Nucleation Team

Valerie Gardner, Managing Partner

As a co-founder and principal of Tiemann Investment Advisors (TIA), Valerie spent a decade assessing carbon risks on portfolio returns. In 2011, she began exploring how best to reduce carbon risks within indexed investment portfolios. While others were grappling with ESG metrics, Valerie focused on clean energy. Divesting fossil fuels from a portfolio was easy: much harder was finding clean energy equities to replace them with. Valerie’s energy research led her in a surprising direction—the nuclear industry. At that time, 2/3rds of the U.S.’s carbon-free energy was produced by nuclear power. TIA’s “Future Generation” portfolio strategy, introduced in 2014, substantially replaced domestic fossil fuel energy holdings with nuclear-related equities. In the course of her ongoing exploration, Valerie connected with members of the pronuclear community in Silicon Valley, joined a nuclear forum and attended industry meetings. It was at the 1st Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase in D.C. in 2016, that Valerie first met several young nuclear entrepreneurs and discovered that a wave of private innovation was starting. Motivated to invest in it, Valerie connected with Rod Adams and Rick DeGolia in 2018 and began the development of Nucleation Capital. 

Valerie had previously served as co-founder, CFO and General Counsel of two innovative hightech ventures, Willow Peripherals and WebTV Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft. By 2005, then focused on young babies, Valerie grew concerned about climate changed and embarked upon a period of personal research, attending classes and lectures at Stanford, Berkeley and the NASA Ames Space Center. Thereafter, she was recruited to advise her town on environmental issues and Valerie organized a decade’s worth of community education programs, on everything from recycling, renewables, home energy conservation and even nuclear power. Despite her efforts, energy usage in her town continued to grow.That experience made it abundantly clear: the best way to reduce grid emissions was for operators to deliver 100% clean energy to homes, rather than delivering dirty energy and promoting “efficiency.” Utilities should combine sources of clean energy from solar, wind, nuclear and hydro—rather than dispatching dirty fossil gas—so ratepayers need not feel guilty about emissions. Yet, much of the public had been turned against their nuclear power and so utilities were delivering increasing amounts of natural gas. In 2016, frustrated by the lack of urgency being shown by utilities in limiting their emissions, Valerie co-founded the Climate Coalition to advocate for “nuclear-inclusive” Clean Energy Standards that prioritize zero-emission grids.

All the while, Valerie was keeping an eye on the growing number of ventures innovating a new generation of nuclear tech. By mid-2018, Valerie had connected with Rod and together they had begun to explore the best way to invest in advanced nuclear. While large institutional LPs were not stepping up, there were many individual investors expressing keen interest but the economics were difficult. By 2020, a slate of new investment platforms offered a way to combine more smaller investors (rather than a few large investors) into a venture fund cost-effectively. When a final round of inquiries produced substantial interest, they launched Nucleation Capital as a subscription-based venture fund enabling participation by a far broader spectrum of discerning accredited investors.

Valerie earned a BA from Colgate University, a JD from Northeastern University Law School and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.  She has done angel investing since 2003 and has served as an advisor, virtual CFO and/or board member for a wide range of entrepreneurial ventures. She lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and daughters and enjoys running, cycling, tennis and skiing.

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.

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 a principal inventor on eleven issued and two pending US patents, representing six families of technology inventions, mostly in customer relationship management.

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.

Mike Jackson, Venture Partner

Mike Jackson founded Village Green Energy in 2007, a renewable energy carbon credit wholesaler and retailer, working to drive the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Soon after, Mike was hired as an associate at The Westly Group and, over nine years, learned all aspects of the venture capital business. Mike worked his way up to partner at The Westly Group, and by the time he left, had raised over $400 million in new AUM. Mike led ten cleantech investments and realized four successful exits for investors including Simple Energy, Honest Buildings, SCL Elements and CREG. Of his remaining six investments, five companies are still growing and thriving with over $2.2 billion in follow-on funding. Mike has also served as Investor-in-residence at Elemental Accelerator for a number of years, where he sourced portfolio companies and coached the management teams of more than 50 ventures. He was a Developer-in-Residence at pioneering project financier Generate Capital, where he worked on numerous clean energy projects and financings. Over the last few years, Mike has coached Nucleation Capital with its launch strategy, development of back-end systems and much more. Most recently, Mike launched Earthshot Ventures in partnership with Elemental and now serves as its full-time Managing Partner.