The last two months has seen us arrive at a new reality in the ongoing challenge presented by climate change.
Spurred on by Extinction Rebellion, there is a growing groundswell of media attention and political energy on the goal of eliminating carbon emissions within the next 10-30 years. While the debate rages on the practicality of getting this done and the timescales for doing so, the actual technologies needed to get there and how they can get funded is still underreported.
The debate, seen through the lens of the media, is too often characterised by extremes and caricatures. The impending threat to all planetary life, privileged protestors grinding London to a halt or Brexit-obsessed politicians in the firing line for cutting solar subsidies.
Lost in these black and white narratives, we don’t hear enough about the fundamental changes in the financial infrastructure financing the green businesses of tomorrow and the game-changing eco-ideas being generated by start-up businesses throughout the country.
Angel investors are an increasingly important part of early-stage business funding and at Angel Investment Network we are seeing a real sea change in what angel investors are looking to back.
In the past few months we have received a growing number of enquiries from investors now only looking to back impact-led businesses focused on solutions to our environmental challenges. This demand is why we formed SeedTribe, a community hub and investment platform for entrepreneurs and investors interested in impact and business for good.
Some of the ingenious companies that have gained funding include: Advanced Sustainable Developments, launching the first complete circular economy solution for food grade plastic recycling in the UK; Airex, an alternative to traditional air floor insulation reducing unwanted heat loss by regulating air flow; and the Hopes Initiative which maps, analyses, and optimises the energy consumption of businesses, managing energy expenditure, consumption and impact on the environment.
Technology evolves so quickly and we are seeing so many ingenious pitches utilising new breakthroughs in tech to create solutions to previously intractable problems.
We have also noticed remarkable changes in the types of searches being made by investors. Crunching the numbers on our million strong platform reveals that investor searches for impact-related terms were up an average of 24.9% from 2017. The fastest growing sector was ’renewables’ which climbed from 40thto 32nd.
This change reflects the zeitgeist of public concern, but also the start of change in the demographic of angel investors. In its last comprehensive report on the industry, the UK Business Angels Association reported a change in the types of investor, with more women becoming involved (14% of all angels) and a rise in the number of younger individuals (16% are less than 35 years of age). Women and millennials are two groups more likely to back sustainable businesses.
This trend is only likely to accelerate. The teenage school strikers of today will become the profit-with-purpose driven entrepreneurs and investors of tomorrow. This ongoing acceleration of money into renewable technology will ultimately bring the costs down and make them a preferable alternative to fossil fuels.
These early stage start-ups can be tomorrow’s unicorns. The markets are opening up, the willingness is there. A perfect conflation of factors is in place for the green boom that can transform our future. Let’s talk more about this and less about the pantomime of protests or gloomy predictions for the future.
Olivia Sibony is Head of Impact at Angel Investment Network, the UK’s largest online platform connecting angel investors with startup businesses.