Investing in tomorrow’s energy solutions

Lisa Lambert is Founder and President of National Grid Partners (NGP) – the innovation and investment arm of the organisation. She’s also National Grid’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. During a career working with some of the biggest players in the tech sector, she’s helped hundreds of start-ups on the path to success.

Growing up I knew that I wanted to do something important in my career – I just wasn’t sure what it would be. I was a scholarship athlete at Pennsylvania State University where we had a Top 20 ranked basketball team. I also loved technology so when the opportunity arose to join Intel, one of the biggest technology brands in the industry, I grabbed it with both hands.

My educational and professional background was in software so I knew that getting experience in hardware would enhance my skills. Eventually, I landed in Intel Capital – the investment arm of the business and I knew straight away it was perfect fit for me. I loved working with entrepreneurs who were very passionate and inspiring. I thought ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my career’.

Gaining an MBA from Harvard also opened my eyes. It gave me the perspective of a CEO and the mindset to tackle business problems across many different sectors. I was at Intel for 19 years and from there I become Managing Partner at the Westly Group, a clean technology venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley.

The chance to join National Grid appealed to me because the utility sector is just beginning to experience disruptions from start-ups. Our job at NGP is to make sure that National Grid stays ahead of the curve as we search for breakthroughs and new ideas both inside the company and with the start-ups we invest in.

Disruption is now commonplace in most sectors. Look at what has happened in the media sector with Netflix. Look at how Apple and Google have impacted Telecom companies. Mark Andreessen famously said that “software is eating the world” and that statement is proving to be true every day.

A lot of energy generation is now distributed and software is already starting to connect the dots and manage how this energy is stored, consumed and traded. We’ll see this software-based model become more important in our industry just like it has with other disruptive businesses.

Entrepreneurs have a different way of looking at the world. They see only opportunities, not problems.

I love the prospect of continuing to work with entrepreneurs and helping them to shape and grow their ideas. Entrepreneurs have a different way of looking at the world. They only see opportunities, not problems. And they have a ‘never say never’ attitude because they believe there is always a better way. That resonates with me because I have the same mindset.

I’m also passionate about helping women in business to advance their careers. In 2013 I founded UPWARD, which is a global network for executive women. The venture capital and hi-tech sectors are not known for promoting women into leadership roles, so I decided to do something about it. I liken the problem to a leaky pipeline. There is help for women to get on the career ladder but at executive level there’s a clear issue, with only 13% of executive roles filled by women and only 4% at the CEO level.

UPWARD is a professional community that provides a place for women to share experiences and offers practical support and solutions for career advancement. We now have over 6,000 members, 3 international chapters and 13 chapters in the US.

It has been two years since I took up my role at NGP and it has been an amazing journey so far. I’m looking forward to the next 12 months and particularly the work we’re doing to embed innovation in everything we do at National Grid.