In October 2018, I had the honor of joining the angel programme of the largest European venture fund.
I was therefore tasked with figuring out how to think about allocating the $100,000 entrusted to me by the fine folks at Atomico.
It turned out an easy exercise:
When we raised Mission and Market in 2014-15, we kept the most generalist investment attitude and thesis possible. This made sense as it was our first foray into investing, and we ended up with some wildly different portfolio companies: consumer and real estate, saas and deeptech, marjiuana and crypto, cancer treatments and smelling chips.
I understood fairly quickly that the companies that made me more excited were the ones doing what most would now define as deep-tech: synthetic biology and deep learning form a pretty big part of the portfolio.
But I also quickly realized that there was an underlying, maybe subconscious theme underlying my investments towards the end of the investment period of the fund: finding companies actually “making the world a better place” (for lack of a better phrase, as that’s one you’re bombarded with if you live in San Francisco, and one you can become completely numb to after having heard it used by companies creating flavored water, data analytics or a new DTC brand).
At the same time I started waking up to the vastness of the climate crisis, ecosystem degradation, soil health, water scarcity, lost appreciation for nature and biodiversity loss problems – and started wondering why every single investor was not already focusing on this, as it’s clearly the paramount problem to solve in the world.
Everything else doesn’t matter if we don’t have a planet.
So an investment thesis was born: I would only focus on Planet+ companies (and I promise a more in depth investment thesis post soon).
I could already classify some of my Mission and Market portfolio as Planet+
- Clara Foods: ending factory farming.
- We’ve been some of the earliest investors in Arturo and team since the seed stage. Producing brewed egg-white proteins from yeast is one of those ideas that immediately made it clear how the future would look like: one in which we didn’t have to imprison and torture billions of sentient creatures, and grind baby chicks to produce food, while at the same time having a massive environmental impact.
- Aspiration: transformational finance.
- Investing in a challenger bank still felt pretty crazy at the time, but Aspiration is once again a glimpse into the future, a vision of what banks should and will be: putting your money to work towards the common good, not the interest of the bankers.
- Vitrolabs: ending factory farming.
- Growing animals for their meat and leather is so medieval and inefficient, it still makes me incredulous we are not all working for alternatives. Vitrolabs creates in-vitro cell-based leather, a superior and much more environmentally friendly product.
and had invested in dozens of Planet+ deals on AngelList including drones for reforestation, cell-based fish, energy storage providers, turnkey net-zero energy homes, advanced energy storage devices and more
so that gave me the baseline of network to work with, but I was still pretty green to it.
My Planet+ angel portfolio
I spoke with countless amazing companies building solutions to save our planet, and ended up investing in four (with one more to close soon).
I can only share one name, but will publish specific investment posts when the companies announce their funding
- 🇺🇸 Pachama: reforestation
- Pachama is a company started by my W15 batchmate Diego, who is using satellite data and drone images to efficiently verify carbon capture by reforestation projects. Reforestation is one of the big solutions we must push for in order to restore degraded ecosystems, fix water patters and try to mitigate the impact of climate change.
- I was honored to be joined by Chris Sacca, Paul Graham and other legendary investors in backing Diego.
- 🇪🇺 Insect proteins for fish and animal feed: sustainable agriculture
- Getting fishmeal and soy are two of the most destructive practices in agriculture today, and they are the main sources of proteins for farmed animals. Getting the same proteins from insects is a wildly more efficient and sustainable solution.
- 🇪🇺 Fermented mycelium proteins: end of factory farming
- The quest to find the best alternative proteins on which to feed the planet is already on, with plant-based and cell-based meats, but one I think holds a particular potential is to be found in the realm of fungi. This company uses the roots of fungi to ferment a protein that is the most sustainable of all the meat alternatives yet developed.
- 🇪🇺 Mobile-first, millennial-targeted impact investment platform: transformational finance
- Directing capital towards important topics and companies is one of the highest leverage activities we can focus on. It is mind-blowing the amount of capital invested in random companies destroying our planet – and climate change will make it shift so fast, it will be incredibile to watch.
As I met with amazing founders doing important things, I couldn’t resist wanting to deploy more capital, and thus ended up investing in three more companies with my personal capital, as my first real “angel-sized” investments.
- 🇪🇺 Mid-range, fully electric airplanes: transportation
- We all know we have to move most of our transportation to electric. The hardest is airplanes, for obvious reasons. While there is no solution in sight for long-range flights, we have the technology for some lower distance routes.
- 🇪🇺 Molten salt nuclear reactors: energy
- The consensus is clear: in the mix of energy sources for the near-future, we will need nuclear. We’ll need existing plants, new plants with existing tech, but most importantly we need to figure out new types of nuclear technologies. One option is fusion, and another one is safer nuclear with molten salt: this would be safe, decentralized, cheap and scalable. The holy grail.
- 🇺🇸 AI prospecting tool for hydro, solar and wind farms: energy, data/efficiency
- Getting more renewable plants out there, and lowering the cost of their projects should be one of the world’s #1 priorities. This company will contribute substantially to that goal.
Interacting with Planet+ founders has made it clear to me that this is my type of crowd.
At the same time, I’ve been completely baffled by the lack of investments in this area by the rest of the venture community. I’d honestly have expected most funds to ramp up substantially their funding to climate-related technologies by now, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Therefore, it’s clear to me that spending more time on this area would be a good use of my time.
If you are interested in any of the above companies, or on the thesis in general, I’d love to have a chat.
4 thoughts on “1 year of Planet+ angel investing”
Hey Stefano. I’m interested to talk more. With my biotech / science / sustainability background I’ve also started to take an interest / focus in redirecting resources to investment and philanthropy to the projects that could pull us back from disaster. Let’s talk! -Phoebe
Great Read Ste.
Hi Stefano. Really enjoyed reading this post, that I came across completely by chance. Great to see your attitude towards sustainable investment. Have sent LinkedIn invite