Investor Spotlight Series w/ Nick Lyth, Green Angel Ventures

Investor Spotlight Series w/ Nick Lyth, Green Angel Ventures

Brighter Future

 / 

May 23, 2024

#BrighterFuture #investorspotlightseries #VentureCapital #InvestmentStrategies #Sustainability #SustainableInvesting #Scalability #BusinessGrowth #Startupsuccess #FinancialManagement #DiversityAndInclusion

Brighter Future

For the inaugural interview in Brighter Future’s new Investor Spotlight Series, we had the great pleasure of speaking with Nick Lyth, the president and founder of Green Angel Ventures. His organization is a UK-based investment firm investing in energy, food, agriculture, water, waste and recycling technologies.

Thank you so much for being here, Nick. Do you think you could give me a brief introduction to yourself and your company?

My name is Nick Lyth, and I’m the president and founder of Green Angel Ventures, which was formed 11 years ago as the only angel investment syndicate in the UK specialising in the fight against climate change. 

Now, the key word in that statement is "specialising." This means we focus on areas where we have real knowledge of the markets that the companies we invest in want to enter. These markets are predominantly in various sectors of the energy market, food and agriculture, water and waste and recycling. These sectors are all dominated by energy.

It's important to note that there are exclusions; we don't look at retail, fashion or FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) because we don't know those markets. They are important, but we don't know them. Investing in those markets would be guessing, which is specifically what we don't want to do. Our track record to date is unique amongst angel syndicates. We have invested in 44 different companies, and only one has gone bust. That is unique in UK angel investing.

Our definition of fighting against climate change is that they must be developing technology innovations or process innovations that, once they're on the market and they're selling, will have an effect in reducing carbon emissions. If they're not going to reduce carbon emissions, we don't look at them, and it really is as simple as that. Carbon emissions are what climate change is all about, and the carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are what's causing global warming. It is already certain to pass the 1.5 degrees above pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures. We're entering territory humanity has never been in before, and it's going to be difficult for us to survive unless we put that right.

There are an enormous number of other concerns that people talk about under the heading of sustainability, ESG, or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But if you take those 16 or 17 UN SDGs, about 14 of them can only be addressed if we get climate change right first. If we don't get climate change right, then there are a chunk of those SDGs, it's 13 or 14, that it doesn't really matter what we do to try and put them right; they will not be put right if climate change continues to get worse. It really is as simple as that. It's taken the world a long time to wake up to that problem; it finally has, and our business has become more successful. So, we are now one of the largest angel syndicates in the UK, on the back of our success. We've got over 300 members of the syndicate. We launched a fund to go alongside the syndicate, which is also focused exactly on climate change, and we're just in the process now of launching a venture fund.

As a little sales promotion message to anyone out there who's reading this: if you’re interested in joining or investing in the deals that we're investing in, you are more than welcome. We are a completely inclusive organisation, and we welcome as many people as possible to join us in our mission to fight climate change, within the constraints of financial eligibility. 

The last thing I'd say is that when I do talk to interested people, I say, "Look, we're a purpose-driven investment organisation. Our purpose is to fight climate change. We will not help you make money; we'll help you fight climate change. If we are successful— as successful we must be because climate change is not waiting for us— I’m pleased to say you will make money. But that's not our purpose; our purpose is to fight climate change. But it is using investment and the commercial reality of opportunities in these different sectors to make the fight against climate change more effective. And, of course, if we are successful, you will make money." 

We've got 44 companies in our portfolio, and that's growing quickly. We've got over 300 active members, which makes us one of the biggest angel syndicates in the UK. Our fund is doing well.

Congratulations on your success, and thank you for spelling out what you do so clearly. Could you please share your investment focus areas for the current year and the rationale behind them?

As I've said, the rationale behind everything we do is that we will invest in companies whose technologies and innovations can reduce carbon emissions. That’s the core rationale. The focus again, as I described, is very much on energy, water, food and agriculture, waste and recycling. We also have invested in transport, particularly electric bikes and electric vehicles.

