The NatureBacked Podcast

By Single.Earth

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At NatureBacked, we talk with investors worldwide about climate change, covering everything from CO2 emissions to floods to investors' personal choices for turning the world greener. We speak with one investor in each episode, released on Mondays. The NatureBacked podcast is supported by Single.Earth - a startup that tokenizes the world's nature, bringing financial value to ecosystem services.

Episode Date
Chasing Uncompromising Impact Unicorns with Norrsken VC

Stockholm-headquartered Norrsken VC is on a mission to find not just unicorns but impact unicorns, startups valued at over $1 billion which at the same time can impact the lives of more than 1 billion people, Agate S. Freimane said on the sidelines of TechChill startup conference in Riga. 
The VC firm was born out of Norrsken Foundation – a non-profit foundation founded in 2016 by Niklas Adalberth, co-founder of Klarna -  with the belief that entrepreneurs building rapidly scalable businesses are our best bet to solving the hardest and biggest problems of our time.
A few key takeaways from Agate S. Freimane:
"Why we coined the term unicorn was because it was so rare. And these days, it's not that rare anymore. The bar has lowered, though, I think, impact unicorn is still pretty rare ... it's a really high bar."
"Even if you have a very deep, meaningful impact, if you don't have a strong business model, you're not able to attract capital - you're not able to grow. So hence, you don't really scale your impact."
"Maybe someone says that there are just not enough startups in this space. It's also because a lot of entrepreneurs thought that there's no point starting these businesses, that there is no capital, and it's kind of what comes first, you know, exactly the chicken or egg. Do the startups come first or capital? Maybe at the moment, there is a lot of capital, but that's just going to inspire more entrepreneurs to dare to actually start businesses in these sectors."
"I think Europe is at the forefront of the climate tech movement globally. What I see right now is that Europe is at the forefront of the public sector and the regulatory environment for taxonomy. And so we see in Europe, more so than anywhere else in the world regulation pushing big old school businesses on the path of sustainability. But the reality is that a lot of these businesses don't have the tools to achieve this. And then, it's up to the startups to fill that gap to enable the industries to shift."

May 23, 2022
Speedinvest Looks For Further Climate Tech Investments

Speedinvest was among the first European early-stage VC firms when its founders started to take Silicon Valley's getting-hands-dirty practices from their own entrepreneurs' journey to the Old Continent, said investor Andreas Schwarzenbrunner.

Vienna-headquartered Speedinvest has invested in some 250 companies, including 20 investments in climate tech startups. The firm manages assets of about half a billion euros.


A few key takeaways from Andreas Schwarzenbrunner:


"I think there's a gap between the software digital-focused climate tech companies versus ones that are really into more development of new ideas, R&D, infrastructure, and hardware."


"I think there the investor scene needs to adapt because if you're serious about climate tech, and if you are serious about decarbonization, and reducing emissions, the investor scene, including us, has to realize that there is no way around hardware.

At the end of the day, if you really look at the hard problems in climate tech, there are so many things that can't be solved otherwise. It's about reducing emissions when you use concrete and steel; it's about new ways of electrified mobility and charging infrastructure.

If you look at energy storage and hydrogen solutions, there's no way around building the storage facilities and all those things. Investors need to adapt and realize that if you're serious about it, you have to tackle these problems."


"We also see that this climate tech is basically a maturing asset class ... you can see the rise of investors in climate tech, money that goes into that space. And for us, we also want to double down on this, and we want to continue to invest and even invest more in climate tech companies over the years to come."


May 16, 2022
Fixing the Mess We Created, Tackling Climate Emergency with Carbon13

Carbon13 backs early-stage climate founders in launching their business ventures, says co-founder Michael Langguth, making it one of the first climate-focused accelerators.
The next showcase day of Carbon13 teams is held on 24 May 2022 in Cambridge.
A few key takeaways from Michael Langguth:
"There are still a lot of climate tech startup investors that will only invest in software. And I think that's, that's a bit of a fallacy. You can't; you can't be a climate VC and just invest in software; you have to do some of the hard problems, as well."
"If you think of the math, it's not possible for us to sequester so much carbon through nature-based solutions, or things like direct air capture, that we don't have to reduce the other bits. The truth is, we're not going to be able to do this. There are a lot of very hard-to-decarbonize sectors, like concrete, steel production, and others."
"The other big thing is that we will be launching a Berlin cohort next year, we do see some inertia in European or EU-based founders coming to the UK, or generally, it's, I guess, some people want to start a business where they are. So we're coming to Berlin, to where we see a huge potential in terms of the number of people wanting to work on climate solutions."

