A private venture club tackling climate opportunities.
Kyle Zeno
Independent project
Redirecting growth capital towards sustainable ventures
As investment managers struggle with the need to deliver the highest return on investment for their investors, sustainability is often an afterthought. But as pressure grows on our natural systems, policy and society at large are demanding businesses take their foot off the gas, so to speak, of growth and begin to take into account the environment as a stakeholder. This puts investors in a tricky situation: How to define and source sustainable ventures, which are both good for the planet and long term growth? One group of investors, however, are uniquely positioned to be able to leverage this opportunity to their advantage. Ultra High Net Worth Individuals. Unlike large institutional investors, like pension funds and banks, Ultra High Net worth individuals don’t have to answer to shareholders. They are the shareholders. The have capital that is agile and that can be deployed to make fast and measurable impact.
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Flow of influence: a solution for those with the agility to be able make measurable impact
After doing a vast amount of research into the sustainable investment ecosystem, interviewing everyone from climate change experts, to venture capitalists and even a seaweed farmer in Vietnam, it was a conversation with an impact investor that showed the path to a possible solution. He suggested that if I wanted to solve for fundamental issues surrounding sustainable investment - I should follow the flow of influence. Design a solution for those who have the most influence in the system. If we look at the top of the system, we find what is often called the 1%, and in financial circles referred more technically as Ultra High Networth Individuals. They are increasingly part of the next generation, who are due a 4 trillion USD transfer of wealth with in the next 5 years, and want to invest up to 32% of their investment portfolios into sustainable ventures. But defining and sourcing sustainable ventures isn’t easy, and neither is measuring impact over time.

Catalysing investment demand of planet-centric deals

Evergreen is a private venture club tackling climate opportunities. As a sustainable investment ecosystem, it curates deals for Ultra High Net Worth Individuals and their Family Offices - giving them the integrated financial and environmental advisory needed to align their portfolios with companies that are already shaping the future. This selective club incentivises its well positioned class of investors to direct their agile capital towards sustainable companies. It does this by making it easier, financially appealing, and giving them the opportunity to find a sense of purpose through their investment decisions. As demand for sustainable companies increases, private market data to benchmark performance is hard to come by, but a platform like this would turn the black box of private market investments into a green one. Ultimately redefining value creation - through changing the metrics, methods and reasons for investing in new and scaling ventures needed to tackle climate change.

Digitally native but human-centred features

Following initial prototyping with the younger generation of UHNWIs, it became clearer that an on-demand digital service was going to need to be at the core of the club, especially due to their hyper-global lifestyles This gave rise to the DEALHUB, which is a digital investment portal that allows investors to source, share and measure deals within the private sustainable investment ecosystem. Unlike traditional financial advisory, sustainable investing is evolving and needs cross-disciplinary input. The EVISORY feature offers on-demand expert advisory, blending the best in class financial, environmental and technological advisory at the tap of a button. But beyond technical empowerment, high motivators were: social influence and visible affirmation. This lead to the development of a further two non-digital features. Firstly, PEERS which fosters networked communities of like-minded peers. Finally, EMPACT which matches ventures with investors with the potential for direct involvement and visible impact.
Desirable - yet feasibly complex
Whilst the value in systems thinking and full end-to-end service design has transformative effects, in order to build a feasible MVS (minimum viable service) I really needed to investigate what it truly meant to invest sustainably. This opened up a black hole of methodologies, interdisciplinary conversations and highly technical fields where ecologists passed on the responsibility to financial professions and vice versa. However, the more I began to dig into the emerging field of sustainable finance, the more I began to find that the very cutting edge of economic philosophy in this field is only starting to be transformed into actionable toolkits. Following numerous lengthy interviews and multi-stakeholder workshops, a clearer definition of this field emerged. Based on a blend of natural capital accounting, science-based targets, the planetary boundaries framework and scenario planning - a complex, yet feasible, valuation method finally arose.
Beyond a project
This project scratched an itch of how to tackle systemic issues: such as climate change, inequality and man’s search for meaning, whilst applying the invaluable and ever-evolving discipline of design. But beyond that, it opened up serval opportunities to take certain features of the project further. A venture capital firm is interested in building out the DEALHUB, although in a more B2B format, whilst a Family Office advisory in the nordics is interested in embedding the design practices, used to define and deliver sustainable strategies, as a service offering for their UHNW client base. Personally, the primary learning I have taken away from this project is that the time to start collectively tackling the climate emergency was yesterday. The solutions lie within anti-disciplinary collaboration, where we stop asking how things should be and move towards how things could be.
special thanks
Special thanks to: Qian Sun (RCA), Jane Pritchard (IDEO), Carina Johen (Planethon), Prof. Richard Templer (Imperial College London), Tom Danning (Goldman Sachs), Susannah Mcclintock (Sustainable Ventures), Dan Carson (Carbon Delta) and Clive Grinyer (RCA)

students involved on the project

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