We're being given an opportunity at the moment with sustainable aviation fuel, and though we don't know enough about it, it is incredibly important. Sustainable aviation fuel is very difficult. It's one of the curiosities that it was pioneered by Adolf Hitler, of all people, during World War II, which cut him off from oil fields at first and led him to initiate a research program to develop aviation fuel that did not use oil or diesel in any way. They made quite a lot of progress, but didn’t manage to make it work economically, and then he captured oil fields by invading Hungary and Romania and the program was effectively stopped.  Now it’s a crucial area for climate change, but at Green Angel Ventures we know little or nothing about it, hence are not in a position to invest.

The historical longevity of ideas that we think of as recent inventions is also seen in wind energy. We've known how to generate electricity from wind for over 120 years. The first people who did it were in the late 19th century, when electricity itself was quite a new thing. But it was overlooked because there were much more efficient ways of generating electricity. It wasn't until a century later that it came back on the agenda, this time for different reasons.  Wind energy is an area of specialisation for us.

So, these are our areas of focus. One thing I would say is that, of the different sectors that are important in this area, which is growing enormously quickly, there’s an enormous amount of money being invested in climate tech. Two areas have had disproportionate attention: energy generation like wind and solar, and then transport, specifically electric vehicles. Other forms of transport much less so. That means there are huge areas that have been neglected and under-resourced. There’s been much less money in them, so people have not really worked at pioneering the innovations they need.

Particularly areas like the built environment, ventilation, air conditioning, and heating. The worst off in the UK is domestic heat, which is reliant predominantly on gas-powered boilers, and they are responsible for the single biggest quantity of carbon emissions in the UK at the moment. If you disaggregate transport and break it down into automotive, rail, shipping, and so on, domestic heat is the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions.

The UK government is really getting behind air-source heat pumps, and Green Angel Ventures is trying to get decent deals to help in this development. We’re not absolutely convinced air-source heat pumps are the answer because they’re still not really fit-for-purpose. They’re too expensive, and the amount of insulation and glazing work, the amount of preparation they need before they can function efficiently, is also very expensive. And so unless you're dealing with new builds, it is very difficult to configure everything so that it's calibrated for these heat pumps. But of course, the vast majority of gas-powered boilers are already in place in buildings that are already standing, and so you're looking at the overwhelming part of the task being retrofitting.

In a way, we don't change our focus; we react to where the pressure's coming from. So from one year to the next, what we do changes as the years go by. But it's changing in response to the circumstances we’re in, and we collectively fac

In light of recent global economic changes, how have your investment criteria evolved?

The direct answer to your question is that our criteria haven't changed. However, you're touching on something incredibly important. In the context of this discussion, over the last decade, there has been a gradual acceleration of interest in investing in areas that, at the beginning, saw us as the only angel syndicate in the UK specialising in the fight against climate change. Many have copied us, not just other angel syndicates but also various larger investment organisations.

Then, there was the surge in ESG, which is a very complex subject and has actually blurred and held things back rather than helping, due to its confusing nature. However, some positive developments include the SDGs, which have effectively focused people’s attention, and “impact investment” has become a term used quite conventionally.

During this period, more interest has been directed toward the things we do. In the UK, and to a lesser extent, the US and Western Europe, this interest exploded somewhat during the pandemic. The pandemic focused everyone's attention on health, well-being, and the common problems facing our planet. It highlighted how forces beyond our control can create challenges that the entire global community is vulnerable to. This situation led everyone to think more critically about the planet, our environment, and how nature can turn on us, as demonstrated by the pandemic. Additionally, being confined at home gave everyone a lot of time to think, while the media predominantly covered the pandemic, further fuelling investment in climate change. We doubled in size during the pandemic.

The final icing on the cake came with COP26 in Glasgow, which, after being postponed from November 2020 to November 2021 due to the pandemic, meant it received two years of buildup and publicity, greatly enhancing interest in climate-related issues.

