Tom Cain is the founder of Sustainability Partners LLC (SP), formed in April 2017. Recognizing the national need for large-scale infrastructure solutions, Cain pioneered a new model for upgrading energy, water and fuel-efficient systems for large, quasi-permanent, customers. SP’s model displaces the current slow, costly and resource constrained solution with a fast, extremely efficient and disruptive model requiring no customer capital expense. SP targets customers in the MUSH market – Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals – along with HOAs and low risk private and public companies. SP believes that our low cost, low risk solution appeals to a customer base who is eager to adapt and champion best practices with respect to sustainability, but lack the resources to effect change.
SP’s precursor firm, GSV SP LLC, was founded by Cain, John Denniston (previously co-portfolio manager for Kleiner Perkins Green Technology Fund) and GSV Capital in April 2014. Their mission was to find, implement and develop a platform to accelerate adoption of advanced clean tech innovation into the economy so that adequate venture returns could be derived from entrepreneurial activity by which billions have been invested.
In 2014, GSV capital, Denniston and Cain invested $10M to capitalize GSV SP. After two years, the firm had successfully placed $7M in products with customers using innovations generating 20%+ IRRs. Amongst other developing insights, the need to separate device ownership from device usage became a primary focus. Cain realized that he needed to combine East Coast financial markets and their structured finance expertise with SP in order to achieve this goal.
In the summer of 2016, BlackRock purchased GSV Capital and John Denniston’s interests in GSV SP and formed Sustainability Partners LLC with a $15M commitment for a 60% ownership; and SP HoldCo LLC with a $200M commitment to fund customers targeting an average 10% yield in exchange for 60% ownership.
SP delivered its first major contract for the State of Arizona in January 2017. Predicted yield was over 15%, however, under new leadership BlackRock transaction committee placed a 20% IRR floor on SP. As a result, Cain decided to repurchase BlackRock’s entire interest in April 2017 in order to stay on mission.
Prior to forming Sustainability Partners LLC, Cain founded his 2nd venture capital firm, Greener Capital in 2011, later known as EFW Partners. As a pure CleanTech venture capital firm, it focused on energy and water investing, anchored by personal investments from the Steyers and the Waltons, with aggregate funds of $60M. By 2013, positive returns for EFW and the entire sector were deemed unlikely. Cain determined that the problem was structural and as a result, founded Sustainability Partners to pursue a solution.
Tom Cain, Managing Partner of GC, is widely regarded as one of the earliest and most successful CleanTech venture capitalists. He co-founded the CleanTech firm SAIL Venture Partners in 2002, raising $135 million in two funds. In a firm with five partners, he personally sourced and led more than half of the firm’s CleanTech investments. The two funds had generated E & Y audited gains of 29% and 42% in 2009 with 10% and 47% in 2010 respectively, when Tom left to form Greener Capital.
During Tom’s tenure with SAIL, JP Morgan, an anchor investor in SAIL, recognized SAIL Fund I and II portfolios among its top-performing CleanTech funds. Cain played a primary role in these portfolios by sourcing all of SAIL’s energy storage, renewable energy, motor, media and energy efficiency investments.
Prior to joining SAIL, Cain launched a successful turnaround of Evans Systems ($60M Rev., NASDAQ: EVSI), a Texas based distressed oil and gas business. He restructured its financials, replaced the board and successfully merged the company with Evans historic competitor, Maritz & Couey, which took over direct management. From this he founded, Starco Energy, and acquired a moth-balled petrochemical terminal on the Texas intracoastal. He restored the facility and upon start-up, sold it to Quintana Corp in 2006.
Previous to entering the energy industry, Cain had a long and successful career as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, and CEO. In 1977, at the age of 22, he founded Distribution Architects Int’l, a supply chain and enterprise resources planning (ERP) software firm. The firm was acquired by Frontstep Corp. (1999, $92M Rev., NASDAQ:FSTP) with Mr. Cain becoming chairman of the acquisition corp. Frontstep was later merged with Mapics (2003, $100M Rev., NASDAQ: MAPX). In 2005, Mapics was sold to Infor for $375M and Cain then retired from his chairman position. During that time, the firm had grown to 4,500 customers in 70 countries with $172M Rev. Cain received many awards for innovative breakthroughs in computing and is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer during his 28-year leadership tenure.
As a young mathematician, Cain worked on the theta-pinch toroidal plasma stabilization attempt to control thermonuclear fusion for direct generation of electricity under the polymath, James Tuck, at Los Alamos Labs. While no solution was found, nor has been, the experience did seed Cain’s lifetime passion for energy, water and the global ecosystem.
Cain, a member of WPO/YPO, founded the YPO Global Supply Chain Conference, was chairman of the MIT Presidents Education, and group led the HBS Presidents Education. He has served as a board of director on over 30 public and private businesses. In 2008, Cain authored Best Practices for Energy Venture Capital with Innovation: Finding New Frontiers in Energy Investing. Cain is an alumnus of ASU with undergraduate and graduate studies in mathematics.