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 (now with over $300M in AUM) and Nucleation Capital—launched in 2021 with Rod Adams. Early on, Valerie recognized that climate changed posed significant risks, not just to the planet but to investment portfolios as well. While other investors wrestled with divestment, Valerie set herself a much harder task: figuring out what type of clean energy could replace fossil fuels to power an energy-hungry planet. Her research led in a surprising direction—to nuclear energy. In 2014, Valerie introduced TIA’s “Future Generation” portfolio, a strategy to replace fossil fuel equities with diverse nuclear holdings. Although the approach protected investors from declining fossil fuel valuations, nuclear equities struggled from declining demand. Then, in 2016, Valerie attended Third Way’s Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase. She discovered there was a wave of private technology innovation happening within the nuclear space. After following its progress for a couple of years, she connected with Rod Adams in 2018 and 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, CFO, board member and investor to the job of venture investing. She understands the difficulty, risks and thrill of buildling a category-creating venture as well as what it takes to raise capital from venture investors. She also spent over a decade studying climate change, both by attending lectures, conferences and local classes and by organizing educational events herself with experts from environmental non-profits, universities, governmental agencies and advisory groups like the National Academy of Science to come speak. Valerie was recruited to advise her town on environmental issues and develop community education programs to help reduce emissions. It became clear that the way to reduce community emissions was for grid operators to deliver 100% clean energy and this could not be achieved at scale without nuclear power. Yet, even among the most ardent climate activitists, there was stigma and misinformation about nuclear energy. In 2016, Valerie co-founded Climate Coalition to provide unbiased, fact-based information about nuclear energy and to advocate for nuclear-inclusive energy policies that prioritize zero-emission grids.

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 B.S. in English from United States Naval Academy (USNA), a M.S. in Systems Technology from U.S. 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. During a shore duty assignment at the USNA, he pursued an independent studies program focused on alternative energy technology. He focused on refinements to nuclear heated, closed cycle gas turbine engines and received a patent for a related control system. He resigned his active duty commission to start Adams Atomic Engines. AAE was founded on the idea that much smaller nuclear plants using simplified system designs could be competitive power source for commercial ships, islands and populated or resource-rich areas not served by conventional power grids.

In the post-911 era, Rod was recalled to active duty as a Systems Engineering instructor at the USNA. He closed Adams Atomic Engines—which was ahead of its time—and served as a program manager for a headquarters information portal and as a requirements officer for numerous programs including submarine and surface ship technical training and shore-based and nuclear shipyard maintenance facilities. Ultimately, Rod retired from the US Navy as a Commander. Mr. Adams is a recognized thought leader in the small nuclear power system sector. He has published articles in Forbes, ANS Nuclear Cafe, and Fuel Cycle Week. He started publishing insightful information about nuclear power back in 1995, which over the years became the online newsletter, Atomic Insights, now one of the most respected blogs focused on nuclear energy. In 2006, Rod again broke new ground by adding live interviews, making The Atomic Show the only place to learn about key trends from industry experts—podcasting before that was a thing. Both venues continue to be the place where Rod 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.