Since then, geopolitical circumstances have, in effect, put it into reverse. Climate change and ecological and environmental issues are now being pushed to one side explicitly. Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have both come out and said we are committed to Net Zero but we're not going to prioritise it and instead we're going to prioritise the economy. The geopolitical circumstances involve the war in Ukraine, escalating interest rates, and the peak of escalating inflation which was the pressure on energy prices, as well as all the questions that were raised about the gas supply because of Russia. What these drove everybody to think was, forget renewable energy for the time being: we just need energy and we're in danger of not getting enough of it. As a consequence of the shortage of supply, the prices are skyrocketing. Entire sections of the community can't afford it. But there's nothing to replace it. And that's why Rishi Sunak, I'm afraid to say, was quite right. He had to say “We've got to sort it out, we can't just die in a ditch shouting that our energy has to be renewable or we’ll go without.” Keir Starmer said the same. 

Then of course the war in Gaza happened, so the geopolitical news and all of the media and political attention has shifted completely away from the issues surrounding Net Zero. Everybody agrees that it's a necessary target, but absolutely no one sees it as a top investment priority. That means that chunks of the investment world, which were starting to get really interested in climate change, have just switched off. They have no need to pay attention to it and because it's new and uncomfortable and difficult, leaving it alone suits them down to the ground. They can stick with the much more familiar and lower-risk investment areas. 

For us, if anything, it has intensified what we're trying to do. We have continued to grow. I think the reason for our continued growth is because our focus is so sharp. It is so specific to climate change and so specific to carbon emissions and keeping net zero on the table. So in other words, we've kind of hung on to something which people do accept is still relevant. Whereas a lot of other people have suffered because it's vague. In many ways talking about the environment in the generality can make one fall into that trap because there isn't a concrete focus.

The recent shift backward due to geopolitical instability is fascinating and a little horrifying; thank you. For my next question, what would you say are the key qualities that Green Angel Ventures looks for when investing in a startup?

Essentially, the unique one is the ability to reduce carbon emissions. That's something nobody else will be looking for, but we are, and if you don't meet that criterion, you're out. Once we are certain that you meet that criterion, everything else is exactly as you would expect from any investor in early-stage companies: the technology, the intellectual property, traction with potential customers, market research that shows your market appeal, and your financial projections. All the things you would expect

What founder or startup traits would lead you to say no immediately?

One red flag is if they are unresponsive. If you've got a founder who is very arrogant and very sure that he or she is right, and doesn't want to listen to anyone, that often is reflected in their wish to retain control in terms of their shareholding. Another danger is when founders exaggerate. For example, when they present to you, they may claim that they've got three or four big multinational corporations interested in buying their product and prepared to work with them. However, during due diligence, it may emerge that what they said wasn't exactly true at all, which then raises significant concerns.

We like it when there are two founders, sometimes even more, rather than just one, because that helps mitigate against any autocratic tendencies. This is really a major negative we sometimes encounter. Another issue arises when founders want to raise a certain amount of money— say a million— but only a portion of it, like £300,000, is assured by Green Angel Ventures. The rule is if they need a million, they should have financial plans that justify this amount. If the rest of the funds don't appear, we can't really invest. However, we have made exceptions. For instance, one company wanted to raise half a million, and we agreed to invest £200,000. We asked them to rewrite their business plan to show that it could work with £200,000 instead of half a million. After reviewing the revised plan, we were convinced that they could manage with the reduced amount by slowing down certain processes and cutting costs on consultants.

Often, when problems arise in a company— whether with intellectual property, technology, or competitive assessment— it usually traces back to the founders or leaders. Ultimately, that's what it always comes down to.

That’s very interesting— thank you. I wanted to ask about the due diligence process you mentioned: how do you do that before you go about making an investment?

Our due diligence processes are unusual for angel syndicates, and we've won awards because of the quality of our due diligence. We have systematised it, which is unusual for angel investments. It's got about 14 or 15 different headings, each of which has a list of different questions, and the headings are all the ones that I mentioned earlier: technology, intellectual property, competition, traction— in other words, customers, the research, financial projections, the team. 

