Personal Story: Bill Lyons, Venture Partner
I am a Venture Partner at City Light Capital focused on our energy and the environment investment sector. I have known Josh Cohen since before his days at City Light (he actually worked for me) and as someone who has been a part of many different kinds of teams — from the military to Wall Street to a global company — I am proud and excited to be a part of this one.
My road to City Light Capital has been a circuitous one in many respects, but in retrospect, arriving at a place that is full of energy and great people that has a critical, meaningful mission was the destination all along. I just didn’t realize it….
I’ve driven submarines (operating the nuclear reactors that propel them). I’ve structured mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street and structured credit derivatives at a government sponsored entity. I’ve built and managed a consulting company, and then went into one of the clients of that company on a permanent basis to build and manage a global greenhouse gas business. It’s been a pretty interesting road, with pros and cons along the way, and some key driving themes that have made it a tremendously enjoyable and successful life.
It’s been a satisfying and rewarding career with a few common themes – risk management, high quality people, and MEANING! Like the other folks at City Light Capital, I’m drawn to – and derive great personal energy and pleasure from – working in an environment where there’s significantly more than a monthly paycheck at the end of the day (and for much of my career, that monthly paycheck was not a meaningful draw at all). I’m personally a believer in Henry Kissinger’s view that the key driver of U.S. success in the Cold War was our submarine fleet – the ability to forward deliver a nuclear arsenal that the then Soviet Union could not counter. It was not the ridiculously low wages or the six month deployments away from my wife and young children that kept me going to sea – it was the fact that my fellow servicemen and I were truly providing the blanket of security that my family, and the rest of America, could enjoy. Working at Bear Stearns and Freddie Mac were both good jobs from a financial perspective, but it was not the financial side that kept me ticking – it was participating in a meaningful way in the secondary mortgage market, that ensures the flow of capital that supports the world’s highest home ownership rate, that kept me engaged and excited to go to work every day.
My early jobs in my civilian experience showed me that it was important that quality of life be a balance of my personal home life and faith as well as the value I felt I was adding in my day job, and that as I was spending as much, if not more, of the waking hours each day with my job, it was vitally important that I spend that time with the highest quality people and doing the most meaningful work I could. My time with AES was a perfect combination of the things that are important to me. AES is a global power company founded on the concepts of bringing power to places where power is not available and doing so in a manner that would have little to no impact on the environment. It was the first company – ever – to implement carbon offset projects (well before the Kyoto protocol was a twinkle in anyone’s eyes). The founders – one from a family of preachers and the other a keen environmentalist (and former Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund) – believed that meeting the worlds need for power was a worthy objective, and that doing so in an environmentally responsible way was just good business. What a concept.
At the point that I joined AES in 2004, the challenge before the company was how to operate in the carbon constrained business regime of the future, managing both liabilities and determining if there were opportunities to go beyond liability management, and create opportunities that could leverage AES’ platform on a global basis to exceed the requirements laid out by regulation, exceeding the environmental minimums, and do so while creating shareholder value. What we came to learn, and believe enough to commit material investment capital, was that the carbon regulations created an economic incentive to do the right thing by the environment! Over the next four years, I had the opportunity within the AES global framework, to work with tremendous people while building one of the largest corporate greenhouse gas businesses in the world.
During my time with AES, with the carbon business being part of the larger AES Alternative Energy group, I also learned that some key issues, beyond greenhouse gases, are facing us, and coming down the road at a pretty fast clip. The global infrastructure for generating, supplying, and utilizing power was put in place when natural resources were abundant and the impacts of how we did these things were not fully known. Today, we know that the social, political, and environmental consequences are real, and no “silver bullet” exists that will address them all. Population and demand are increasing, the natural resources themselves are no longer abundant, and bringing them to market is becoming more and more costly. Energy security concerns, particularly given the geo-political environment, are acute. The environmental impacts, from acid rain to global warming, just can’t be ignored. It will take a market basket of solutions across an array of areas, to retool our way of doing business – on a global basis. The City Light approach to attacking these issues, and doing so in a manner in which economic return will attract more investment (and more solutions) is – in my considered opinion – the only way we collectively dig ourselves out of the predicament.
I thank God for the combination of a great challenge, a tool box put together through the experiences and expertise developed over a wonderful career, and a great platform to tie them all together. There can be no greater reason, in my mind, to get out of bed each day. Great people, a great challenge worth taking on. Welcome to City Light!