Hi, Nuno! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us today. We’re excited to learn more about both you and GoParity. To get started, we’d love to hear a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today.
My first memories of a willingness to build something for the good of the planet come from when I was a teenager. It was around this time that I learned about the hole in the ozone layer and the melting of the ice caps. I guess it is one of those cliché origin stories, but my love for nature moved me to act. And although my motivations have become slightly more complex, I am happy to have carried this same feeling with me through all of my experiences since then.
I started my career in a multinational private organisation, but I was quick to leave that job. As a 24-year-old environmental engineer, I moved to Brussels to do an unpaid six-month internship and ended up staying for more than three years. Working with the environmental, energy, and innovation committees in the European Parliament, surrounded by all types of private, public, and non-governmental organisations, gave me invaluable insight into the problems and potential solutions related to sustainable development. Looking back, I believe that was the start of my entrepreneurial path.
As my social and environmental awareness grew further, I kept trying to uncover best practices in terms of my habits, consumption, and plans, which included worrying about making my financial and purchasing decisions as green as possible. What is the footprint of my groceries? What is my bank doing with my money? How can I invest ethically?
I used an ethical bank in Brussels, and also in Spain when I moved there after a backpacking gap year.
Back in Portugal, after a couple of years of working for a big energy company, there was no ethical banking option available. I thought the greenest solution was to use my money to invest in small-scale solar power. And this is how, in 2013, the seed of GoParity, which only bloomed several years later, was planted.
It’s amazing that you can trace your interest in sustainability back to that one point in your young adult life. You mentioned that you began in invest in small-scale solar projects, which put you on the path to co-founding GoParity years later. Could you tell us a little more about how that unfolded?
I started by trying to invest my savings in a small photovoltaic plant that was to be installed on the rooftop of a rural hotel in Tavira, which is in the south of Portugal. The business model was to sell the electricity generated to the grid at a fixed feed-in tariff. It turned out that I didn’t have enough money to do this alone, but I was able to gather a few friends, and we convinced family and acquaintances to lend us the rest of the funds on the condition that we would pay them back with annual interest.
And there was the answer, unfolding in such an organic way: crowdlending
Unfortunately, there was no legal framework for crowdlending in Portugal, so I had to wait. However, we kept this model and started a renewable energy cooperative called Coopérnico, where we invited citizens to create their own utilities. Coopérnico produces and sells clean electricity by installing PVs on the rented roofs of non-profits. These organisations then have access to cheaper electricity. That’s how we brought green energy, social impact, and economic growth together.
In 2017, when the Portuguese Securities Market Commission first published a legal framework for crowdlending, I knew it was our time to act. Shortly after, GoParity was born.
That’s really inspiring! Here we are, almost five years later, and GoParity is successfully providing people across the globe with access to sustainable financing. Any entrepreneur will agree that running a business takes drive, commitment and hard work. What motivates you to continue to pour your efforts into GoParity?
I guess it all comes down to the combination of my love for nature and our planet. For me, that means enjoying life in the open air, practising outdoor sports, and maintaining a deep belief in the collective power of citizens to build a world we want to live in.
Having given it a lot of thought, and no matter how much we like it or not, one must face the fact that money still makes the world go round. The question then becomes: is my money doing anything good for people and our planet?
Our money belongs to us. Ultimately, we should be entitled to choose what it is used for, even when it is just sitting in a bank account. This is the sort of empowerment we want to provide withGoParity: full transparency, visibility, and a choice in what your money does for you and for all of us.
We couldn’t agree more! When you look at all you have achieved with GoParity and all you hope to achieve in the future, who are you doing this for? Who stands to benefit the most from GoParity?
I guess we can say that GoParity has two audiences: impact investors and sustainable project promoters. Our mission is to democratise access to finance and to promote impact financing and investing in general.
On the impact promoter’s side, we want to offer an alternative form of financing to sustainable projects that contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We stack up against the traditional forms of financing (e.g., banks), we offer communication and awareness within our impact investment community, and we democratise profit, as the interest is paid to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of investors’ wallets. We are young, flexible, savvy, simple and quick. We give small but impactful businesses and start-ups the financing opportunity they need. Our goal is to help grow as many organisations as we can through democratic investment in a community that has the power to create impact and generate financial benefits for projects and themselves.
On the impact investor side, we want to make sustainable investing accessible to all by offering a free investment service, setting the minimum investment at just €5, sharing all the necessary data for informed decision-making, and providing financial literacy-guided content.
We strive to provide a good combination of return and positive impact and to fight the gripping inequality between those who have access to decent investment opportunities and those who don’t, as well as between those who are taught how to make their savings grow and people who have never heard of investing. When using the GoParity platform, both individuals and companies can learn how to invest and grow their money while using it for good. The result is a double return on investment: interest and impact.