It’s all systematised. All the questions and answers are recorded. All of our different members who are interested in investing can see the questions and answers, and they can add questions which the company has to answer. It’s a traffic light system, so each answer is given a red, amber, or green, and if the reds are examined in detail, if we can't satisfy ourselves that the reds are, in fact, impossible to address, then it fails. So, our due diligence system is very sophisticated for these kinds of investments.

We have to remember that angel investment due diligence is easy because we’re talking about startup or early stage companies which haven’t done much— there’s just very little to look at. So, there's no need to spend an enormous amount of time on it. And it should be said that if you then look to bigger investment funds or other organisations, the professional due diligence at those is a wholly different animal. It's much more sophisticated and much more complicated because what they're looking at is much more complex.

How do you evaluate the potential of a company in its early stages?

There is no scientific method and at the end of the day, that's why early-stage investment is such high risk. Over 90% of startup companies fail in their first year and of those that get through to a second year, 90% of those fail. Nobody sets up a company intending to fail. So in every case that they've been taken by surprise, or they've been disappointed, or they fail, they've miscalculated. They've got it wrong.

I don't think there's a scientific method. My colleagues would want to disagree and they would say we assess it through the due diligence process and our track record is very good. Only one company in our portfolio has ever failed, which kind of bears them out. But we're not lucky— what we are is specialists. We know what we're doing.

I would still say there's no science in it though: what there is is conviction. We invest where we are convinced. Every startup company is going to say the same thing: “we're going to succeed, our financial projections are going to grow”. So you look past that, and the ones we invest in are the ones that we're genuinely convinced by in markets that we know and understand.

How do you balance the need for quick decisions in competitive deals with your evaluation?

We don't. If there's a need for speed, we nearly always tell them to look for funding somewhere else. We are not going to cut corners. This process will take at least six weeks and maybe closer to two to three months to do it properly.

Can you share an example of a successful investment that you made and what made it stand out?

There's a company called Nature Metrics which has developed software for measuring DNA in a land mass. By analysing the DNA found in the environment, they can provide accurate data on the animal and plant life populations in that area. 

That’s incredible. 

It's very clever indeed, and has grown and grown. We invested at a valuation of something like £3 or £4 million. It's now approaching £50 million in its valuation and growing more. It's of enormous use both in commercial and public sectors, including for organisations like the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, which is the UN body responsible for all the biodiversity data. It's used in various contexts, and there is nobody else doing it. And that, for us, is one of our highlights. It's a poster child for us and a wonderful story.

Yes, I am extremely impressed with that. To measure animal and plant populations with environmental DNA makes sense in the science, but it’s still like magic. For our next question, I just wanted to ask: in your experience, what are the most common reasons that startups fail after receiving an investment? And how can this be mitigated?

This is a question that I've never been asked before. I'd be incredibly interested to ask some of my colleagues. I think my off-the-cuff answer for this is financial mismanagement. There are several others that I will not name, have been very good and still are, they keep going and at least one of them is not just ongoing but very successful. But they've been financially mismanaged. 

How important is the scalability of a startup's business model in your investment decision?

Yeah, it's a very simple answer: it has to be scalable. If it's not scalable, you're not investing in a real business.

Can you share insights on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the teams you invest in?

Diversity is incredibly important, and all the research shows that companies with more diverse boards result in a more successful company. Less diverse boards tend to be less successful. So, diversity is very important.

The reason why you want diversity is because you don't want your board to be an echo chamber. If you have a group of people who all think the same, your board meetings are essentially a waste of time. You could have the meetings with just one person because that person is going to say exactly what the others would, as they all think the same. You need different perspectives that bring challenges. That’s why diversity is so important. It's not just about the principle of equality and giving everyone a chance; it's actually all about efficient and effective management.

What role does mentorship play in your investment strategy and how do you support your portfolio companies?

You want to do everything you can to help make a company more successful. Consequently, effective interventions that do that are absolutely crucial. It’s all about the quality of the intervention. If your intervention is low quality, then you're not going to help; you're wasting their time and your own. The form that mentorship takes is putting somebody on the board, which means that person acts as a director, and must act in the company's best interests, not the investor's best interests. This position and contribution are incredibly important.

