Wex Inc., a major provider of vehicle fleet management for businesses and governments, is launching a new venture arm dedicated to speeding adoption of electric cars and trucks.
Maine-based Wex expects to invest $100 million in startups through the end of 2025, the company plans to announce Thursday. The newly created investing group will be called Wex Venture Capital, and has already made its first two investments — backing Chargetrip, an EV routing and range prediction company, and ev.energy, a charging software startup.
The new fund is evidence of the durability of corporate venture capital, which has persisted despite the slowdown among traditional venture investors.
The number of corporate-backed venture deals declined 2% worldwide in 2022, compared with a 25% decline for venture capital overall, according to data provider Global Corporate Venturing. Last year also marked the largest number of new corporate investment units created and the highest participation by corporate backers in startup deals of any year on record, GCV data show.
Wex, which has a market capitalization of more than $8 billion, earns most of its revenue from managing vehicle fleets and providing fuel cards. Wex has been focused on transitioning its business toward electric vehicles for about two years, as the global number of vehicles it manages has grown to 18.7 million. Mounting customer demand to move away from fuel and the abundance of green tech startups shaped its decision to launch a standalone fund, Wex Chief Strategy Officer Jay Dearborn said.
“This isn’t experimenting willy-nilly,” Dearborn said. “It’s betting on this transition for decades to come.”
With declining costs and an increasing number of models available, electric vehicle sales are expected to more than double globally by 2026, according to a June research report by BloombergNEF. VCs, too, are spending big on the industry — writing checks to an increasing number of EV-related startups.
The amount of VC dollars invested annually in the sector more than doubled to $4.6 billion across 174 deals in 2021, PitchBook data show. However, since the tech downturn, checks have gotten smaller. VCs spent just $4.1 billion last year, spreading those dollars further by investing in 178 companies.
Dearborn said Wex Capital isn’t seeking to make big returns, and is “only investing for strategic advantage.”
Wex aims to invest in early-stage startups focused on EV routing, energy management and charging infrastructure.
The new firm will be led by David Klein, who left his design startup Parade to join the company last year. Klein will report to Dearborn and Wex Chief Operating Officer Carlos Carriedo.
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