Back to backing s***t that matters
If you were given the opportunity to back founders that wanted to change the world — and I mean truly change the world, for the better — would that not be the most amazing job? To dream that the technologies you support can define a certain future outcome? To see it play out, not in a future generation’s time, but in our own lifetime… Now, that, would be an amazing thing to be able to do every single day. Lucky me…
Today we’re unveiling 2150 a new €200m fund seeking to make the world of 2150 a reality. Our ambition is to solve the big problems of the planet by focusing on the broad urban environment… and as I had said a few years ago, to back s**t that matters.
As I started researching how technology could have an impact on the world, I started deep-diving into how data+platforms+computation could transform industries for the better - from health outcomes, to factories to cities.
In the summer of 2018 I was fortunate enough to join some brilliant minds from around the world at an executive education event at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
Apart from getting the world’s coolest name badge ever, the week in New Jersey opened my eyes. It introduced me to amazing entrepreneurs working on hard problems seeking funding from VCs, just like the hundreds of founders I had met before. But if their inventions worked, it could go beyond the next hot app or the next rockstar fashion e-commerce company, it could truly help save the planet. And yet many of them recounted how hard it was to raise VC for deep tech let alone “greentech” after the scars of the early 2000s.
Some time after my time at Princeton, I started reading The Uninhabitable Earth and what had been a lingering concern about the future of the planet evolved into a full fledged realisation that we needed to act…and we needed to act NOW! To put it in context: We have released half as much CO2 into the atmosphere since 2000 than in the 150 years prior.
More damage has been done to the planet since Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 than in all history beforehand…
…and until recently, limited action at scale has taken place.
Princeton and the book taught me that there is no one magic bullet. Play around with this Global Calculator yourself to test this out. Electrification of vehicles. Renewables. Less meat. More efficient A/C. Whole world switching to LED lights. None of it gets us to where we need to be. All those levers must be optimised. And of all of them must be pulled concurrently.
As I started digging into how and where to focus, I was mentally building a matrix that combined a very large “vector of attack” where digitisation was lagging and where climate impact was clearly large. I did deep dives on food and ag (making proteins closer to humans), industrial processes (turning the factory from petrochemical to biological), and the broad urban environment, which I dubbed the “urban stack.”
Cities are good for humanity. You are more educated, healthier and likely wealthier if you live in a city as half the world’s population already does. But building and maintaining those cities is bad…very bad… for our planet. “Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions” as stated by C40 Cities. And cities (and the industries that build them, manage them and power them) are technology laggards with vast inefficiencies. So, the urban stack is a big vector of attack where data+platforms+computation can make cities more efficient, resilient and sustainable and have impact at massive scale. I had found my focus!
Life works in mysterious ways, for unbeknown to me, a group of Danes had been thinking about the same challenges from a different angle. Mikkel, my now Partner at 2150, had spent the last 15 years building whole sections of cities into the most beautiful, sustainable zip codes. He had made his real estate fund, NREP, into one of the most successful funds in the world. But he came to realise that even making all of Copenhagen or Oslo or even London sustainable would still not address the global crisis. Jacob had cut his teeth launching businesses for Rocket Internet and then leading their global product team. Post Rocket he had worked with real estate developer EDGE to build a software and sensor platform which could make buildings significantly more energy efficient. (The other) Christian had spent time inside large corporates driving their digital and sustainability agenda, and had founded and chaired SYNERGI, a climate advocacy organization. As we met and started plotting in 2019, we started to realize that we were all mission-aligned on the impact we wanted to have and the space we wanted to drive that impact through.
With this fund we are chasing “Gigacorns”, those mythical creatures that can be commercially viable and reduce or mitigate 1 gigaton of CO2 equivalent per year. We apply our experience scaling product and tech companies, our time hands-on in building sites, our passion to drive systemic change through technology and sustainability advocacy.
And today we are lucky enough to unveil 2150 publicly with 2/3 of our €200m target already raised and amazing momentum to reach that objective. Others, it seems, agree with our sense of urgency and focus.
Raising a new fund in the middle of COVID sounds crazy… well, raising a new fund is crazy. Raising a new fund while building out a team during lockdown is double crazy. And yet here we are, 6 months after we officially hit the road , having closed €130m from some of Europe’s leading institutional investors. The team is already seven and growing: We were lucky enough to have Nicole join us from Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, Rahul jump on the mission after exiting his VC-backed startup, Alexandra bring her experience incubating and launching urban tech businesses. Oh and we’re hiring…
Some of you have known about this project for some time, others deduced it by reading through my posts and tweets… your support and encouragement has meant a lot. And yes I had been dropping some breadcrumbs…
Most importantly, I have found a way to do the “job” I love to do, working hand in hand with amazing, passionate founders, and ensure that the job has a longstanding impact. As I said not that long ago… I’m fired up and ready to go!
As a fellow investor in the sustainability space stated when I told her what I was up to: “welcome to the mission”… Lets go!