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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Venture Capitalist Joins AI Firm in Portfolio

In the venture capital business, it is not unusual for someone from an investment firm to go work at one of the companies in its portfolio. That was the case for Meghan Sharp who last month became the new chief operations officer at Beyond Limits, a Glendale company developing software for artificial intelligence uses. Sharp had previously been a managing director at BP Ventures/Americas, the investment arm of BP plc, which had invested $20 million in Beyond Limits in 2017. She also served on the company’s board. There is a certain back-and-forth between capital venture firms and their portfolio companies, Sharp said, adding, “It is a close relationship and oftentimes the back-and-forth is a healthy thing that happens in the ecosystem.” Sharp decided to join the executive ranks at Beyond Limits because she liked the management team there and what it was doing in the artificial intelligence space. Beyond Limits is commercializing AI software developed by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge and used in deep space missions, including on the Mars rovers. The company has an exclusive license from the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL, for the AI software that is primarily used in the energy industry. But Sharp wants to see it expanded into the health care and financial service industries as well. “Our most mature sector is in energy and is a space we think we can have a tremendous impact in,” she said. Sharp considers AI to be an exciting field and will be for her children’s generation what the internet was for hers. “I started college when there was basically little to no impact from the internet and by the time I left, it had changed the world. We all had email addresses and nothing was ever the same again,” Sharp said. “I have two young girls and I think AI will have the same impact on their lives. By the time they are grown it will permeate every aspect of how they live and what they do.” Beyond Limits was founded in 2014 by AJ Abdallat. It employs about 109 workers, of which 20 are recent hires. Abdallat said it was a huge compliment when one of his investors becomes a key executive. “It says a lot about Beyond Limits to have a professional of Meghan’s caliber joining our ranks,” Abdallat said in a statement. “Her deep experience in energy and venture capital is invaluable as we mature from a startup to a serious force in AI for industries around the globe. We are at a pivotal moment of growth and can greatly benefit from her expertise.” At BP Ventures, Sharp helped build BP’s investment portfolio of over $600 million with investments into more than 50 companies. She was instrumental in transforming the company’s core businesses and looked for new opportunities in low carbon products, carbon management, power and storage and advanced mobility. A venture capitalist can bring a unique perspective, especially when they are involved in portfolio management, as she was at BP Ventures, Sharp said. Building a portfolio and watching the companies in it grow really helps when it comes to a startup at a critical phase, she added. “I would say that Beyond Limits is in a critical phase; they are in the execution/growth phase,” Sharp said. “They now need to scale. This is the proverbial valley of death for companies. It is very hard to successfully scale a business.” There is a statistic in the venture capital community that says seven or eight out of every 10 companies that a venture firm invests in will fail. But one can learn a lot from those failures, Sharp said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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