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People Behind the Product: Pippa Gawley, Zero Carbon Capital

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

It’s definitely working with the startups in which we are investors. It’s so inspiring to spend time with and support entrepreneurs that are so driven and focussed on solving these huge problems. We believe that the character, skills and passion of the team is critical to early stage success. We’re fortunate to have worked with many great teams already and it’s a huge motivator for me to find more in the future.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

I think any first time fund manager that doesn’t say raising money is probably kidding themselves. We’re lucky to have a broad network in both the Cleantech world and the traditional tech world, and have found many really supportive investors there. But it’s a big change to move from one side of the table as an angel investor to the other as a fund manager. It gives you a much greater insight and respect for all the entrepreneurs that are raising too!

“We believe climate risk is financial risk – the financial landscape will be completely re-written by climate change.”

What are three areas of focus for your firm this year?

Well, right now we are raising the fund, so our immediate focus is on meeting and working with investors. At the same time, we are building our pipeline of potential deals – continuing to work with Universities, Incubators and other deal flow partners to identify great teams and opportunities. And our third focus is probably learning and growing ourselves. If we are to be the most helpful investors we can, giving our investments the best support they need to succeed, we need to make sure we are knowledgeable and well connected.

What is the one thing that you would like advisers/investors to know about your firm?

We believe climate risk is financial risk – the financial landscape will be completely re-written by climate change. Existing industries will shift dramatically based on their exposure and ability to deal with the sort of changes that are coming as a result of climate change. And completely new companies will emerge that help us combat and mitigate those changes. This makes for a great opportunity for investors to participate in those value shifts.

What recent investment opportunity has caught your eye and why?

As early investors in Lilac – a company that is re-imaging the way we extract Lithium – we were really excited to see their very successful Series A. Even though this round represents a large valuation increase from our seed round (based on the amazing work the team has done moving their tech and business forward over the last two years) we think the investors got a great deal. Lithium-Ion batteries are going to be a huge component of the future energy landscape and Lilac have the team and tech to dramatically increase our capacity to manufacturer them, at both a lower cost and from a broader geographic base.

What are three things you look for when investing in a business?

As we are seed stage investing, the two biggest factors are the team and the opportunity. We look for opportunities that have the potential to reduce green-house gas emissions by the equivalent of half a gigaton a year of CO2. We think those represent areas that will have a meaningful impact on our ability to reach Net Zero and to create significant value along the way. On the team we are looking for the right balance between the scientific and engineering expertise to drive the product development along with the business sense to navigate a path to commercialisation. You need both to realise the potential of any opportunity. Finally we look at the actual technology. Is it novel, defendable and likely to scale? What are the proof points? And what are the likely steps to removing the next layer of risk?

What are three things you’d tell someone starting out in the industry?

  1. Educate yourself about everything. From the details of the science, to business models, to market structures, to tax law! This is definitely an area where knowing more will help you be a better and more helpful investor.
  2. Focus on the big stuff. When looking at companies spend significant time to convince yourself that the impact that they can have will be large. The climate crisis will have huge impacts on us, and so successful companies must be able to make a meaningful dent in that.
  3. Always be networking. There are so many smart people already in the field. Try to meet them all. Figure out how you can help them in what they are doing, and what they might be able to teach you about doing your job better.

What non-fiction book would you recommend?

Well I might cheat here and give you two. Anyone that is interested in investing in tech that will help us reach net zero, should read ‘Drawdown’. It really is the definitive analysis of opportunities to tackle this space. The team of amazing scientists that bring it together are always updating it based on the latest information and it is rarely far from view when we are analysing an investment opportunity.

The second is a more general book I read recently called ‘Good Strategy / Bad Strategy’. Unlike many strategy books I found it to be easy to digest, intellectually honest and actionable. It provides several good ways to think about the businesses in which we invest.


Pippa Gawley – Founder & Managing Director, Zero Carbon Capital

Pippa spent the past several years investing in seed-stage cleantech companies in the US and UK. Before this, she worked in R&D for eBay and ran her own consultancy.

Pippa has an MEng from Cambridge, alongside qualifications from Oxford Saïd Business School (‘Impact investing’) and Stanford University (‘Energy innovation’).

 

About Zero Carbon Capital

The Zero Carbon Fund is an EIS fund investing in early-stage companies on a mission to address climate change through technology innovation. We invest in ambitious teams with breakthrough ideas that can scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half a gigaton per year and deliver long-term value.

 


To view more about Zero Carbon Capital and their opportunities available, sign in to the CoInvestor platform here.

People Behind the Product is an interview series produced by CoInvestor highlighting the key people behind the wide range of tax-efficient investment funds you can find on our platform. By showcasing the fund managers behind the product, we aim to provide greater insight to the expertise in the market and in doing so, help advisers and investors learn more about the tax-efficient sector.

If you are interested in participating in the series, or would like to find out more, get in touch with Jessica at [email protected]

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