However, I think mentorship, as it's often used, is often a waste of time; it’s self-aggrandisement for old men telling entrepreneurs what to do, which the entrepreneurs often just ignore. Sometimes it works, but it's not calibrated to have any effect. 

How do you view competition in the startups you invest in? Do you prefer first movers or better movers?

First movers are often on treacherous ground, and equally, they often don't realise it. You want your companies to be developing an innovation, a new technology, or a new process for a market which already exists. A lot of nonsense is talked about disruption, innovation and problem-solving. All that stuff about disruption? Human beings are change-averse— they don't like disruption, it's not a good thing. 

Consider what was probably the most disruptive technology in the last 150 years, contrary to popular opinion about recent changes in the last 20 years. What was enormously more disruptive was the invention of the car, and it was resisted hugely. This is a question for you: why is the car called the car?

It's short for "carriage", as in “horse and carriage”. 

Yes, exactly. It is a horseless carriage. In other words, they said "We're not going to be disruptive; we're going to do the same thing, only better. So, this is your carriage, but the only difference is that it's horseless, but it's exactly the same thing." That was how acceptance was encouraged. 

What is the core concept in this? Improvement— not disruption. It's not problem-solving. It's taking the market as it is and saying, “We're just coming into the same market with a different product and it’s an improvement.” And the consequence of its difference and its innovation is that it's actually an improvement on what exists. That's the key word: improvement. What you're doing is making things better. 

And that's why the perception and concept of being a first mover is a treacherous one. You don't want to think of yourself as a first mover. You want to think of yourself as somebody who's coming into a market where people are already spending lots of money. That's the other crucial part of it. Because if you're saying you're a first mover and you're doing something where currently nobody's spending any money, you don't stand much chance. You're a tiny company. You've got very limited staff, resources, and the ability to go out and sell and generate awareness. And you think you're going to make money with a product that nobody is spending any money on at the moment? Yeah, you'll find it's difficult. 

But if you're launching a carriage, you can contact people and say, "You've got a lot of carriages in your showroom, and you're selling plenty of carriages day by day, week by week, month by month. Your volume of carriages going through your retail cash business is huge. Well, I've got a new carriage for you to sell your customers. And guess what? It's a better carriage. It's an improvement. And now, I'm going to tell you this thing that's really going to blow you away. It's horseless." 

And they won’t believe you. They’ll tell you you're joking, that you can’t be serious, that you must be making this up. Then you tell them you’ll go down to their showroom and they’ll be amazed. And that's how to do it.

You don't ever want to be a first mover. But more to the point, you've got to get your head out of that space where you think of yourself as a first mover. Get into the space where you think of yourself as a competitor.

That’s a fascinating example; thank you very much for that. What advice would you give to a startup seeking investment in the current market?

Good luck. I think it's tough, and the advice I'd give is essentially the same as at any other time, regardless of the market conditions. It's very tough. You must assume it will take time. Expect that your failure rate will be high and that you may need to make 100 approaches to get one investor. If you're lucky, it might be 50 approaches for one investor. If you're very lucky, perhaps 20 approaches, but honestly, better odds than that are very unlikely.

Yes, that sounds about right. What are the emerging technologies or sectors that you believe are under-invested and why?

For us, it's very simple: for climate change, the two areas that have done very well are renewable energy and electric vehicles. Nearly all other areas of climate change investment have been under-resourced and it's because of government subsidies and the support provided in subsidies and regulations to encourage both renewable energy in its many different forms and electric vehicles. So, these have attracted investment because there are clear opportunities for rewards. That means things like domestic heating, hydrogen use, and agriculture, which all need climate change innovations and investment, have been under-supported and they're only starting to come to the attention of investors. Now people are coming forward with innovations in these different sectors, but it's very late in the day. It's a shame this wasn't happening earlier.

How do you see the investment landscape evolving in the next few years?