May 09, 2022
Sustainable Transformation in Focus for Japanese New Nordic Fund Nordic Ninja

Sustainable transformation and overall net climate impact are in focus for Rainer Sternfeld, managing partner at a 100 million euro fund Japanese investment Nordic Ninja when he seeks investment opportunities among Nordic and Baltic startups.
Sternfeld was the founder of climate data startup PlanetOS, bought by Intertrust in 2017.
A few key takeaways from Rainer Sternfeld:
"I am still very optimistic that Europe is still the best place for cleantech, Europe is still the best place to talk about clean energy, and we can figure it out rather easily. We don't have that many disagreements as maybe in other sectors, and we can afford it."
"You have a massive amount of energy going towards moving atoms, as we say, at Nordic Ninja. That 'moving atoms' means moving people, moving goods. And so when you move atoms, we have, by the way, I think about 40% of the capital allocated in our fund so far into reducing the amount of energy that is spent moving atoms or, or getting rid of moving atoms altogether, like in the case of Veriff, which is an exception." 
"I don't eat meat, but I know that obviously, a lot of people eat meat, and they will be eating meat in the next decades to come, even though that is going to be reduced, reducing in terms of percentage share, they still will do that. So if we are going to have people eating meat, it should be done as efficiently as possible. Like, what if there was a way to reduce methane emission of cows, like 80%?
Of course, I would support doing that even though I don't eat meat, right? It's still a net impact."

May 02, 2022
Why Old-School VCs Struggle to Get Into Climate Investing? With Rodrigo Sepulveda Schulz

The public sector could boost climate tech development when many funds struggle with fitting climate into their 10-year lifecycle, says investor Rodrigo Sepúlveda Schulz, who was co-founder of impact investment firm Expon Capital and an early investor in companies like GetAround and Glovo.
In the podcast interview, Sepúlveda Schulz also outlined the 12 questions startups have to answer to raise venture capital.
A few key takeaways from Rodrigo Sepúlveda Schulz:
"There are a number of new funds coming up, focusing exclusively on Climate Technologies. It has a number of challenges, but it has to be done. First is the 10-year timeframe for a fund to return the money is maybe too short for those guys; maybe we need to go to a 15-year timeframe."
"What do you do with all the old equipment? Do you throw it away or just reuse it? I repair most of my stuff. And if something's I don't buy new stuff, you know, I love brands such as Patagonia, which you could go and take your jacket repaired for the rest of your life. We just need to be more conscious of what we do in our choices. I think the younger generation gets it, but it might be too late for them."
"In my personal time, I spend a lot of time with wine. So people think it's like a funky hobby, but in wine, we've seen in the past 10, 15 years, harvests happening two to four weeks earlier than they used to historically. It's not a joke. When Donald Trump says global warming is a joke, it's not a joke."

Apr 25, 2022
Unhooking Europe, Led by Baltic Founders with Change Ventures' Yrjö Ojasaar

We spoke with Yrjö Ojasaar, co-founder of Change Ventures, about the investment firm's focus on founders from Baltic countries and he shift in global trends towards climate tech.
Change Ventures has raised two funds totaling around 50 million euros, and its investments include companies like Veriff and Printify.
A few key takeaways from Yrjö Ojasaar:
"There's been overall world trend where we have externalized the environmental issue, to where we don't take into account, what is the effect, the long term effect on society on carbon on availability of materials on prices on any of that. It's sort of been accepted as well, that we'll put that down for a zero. And that's why virgin materials ... has been price competitive, we have now realized that the cost is not zero."
"We've been really hooked on this cheap energy, but it's been like getting energy from coffee. Instead of sleeping, exercising and eating well, I'll just have one more espresso. One more espresso. You get this quick boost. And then you need another quick boost, and you need another quick boost. But how long can you keep going without changing the fundamentals?"
"I think solar, wind, those technologies are going to have a much faster rollout, and more energy, more investment, more attention dedicated to them. And they're going to be much faster in scaling. So there are going to be positive impacts in the long run. And, of course, with electric vehicles and alternative energy vehicles, and even, you know, cold fusion and things like that. They're all going to get a boost from trying to unhook ourselves from the traditional petrochemical type of industry."

Apr 18, 2022
Finding Radical Climate Solutions with Pale Blue Dot's Hampus Jakobsson

We spoke with Hampus Jakobsson, co-founder of Pale Blue Dot, on how climate problems could be fixed and what are the biggest challenges.
Malmö-headquartered Pale Blue Dot raised 2021 a fund of 87 million euros for investments in climate-focused startups.

