Giving Compass’ Take:
• B the Change profiles Obvious Ventures, which finances what it calls “world positive” companies, ones that show promise in providing sustainable solutions for our planet.
• For impact investors looking at environmentally-friendly startups, it’s worth looking at how Obvious approaches their portfolio. There’s an emphasis on innovation and mission alignment, rather than an over-reliance on metrics.
Entrepreneurs, often lauded as “disruptors” in their fields, are now matched by a radical disruption happening in the way they get funded. Located in Silicon Valley and making early-stage venture capital investments, Obvious Ventures is betting on a way of investing that disrupts the process at its core. The firm makes investments in what it calls “world positive” companies: “Startups that create new solutions to big world problems in a profitable and scalable way.”
And Obvious takes a long-term view when choosing companies to support. “The world is continually going through major reinvention, and entire industries are being re-imagined,” says Andrew Beebe, managing director for Obvious. “Now more than ever, if we do that in a way that has a long-term view into the market that it’s re-imagining, we think the outcomes are going to be economically better. We think we can outperform as a venture fund because of our focus on world positive companies.”
On the heels of its certification, B the Change spoke with Beebe about how Obvious defines world positive, where the rest of Silicon Valley is headed, and companies that are doing remarkable things.
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B THE CHANGE: How do you balance finding “world positive” and financially sound investments?
BEEBE: I’ll give you an example. We are investors in Proterra, which designs and manufactures zero-emission electric buses. I think 10 years from now, the idea of a diesel or even a natural gas-powered municipal bus is going to sound kooky. Our opinion is that investments in diesel hybrid engines or natural gas conversion are bad investments. We’re making a somewhat contrarian bet; we’ve said everything is going to become electric, so we’re gonna bet on those companies. That is a viewpoint that differs from the norm, but it also happens to be one that would be championed by sustainability leaders or people thinking about the environment. We think the reason this company will grow and be worth billions in the future is because of their world-changing impact.
Another example would be that we don’t invest in enhanced oil recovery, which will likely make money in the short term, but will be economically disastrous in the long term. We look for things that will be resilient over time.
That’s not to say there isn’t a shorter-term aspect to what we’re doing, too. We’re investors in Planet Labs, which designs, builds and operates the largest constellation of Earth-imaging satellites. A lot of what they do is centered on mapping that is environmentally helpful; that mapping already has been sold to farmers, creating strong revenues. That’s a “here-and-now view,” but we believe it will remain relevant in 20 or 30 years, too.
Read the full article about Obvious Ventures and their bets on sustainable solutions at B the Change.
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