What an amazing vision for the future! When you think back on your journey to this point in your life, was there one particular moment you can identify as the point where you decided to do something different from the norm in terms of your life/career focus?
I guess there was more than one moment when that happened.
I can recall one when I was working in Brussels, in the European Parliament. I got a very tempting job offer from the aluminium industry to work as a lobbyist for them. At that moment, instead of taking that offer or just staying in my comfortable job in the EU, I decided I wasn’t going to let money make my decisions for me. So, I quit my job and went backpacking to South America with my life partner.
Later on, in 2011 or 2012, when I had moved back to Portugal to work for a large energy utility, I remember listening to the CEO’s speech at the company’s Christmas lunch. He said something like, “we need to be grateful for being here, for working here on this small paradise island while there is a huge storm out there”. Those words struck me hard. I did not want to be the guy safely sunbathing while everyone else was trying to swim to stay alive.
There are so many people out there who, like you, have great ideas that could have an impact on the big issues we’re facing as a planet. However, many of those ideas never see the light of day. How did you know that GoParity was more than just another idea? What made you believe you could make your idea a reality?
I don’t think it was (nor is) any kind of wisdom I had within me. I’ve always said one should“start by starting”. I see myself as a “doer”. I like to make things happen.
My job in Brussels, for example, was a dream job for many people, and I had it at only 25years old. Working there is like being in an open university: you get information about all of the most pressing issues and political decisions, discuss them with all of the sides involved, and have access to the foremost specialists. But it was too far from the ground for me. Too far removed from where everything that is decided in Brussels actually takes place.
Also, I think it is important for a founder to personally feel the need for the product or project they are creating and to find innovative ways to deliver it. That’s maybe the common thread through all of the projects that I have started.
That’s very true. From our experience, founders who have a personal passion for or connection to the problems they are solving are many times more successful than those who do not. However, starting and running a business isn’t always a walk in the park. Were there ever times when you took a different direction than originally planned?
I think GoParity shares a big learning experience with many of the young organisations that started shortly before 2020 in that we had to learn to survive and adapt to theCOVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide lockdown that began in March of that year.
As a start-up that was eager to grow, GoParity was just proving itself in early 2020 and had caught the attention of investors. It felt like it was just a matter of time before we got a booming round of investment that would finally allow us to flourish.
When COVID hit, it felt like nothing else mattered to us. We’re a very mission-driven company, but at that moment, our mission fully changed and became “let’s do everything we can to help prepare for (and fight)COVID”. We co-founded Tech4Covid19 with 25 other start-ups and launched the first fundraiser in Portugal to buy medical equipment. More than 7000 people donated to the cause, raising more than €280k.
Regarding our projects, we communicated with our impact investment community (at that time, it was around five thousand people, but it’s now over twenty thousand). The humanity of that community became our biggest motivation to work through adversity. GoParity has kept transparency as one of its core pillars, which helped us to overcome the many challenges we faced, as did the partnerships we had with our promotors and the cooperation of our investors. Debt moratoriums were placed on the companies that needed them asa result of being affected by the pandemic, and payment plans were renegotiated. I look back at that time as a time of sadness but also a moment of hope and beautiful union.
That’s incredibly inspiring. It’s amazing what can be achieved when we truly work together. In life and in business, we learn the most from moments of adversity. What were the biggest failures that you experienced along your journey, and what did they teach you?
I have failed in so many different things. One lesson I have learned is that you can’t be at your individual best in all areas of your life at the same time. You can’t be Super Dad, an inspiring entrepreneur or leader, that friend who is great to hang out with, and a sports ace all at the same time. Something’s got to give. Trying to be everything at once brought me to some very tough moments. It is just something that I have tried to learn to manage over the years, learning from my experience.
A less complex failure, but also something that I had to work to overcome, was creating expectations about things that are not certain yet. Putting it in other words, I had to learn to manage my expectations. This is especially important at the early stages of a venture when everything changes so fast.
One failure moment that I’m sure is shared by a large number of entrepreneurs is choosing the wrong co-founders, shareholders or investors. This can lead to destructive combinations. It is essential to be fully transparent from the beginning and to make sure every agreement is clear—in writing—for both parties. Although these are simple principles, they can prevent a lot of trouble in the future.
Hiring the right people is also an absolute game-changer in small companies, and I can say that I haven’t always gotten this one right. Thankfully, I have now learned how to look at what the team needs, and I feel that our current hiring process is one of our biggest assets. As is our culture.