A few key takeaways from Hampus Jakobsson:
"I would love governments to say: you have to solve this problem. And we have to decide how hard that solving is. And if you haven't done it, if you're the CEO of an oil company, you will go to jail in 2030. But we're going to be super nice. We're not going to throw you to jail now, 2022. So we're just gonna say for the coming years, there are fines, and the fines are going to increase in the scale, but in 2030 you will go to jail. So you go to jail, your biggest shareholders go to jail, your board goes to jail."
"I always try to tell people that for me, the climate - we have to start looking at it like, like child pornography, pedophilia, or child labor or something. If somebody comes to you and says, Hey, I'm going to pitch you this great idea: it's a carpet factory I'm running in Bangladesh, and I'm giving all the kids mittens, and now it's great because they don't hurt their fingers so much anymore. And it's really interesting because they actually can work slightly longer. So we get more revenue out of it, but it's like a double bottom line ...  more profitable, but also actually better for the kids. We all would be like, can you go? Can you please leave this room? I don't want to ever talk to you again, you're a horrible person, I'm going to call the police now."
"I think you can actually say we want this change faster. And you can say, we will go from fines to jail on some of these things, and I think that the third one is on people and culture, we can just say we don't accept mittens on child laborers."
"I think that that's the way we should approach some of these problems, saying no, no, no, no, I'm not after that best child labor camp. I'm after no child labor. And I think that that's a requirement you can actually ask."

Apr 11, 2022
Deepdive of East Europe Startup World with Flashpoint's Alex Konoplyasty

We spoke with Alex Konoplyasty, co-founder of Flashpoint Ventures, about big global trends, the possible implications of the war in Eastern Europe, and why it's still early days of greentech investments in the region.
London-headquartered Flashpoint manages assets worth 450-500 million and is known for investments in the firms like and Guesty. 
A few key takeaways from Alex Konoplyasty:
"In this type of environment, we recommend our portfolio companies raise money as soon as possible. If they're raising money now, they should like to keep raising. If not, they should go out and start rasing right now, as fast as they can. Valuation is less important; I think it's more important to capitalize yourself for the next couple of years to make sure you have capital."
"We don't know how the consumer is going to adjust to this, like the terrible shock that is happening around the energy. Maybe they adjust in the way that we don't expect today, then maybe it's not going to be so bad as we expected, right? And we've seen historically people do adjust in shock situations - when it's gradual, it's sort of okay, but when it's like shock, people tend to change their behavior."
"In 2015, after Crimea, I decided that I didn't want to do anything with Russia. At all. We don't do any business in Russia. Like, we didn't do anything there after 2015. It was a very strategic decision for us."

Apr 04, 2022
Urgency of Tackling Climate Change with Balderton's Shikha Ahluwalia

We spoke with Shikha Ahluwalia about the climate's role in all investment decisions, Balderton's own green strategy, and how to invest in climate-friendly companies across the sectors. 
London-headquartered Balderton has raised around 5 billion US dollars for its funds, and is known for investments in startups including Revolut and Betfair.
A few key takeaways from Shikha Ahluwalia:
"We're definitely not doing enough to tackle climate change.  As investors, and the investing scene in general, we have a unique responsibility to address the issues of the next well, not even 50 years, the next eight years until 2030."
"Ultimately, we all need to learn to be less greedy and think about the world we're building for generations to come. And that's not five generations down the line. I'm talking about our children: my children, your children, and it's very, very near. So I think that the idea that investors need to be doing much, much more is super important. Returns in terms of impact on the planet, in terms of impact on the climate, need to be measured alongside financial returns."
"We should be asking, how do we set up a process in a way that it becomes top of the agenda to invest into climate-friendly companies as part of investment decision making?"

Mar 28, 2022
Big Game of Energy Transition with Helen Ventures' Terhi Vapola

We spoke with Terhi Vapola about climate tech, energy transition, and Helen Ventures' investments in the fields like EV charging and power grid optimization. 
A few key takeaways from Terhi Vapola:
"What we want to do is work with the most innovative startups ...  working with people who don't just talk, I think there's plenty of talking and has been for a long time. What we need to do is actually get those things done."
"If you think about the existential crisis that we are dealing with, we need to find the solutions. And then at the same time, if you look at the regulatory changes, and ... Green Deal and the amount of public support into making money available for for the actions, which can help us to address it, I think it's a fantastic thing. "
"The bi-directional charging is a great opportunity ... those pilots are taking place as we speak ...  of course, you need to have the adoption of the EV charging taking place even further to really balance it. But the steps into that, are like real today already."

Feb 28, 2022