutral energy production. One of Helen’s biggest construction projects, the Vuosaari bioenergy heating plant, started heat production in 2022 as an example of a significant initiative.

Spiffy: Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.

Daniel: Given our focus on technology supporting the world in the energy transition, many of our portfolio companies are directly working on solving some of the world's most pressing issues. One example of a success story from our portfolio is a company called Gradyent, which is working to enable district heating to optimize, decarbonise, and transform their heating systems. They are doing this through the provision of a real-time digital twin platform that enables grid operators to optimize and simulate future scenarios for delivery. Gradyent's solution enables operators to reduce CO2 emissions, and to more quickly detect issues within the grid, contributing to heat supply security in Europe.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Daniel: I think the most rewarding part of the job has been getting to know brilliant founders, working on globally significant solutions. We are fortunate to be in a position to support these innovators in their aspirations. It’s important to remember that while we are an important part of the growth stories of the startups we work with, it is the founders at the end of the day that are solving the world's most pressing problems. Our job is to facilitate and nurture that to the best of our abilities.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Daniel—it’s been an honor!

Daniel Uusitalo was born in Finland, but grew up in New York City, Vienna, and London. With previous experiences from management consultancy, corporate banking risk management, startup acceleration, and most recently energy technology venture capital, Daniel is passionate about supporting founders in creating and delivering transformative technologies to the world at large. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 29, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.