Yeah, that's one that we talk about a lot at the moment because we're coming to the end of our financial year and planning for the next one. So, the investment landscape really hit the rocks in 2023. In 2024, there are no real signs of it picking up. Our huge problem is the geopolitical landscape with the war in Ukraine and in Gaza. There’s starting to be a concern voiced for a world war, and that affects people hugely. Combined with the inflation and interest rate rise, which admittedly are now coming back down again, there’s been a huge shock in energy markets. With energy security coming to the top of the agenda as a result largely of the war in Ukraine, it's very hard to see when investment will pick up again. So, I think 2024 is likely to continue to be difficult and frankly, if those geopolitical circumstances get worse, then I think investments are going to get tougher. It's not going to get easier, so that would be my slightly depressing answer to that question. But I would say it's a big question and of course, nobody knows the answer.

Thank you very much for that. The next few questions I’ll ask are opinion based. What is one thing people believe about investing that is completely wrong?

All investors in early-stage companies should know and should realise they may lose all their money. If they don't realise this, they are foolish unwise investors, as that's how high-risk it is. Many startups, particularly early-stage companies, will fail. We invest in a lot of pre-revenue companies; they're not even trading yet. You can't pretend that these are companies where you're making a wise investment. This is what you want to keep in mind if you're looking to avoid the startup and early-stage investment world.

What popular climate startup do you think is most likely to fail in the next year?

It's a good question actually because there are sectors which have failed where you look and think nobody should have been investing in them in the first place— it was a stupid thing to do. But which are the ones that are coming that we wouldn't touch? I think the most hypocritical are the high-value, premium luxury goods that move into sustainable territory. The reason I think they are critical is that they're encouraging consumerism, which is by definition making climate change worse. So to say that we're going to do really well selling millions of this product, which is really good in terms of its climate performance, is completely hypocritical because overall its effect on climate change will be bad. In the end, those products will be weeded out. So that's mainly consumer sectors— high-value luxury goods. Essentially, it's greenwashing. We believe greenwashing is something that will bite people if they try and do it. 

If you could invest $100 million in one project to combat climate change, what would it be and why?

I think there are areas that we don't actually invest in, but I mean I think the geoengineering projects are probably the things that need the really big funds. I find them all interesting. I don't have enough inside knowledge to know which ones are likely to succeed, nor which ones are most advisable. So, there may be some which are further away from being realised, which would be much more benign, whereas the ones that are easier to do could actually do quite a lot of harm as well as address the carbon problem. So, you could end up with unintended consequences of a different nature. I would push it and put that kind of money into geoengineering.

If you had to choose one startup to invest all your funds in this year, which would it be and why?

A lot of money is going to be made by the people who sort out the domestic heating challenge and how to replace gas boilers. At the moment, air-source heat pumps are leading the charge and have been identified by the UK government as the preferred route. However, they're a long way from being fit for purpose. If we were only allowed to make one investment, I would look for something instrumental in really making replacement carbon-neutral gas boilers a reality. I'm still not absolutely certain that air-source heat pumps are the way to go, so it wouldn't necessarily be into a company that was solely focused on them. When you consider that carbon-emitting gas boilers are the single biggest source of UK carbon emissions if you separate transport into automotive and aviation, residential heating becomes the largest source of emissions.

Which is more important, a great idea or a great team?

A great team is more important. I often upset companies by saying that good ideas are two a penny. That's the easy bit. Of course, it might not be easy and you might have done lots of research and it might be a really good idea. But the difficult bit is finding a way of selling it in enough volume and at a high enough price to create a successful business. And if you can't do that, then your good idea is a complete waste of time. If you can, then largely speaking, it doesn't necessarily matter how good your idea is, because you're going to build a successful company. There are plenty of examples where suboptimal product quality has accompanied real business success and the people who have the optimal product are left wondering, "Why aren't people buying our thing?" But that's the reason why people aren't buying your product— it's because you haven't figured out how to sell it. So, it's always about the team, not just the good ideas you're planning.

Which tech solution do you think is actually harming the planet more than helping?

