Nucleation Team

Valerie Gardner, Managing Partner

Valerie has founded or co-founded four ventures, including two technology ventures—Willow Peripherals and WebTV Networks (acquired by Microsoft)—where she served as both Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel, and two investment firms—Tiemann Investment Advisors (TIA, launched in 2002, now with $300M in AUM) and Nucleation Capital—launched in 2021. Early on, Valerie recognized that climate change posed significant risks, not just to the planet but to our investments as well. While divesting was easy, the real challenge was figuring out which type of clean energy could compete with—and thereby replace—fossil fuels. Her research led to nuclear energy. In 2014, Valerie introduced TIA’s “Future Generation” portfolio, a strategy to replace fossil fuel positions with diverse nuclear holdings. Although the approach protected investors from declining fossil fuel valuations, there was little growth projected for nuclear power. In 2016, Valerie attended Third Way’s Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase, and learned there were dozens of private technology ventures innovating within the nuclear space. She followed its progress for a couple of years and connected with Rod Adams in 2018. Together they began the development of Nucleation Capital. 

Valerie earned an MBA from Yale University and a JD from Northeastern University. She brings extensive experience as a tech entpreneur, Chief Financial Officer, board member and investor to the job of venture investing.  She also spent two decades studying climate change and evaluating solutions. Valerie served as an advisor to the Atherton City Council and helped develop programs to reduce community emissions. In that capacity, it became clear that the only way to meaningfully reduce emissions was for grid operators to deliver 100% clean, reliable energy—which required firm clean power. In 2016, Valerie co-founded Climate Coalition to  advocate for nuclear-inclusive clean energy policies that prioritize zero-emission grids. By 2018, her interest in investing in the innovations happening in the nuclear sector, led her to found Nucleation Capital.

Rodney Adams, Managing Partner

Rod Adams is an independent atomic energy expert who has chronicled the nuclear industry over the last 25 years. He has a BS in English from United States Naval Academy (USNA), a MS in Systems Technology from US Naval Postgraduate School, and a Naval War College diploma in Defense and Strategic Studies. His sea-going submarine service included 11 deployments, five as a junior officer on USS Stonewall Jackson in various engineering and communications division assignments, and six as the Engineer Officer (Engineering Department Head) on USS Von Steuben. Ultimately, Rod retired from the US Navy as a Commander.

In 1993, Rod developed a refinement to a nuclear heated, closed cycle gas turbine engine and received a patent for its control system. He resigned his active duty commission to start Adams Atomic Engines (AAE), possibly the first advanced nuclear venture ever attempted. AAE was founded on the idea that much smaller nuclear plants using simplified system designs could be competitive power sources for commercial ships, islands and populated or resource-rich areas not served by conventional power grids.

That vision is underlies what most of today’s advanced nuclear entrepreneurs are pursuing. Yet, back then, Rod spent several years developing AAE, searching unsuccessfully to find investors who shared his vision. In the post-9/11 era, Rod was recalled to active duty. Since he could not secure the funding he needed to grow the venture, he was forced to close Adams Atomic Engines. He recognized then, that without investors who had deep knowledge of nuclear’s power and potential, nuclear entrepreneurs would not be able to bring their innovations to market. 

In the time since, Rod has devoted considerable time to thinking and writing about nuclear and its issues. He started publishing his thoughts about nuclear power in 1995, which over the years became the online blog, Atomic Insights, now one of the most widely-read blogs focused on nuclear energy. In 2006, Rod added recorded live interviews, making The Atomic Show the go-to place to learn about key trends from industry experts (well before podcasting was a thing). Rod Adams is now a recognized thought leader in the small nuclear power system sector. He has published articles in Forbes, ANS Nuclear Cafe,  Fuel Cycle Week and has self-published hundreds of articles and interviews, where he makes atomic energy information accessible to the public. (Click here to hear Rod discussing nuclear energy economics.)

Rick DeGolia, Managing Member

Rick DeGolia is an attorney who has worked in Silicon Valley as a senior software executive, business consultant and entrepreneur. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from U.C. Berkeley and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. As a partner with Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, Rick represented emerging growth companies in the software, retail,  telecommunications, venture capital and investment banking industries. He helped launch Genesys Telecommunications as Sr. VP, Strategic Planning and Business Development, where he structuring strategic relationships with MCI, ATT, Cisco, Alcatel, HP, Siemens, and others. At Genesys, he raised three rounds of venture capital, managed the company’s initial public offering in 1997 and sold the company to Alcatel for $1.9 billion. After that, he launched Apptera, a software company for which he raised three more rounds of venture capital and served as CEO, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer. Rick was a member of The Angel’s Forum, a venture capital partnership, where he focused on cleantech and enterprise software investment opportunities. He is also a principal inventor on eleven issued and two pending US patents.

Rick has served as a member of the Atherton City Council since 2013. He also serves as Chair of Peninsula Clean Energy, the clean electricity provider to San Mateo County, California, with 300,000 commercial and residential customers, and he’s a charter member of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

Jonathan Tiemann, CFO

Dr. Jonathan Tiemann, co-founder of Tiemann Investment Advisors, LLC, has over 30 years of investment experience, including 18 years as President and Chief Investment Officer of Tiemann Investment Advisors. He earned his B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Yale, his M.S. in Operations Research, and his Ph.D. in Finance from Yale. Jonathan was an Assistant Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School for five years before joining Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors (which later became Barclays Global Investors (BGI), and is now Blackrock). Over five years, he served in a number of roles, ending up as Chief Investment Strategist, responsible for managing $200 billion in institutional assets. After BGI, he served as President of BARRA RogersCasey Asset Services, where he developed a hedge fund-based investment strategy for institutional investors.

Dr. Tiemann was at the forefront of what is now called “Fintech” and developed the AdvisorTech investment strategy while serving as Chief Investment Officer and Chief Investment Strategist at AdvisorTech Corporation and later for the MyVest Corporation. He has served as an expert witness for financial litigation and has consulted on numerous investment and valuation due diligence teams. He has also served on the Economic Advisory Board of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Jonathan collaborated in the development of Future Generation’s index-style approach to reducing risks posed by carbon emissions on client portfolios. This innovative approach helps ensure that all portfolios have a more appropriately diversified energy sector portfolio that more fully reflects the growing contributions of clean energy sources, something few other “sustainable” or ESG portfolios can claim.