This is the first in a series of updates and reflections on Anthesis Ventures. The Ventures mission is to maximise and accelerate impact by investing in or partnering with early-to-growth stage companies that share our purpose and vision for a more productive and resilient world.
Nearly seven years after the founding of Anthesis, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, an inflection point we’re unable to ignore, not dissimilar to the one that was the genesis for starting the business. As our CEO Stuart McLachlan recently described, we’re in a “Liminal space…where we have the feeling of just being on the verge of something”. COVID-19 has been described by some as the undercard to the main event, climate change: a potentially far greater existential threat that’s often too abstract for many to comprehend, too slow to materialise its effects and too insurmountable to tackle. At Anthesis we believe that climate change is the single most pervasive issue facing society, so much so that we assembled the largest team of sustainability experts in the world to help tackle it. True to our name, Latin for the most productive stage of a plant’s lifecycle, Anthesis has a clear purpose: to build a more resilient and productive world.
Meet the Cohort
Energy & Climate
Naked Energy is a UK-based solar technology company. Their virtuPVT technology is a high energy density solution, providing combined solar heat and power in a single elegant product. The flexible, attractive design allows for rooftop, ground and building façade installation. virtuPVT generates greater financial and carbon savings for higher returns on both capital-invested and area-utilised, over traditional solar technologies.
Remediiate is a UK-based CO2 abatement firm leveraging the power of nature’s rock stars – algae – to simultaneously solve two of the world’s greatest challenges; carbon emissions from major industrial emitters and the supply of alternative proteins for the feed industry. Their mission is to clean the planet and feed the world.
Aerofoil Energy is a UK-based technology company, deploying their patented, aerodynamically profiled blade to the shelf-edge of refrigerated cabinets in supermarkets across the world. The Aerofoil reduces turbulence in the cold air curtain, reducing refrigeration-related energy consumption by up to 30% and stabilising internal temperature, which leads to a reduction in food waste.
Sustainable Transport & Logistics
UBCO is a company that has developed a range of digitally connected Utility Electric Vehicles and Portable Power Systems. We believe UBCO’s innovative subscription approach, enabling whole of life-cycle product stewardship, coupled with the emissions reductions associated with EV adoption and combustion displacement, will transform fleet logistics for the better.
We are actively reviewing opportunities across other sectors and verticals, including sustainable agriculture and sustainable production and consumption, as well as additional mechanisms to support our clients and the startup community.
Anthesis Ventures launched Jan 2020. As we approach the end of its first quarter, what have we learned?
There’s opportunity everywhere. The challenge is where to place our focus and why. We’re approaching these questions by understanding where we can add the most value and deliver the greatest impact across the ecosystem. To date, the value of Anthesis has been built by empowering our people; our approach to Ventures will be no different, we’re just solving new problems through a different lens.
Focusing on verticals drives economies for impact. We begin to see a network effect when we bring together a group of companies solving problems in the same vertical e.g. energy or waste or transportation. As a collective these companies become more interesting and have the potential to deliver greater impact for our corporate clients.
Measure the impact that matters. While this is merely an adaptation of “measure what matters”, it’s been never truer than when communicating your products’ sustainability credentials. While fundamentals like understanding the unique selling proposition and your customers’ pain points are a given, quantifying and communicating impact so that your customers can convey the benefits to their stakeholders is essential to unlocking those early sales.
Profitability may well beat a growth-at-all-cost model. This is certainly true when building a business to deliver sustained impact and even more so during the current economic environment. Building a category king is an attractive proposition for most VCs but for the majority of founders, it’s an unobtainable goal, that can heavily compromise the culture and mission of the business. There’s plenty of room for well-run, profitable companies, with products that delight their customers. Furthermore, the ability to pivot from a focus on growth to one of profitability and survival signals management team strength.
Sustainability pays off. Companies who are purpose-led and categorised in ESG indexes are outperforming the market during the downturn – proving well-managed companies doing good create more shareholder value, in addition to wider societal and environmental value.
A time for more than just capital. Companies tackling climate change and COVID-19-like disruption often need more than just capital, they need support – an ideal fit for Anthesis Ventures, where our support focuses more on customer traction, new market entry and value proposition refinement. That said, there’s still plenty of other capital available for investment into good companies, and historically, downturns have been the best time to make these investments.
Systemic change to business models. Systemic change has happened and continues to happen – consumption is down, international and regional travel is down, brick and mortar retail and restaurants shuttered, leaving the door open to innovators and disrupters focusing their attentions on the “S” in ESG.
We’ve a lot more to learn!
Finding our place in the “venture ecosystem” will take time and no doubt continue to involve countless conversations with like-minded VCs, accelerators, incubators, angels and founders and our corporate partners. It’s these conversations that inspire us to think bigger and work harder, so thank you to everyone that’s contributed so far.
We’ll continue to share our insights as we go, particularly as we navigate the immediate and more lasting effects of COVID-19. We’ll be intentionally open and transparent about what we know and what we’re learning, but equally as important, about what we don’t know. We want to share our journey and hopefully dispel, simplify and decipher the evolving landscape of sustainability venturing. A more diverse and accessible venture community-at-large is going to be needed if we’re going to innovate at the scale and pace required to fight climate change.
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Anthesis has offices in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Finland, Colombia, Brazil, China, the Philippines and the Middle East.