I am afraid I'm not entirely convinced by electric vehicles. They use a lot of lithium, and the production is carbon-intensive. You have to make the car, and making the car is carbon-intensive. They're doing nothing to reduce the volume of cars on the road, which is a problem. 

I speak as a driver of an electric vehicle, starting with the best intentions, thinking I was doing something good. Then, about a month after I got my first electric vehicle, I found a study comparing it to our previous car. It was a Citroën Berlingo which was petrol, not diesel. It’s a model that's both a van and a consumer vehicle. For the consumer version, where there would be panels on the sides of the van, they put windows, and the empty cargo space in the middle has seats installed. But you can take the seats out, making the Berlingo really functional. It had 20th-century production standards— barely had electric windows, no Bluetooth, really no suspension. We loved that car. 

So the study said, if you really want to take responsibility for the planet and reduce carbon emissions, you should drive your internal combustion engine vehicle into the ground. Don’t replace it, just use it until it doesn't work anymore. Then decide what to get: maybe then you should choose an electric vehicle. 

It didn't say electric vehicles were bad, but the point was that we've got all these internal combustion engine vehicles, and we need to use them and discourage making more vehicles of any kind. We read that a few weeks too late. We were pretty upset because we had already replaced the Berlingo, which my wife loved. The only good thing was that we sold it to some of our closest friends. So, they're driving it into the ground.

I'm very happy to hear it! Do you still see it sometimes?

Yes actually, I see it when I play squash with him every week. I see it every week!

Fantastic. Similar to what we were just talking about, my next question concerns a technology on the way out: which sector within climate tech will become obsolete in the next decade?

There are renewable energy generation methodologies which I think will wither on the vine; it’s all about solar and wind. The small things like tidal/wave generation are terribly attractive when you first hear them— it sounds so completely renewable, so eternal. It sounds perfect. But the truth is, what they call the LCOE (Levelised Cost of Energy), is actually high with tidal power generation and always will be high. Whereas the landed cost of energy for solar and even offshore wind, despite the cost of wind tower installation at sea, is fantastic.

There's also something that is already fading: solar thermal. When solar developed, everybody talked about whether you were trying solar thermal or solar photovoltaic (PV). So, solar thermal was when you had panels which had water-filled tubes, and the sun heated the water. The water was then pumped into your system, so that you had hot water circulating around your central heating system and also into your water tank for showers and baths, but it provided hot water. Back then, which was probably 15 years ago, it kind of was a toss-up which sector was really going to develop. Solar thermal has really almost disappeared; it's very clunky.

Solar PV doesn't work perfectly everywhere— there's a point at which temperatures become too hot for solar PV. So actually, solar PV doesn't really work at all in some very hot climates. But for the bulk of the world, solar PV has become the way solar energy is really usefully available.

Which is more crucial for saving the planet: technological innovation or regulatory changes?

Regulatory changes because they drive technology. Technology is vital however, you will only get the right technology if you have the right regulations. If the necessary regulatory changes do not happen, then technology will lag.

What role should major corporations play in the fight against climate change?

Absolutely, they should be front and centre, making sure that what they do is not making climate change worse, but rather make it better. However, they will only make significant changes if regulation forces them like in the last question. If regulation doesn't force them, we know what happens; tobacco companies would still be selling cigarettes freely and distributing them to children if there wasn't regulation that said they can't. In the UK, there's even a move to make cigarettes an illegal product.

It's only through regulation that we can push multinationals to stop the damage they're doing and start improving things. Without this, we will never achieve climate stability.

Thank you for that response! Well, we’ve now come to the end of the interview. Nick, this has been a fascinating and frankly just fun conversation. Thank you so much for giving us your time and thoughts, and from all of us at Brighter Future, we hope Green Angel Ventures continues to be as extremely successful as it’s already proven itself to be— and that the new venture fund you’re launching does incredibly well, too!

To learn more about Green Angel Ventures, please see their site at www.greenangelventures.com.

To learn more about their new Climate Venture Fund, please see www.greenangelventures.com/invest/climate-venture-fund.

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