Many entrepreneurs report having an “aha!” moment—a moment where something clicks into place and things suddenly make sense. Have you ever experienced anything like that in your journey?
I’m not sure I have ever had an “aha” moment that is worthy of that name. I typically tend to think of my ideas as not that brilliant. But there have been a lot of moments when I felt I had “connected the dots” and was able to create that new product or feature.
I’ve always sought the advice of older and more experienced people, and I recently found great help and comfort in talking to my co-founders and the founders of other start-ups. One very useful thing is to acknowledge that there’s always someone who has been down the road you’re currently walking.
As you said, relying on those more experienced people who generously offer their insight and advice is incredibly helpful when facing the entrepreneurial unknown. It can make all the difference, especially in those early days. Did you have to make any personal sacrifices in the early days of GoParity to help get it off the ground?
I have sacrificed a lot of things, but I believe most entrepreneurs who have started from nothing but an idea have done so, too. For example, there was a time whenI spent several months without a salary, even after we had become parents to three children in three years—the same three years during which I started three companies. There was a lot of sacrifice at that time. I have had to swallow my pride sometimes and admit I was wrong, all while working day and night. Thankfully, none of it seemed too much or felt like a sacrifice when we kept GoParity’s important mission in mind.
You’re absolutely right. Almost every entrepreneur we’ve spoken to has mentioned the financial or time sacrifices they had to make to get their business started. Very few hold any regrets, though. Similarly, as a society, we know we have to make some sacrifices and changes to ensure a better future for the next generation. We’re curious to hear a little about how you envision the future.
Two recent major events have influenced my answer to this question. The COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
COVID-19 was a common enemy. It gave me hope in the collective effort. Not ignoring all of the direct suffering it caused, it was also a sort of mandated pause to think about how we produce and consume, to reflect on excesses and real needs, and to give ourselves natural space to breathe. I believe many important debates came to the fore and that the average person’s consciousness about social and environmental issues was raised.
When Russia invaded its neighbour on the 24th of February 2022, we felt like our happiness was limited by this monstrosity. While that feeling remains, we’re slowly beginning to think further about the underlying problems and emerging issues that affect us all, from foreign policy to international markets and energy dependency. I am grateful to be a part of the European Union and its efforts towards a greener, more democratic, and more sustainable future.
We know that decentralised and green energy is now more important than ever. In a world where all things are interconnected—including all of the problems we need to solve, like war, climate change, poverty, injustice, corruption, and public health—I envision a future where we keep finding innovative and complete answers to these issues. On that note, I am happy to say that GoParity is proud that its mission—green finance—has remained relevant amid these two crises.
We’re certainly living through a time like no other, and your positive outlook is very reassuring. When future generations look back on your life and what you have achieved, what do you hope they’ll take away from your story?
I would like to think my personal life story doesn’t matter, as long as the product of my work remains and has been for the good of people and the planet.
My co-founder Manuel uses an expression to talk about us that I think is really to this point. He calls us a “silent enabler”. You might be driving around in your city or country and pass by solar panels on a charity’s building, see a local sustainable grocery shop, or just be sitting at a bar drinking organic kombucha. You won’t know it, but GoParity (and our community) has been a part of making all of that happen. You don’t see us, but we’re there.
That’s a great phrase! It really sums it all up. Focusing again on the future, we’d like to give you a chance to speak directly to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, young or old, who are just starting out and are possibly shaping the future through their businesses. What advice do you have for them?
1) Start by starting. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big and aiming for big numbers, but put things in terms of “what’s the next small step that I can take towards that big dream or goal?”
2) Seek advice and listen to what more experienced entrepreneurs have to say. Especially to the mistakes they share. There’s a lot to learn from them. Sometimes when we listen, we’re not absorbing the information. We’re just guessing where that sentence is going and politely waiting to jump into a reply. I’ve found myself more than once thinking “oh, so this is what they were talking about” after I had made some sort of mistake. A mistake that could have been avoided if I had properly listened to their words.
Two great pieces of advice. Thank you for sharing. Like all good things, this fascinating conversation must come to an end. It was wonderful to have had the opportunity to speak to you today, Nuno. To close it out, we’ve got one final question for you: If there was one lasting message you could share with the world, what would it be?
You might be doing everything right to mitigate our environmental and social crises, but until you choose how your money is used, nothing will change.
A huge thank you to our wonderful guest Nuno from GoParity for participating in this interview and sharing his knowledge! If you would like to find out more about Nuno and the great work being done by GoParity, you can find more information at: www.goparity.com.
To stay up to date with all of our latest content and interviews with amazing entrepreneurs like Nuno, subscribe to the BrighterFuture newsletter here.