By: Christian Jølck
In one of the early conversations with my 2150 colleagues, we discussed the unique and significant challenge of working in the built environment: the fact that unlike most other industries the products you create must commonly retain utility, value and significance for 100 years. This time horizon and the often substantial capital investments required, mean that the industry can be slow-moving, but it also demands a focus on longevity. While “long-lasting” doesn’t always translate to “sustainable”, we believe that for a world that survives 100-year products, we actually want to live in, it should have sustainability at the core.
This requirement has become ever-more apparent as we are under the largest time pressure any generation has ever faced. Over the last twenty-odd years, economic, social and demographic changes have propelled cities and urban centres to become the principal habitat of humankind. This pressure has led to unsustainable growth, a huge demand for buildings, and the production of a vastly disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions — although they only occupy 2% of global land area, cities are associated with 70% of GHG emissions.
The International Energy Agency released a report in 2020 laying out the technologies deemed most commercially-ready with the highest level effect on reducing emissions. The vast majority are centered around our built world (both how we build it and how we heat and cool it).
Armed with this and much more evidence that echoed the same urgency, we determined that urbanisation and the levers within the Urban Stack — what we call the interdependent layers that comprise every element of the urban built environment, would be integral to our mission of ensuring a positive future. This is why as we have built the vision and strategy for 2150, one of the key requirements we have established for our investments is a big, measurable sustainability impact.
And, so began our hunt for the Gigacorns; we believe they are a city-dwelling species.
What is a “Gigacorn” you ask? My co-founder, Christian Hernandez, coined the term last year drawing inspiration from Aileen Lee’s “Unicorn”, used to describe companies with a valuation over $1B. According to Hernandez, a Gigacorn is a company whose technology can reduce global CO2 emissions by 1 gigaton of CO2 per year while being commercially viable.
To put the scale of the Gigaton number in perspective, it represents the annual CO2 pollution of Europe’s transportation sector. One analysis calculates that the entire world switching to LED would save 1,400 million tons of CO2. That would be 1.4 Gigatons. While this highlights the scale required to make a Gigaton of reductions, it also reveals the transformative effect a single technology can have.
At 2150 our mission is to find these game-changers, the Urban Tech Gigacorns that will enable a future in which the convergence of technology and sustainability in the Urban Stack has reversed the negative impact on the planet and accelerated a positive impact on prosperity.
That is why we have developed the 2150 Impact Framework to help us measure, track and report on impact metrics. Across the layers to enable, build, manage and experience the urban environment, we seek investments that satisfy our Impact Principles, listed below:
- Carbon Mitigation & Removal- companies which are materially reducing, removing or mitigating CO2 emissions.
- Resilience & Social Balance- companies that enable healthy, safe, and livable cities with a healthy social-economic balance.
- Resource Efficiency- companies that can reduce resource waste, solve water scarcity, and reduce environmental burdens.
- Profit & Purpose- companies that deliver both exponential impact and productivity outcomes.
For each of these principles we will measure and track a variety of KPIs at both a company and portfolio level, for example millions of tons of CO2 equivalent reduced or mitigated, millions of tons of waste saved or reused, millions of citizens’ lives extended, millions of liters of water reused or saved, increase in number of people with access to clean water, increase in number of people with access to affordable homes.
This ethos of measurable impact is ingrained throughout our investment approach, from problem identification and deal sourcing through to liquidity and exit. Our due diligence process requires validation of mission-driven founders, confirmation of alignment with our impact principles, clear future potential impact with measurable trajectory and targets, detailed sustainability due diligence and the determination of an overall “impact score” for the firm.
Through this blueprint we seek to discover the Gigacorns that will have the potential to benefit billions of people, create billions in commercial value and lower gigatons of emissions at scale.
There is no time to waste. Let the expedition begin.
Penned from Copenhagen, where our ambition is to be the first carbon neutral capital city in the world by 2025.
2150 is a venture capital firm investing in technology companies that seek to sustainably reimagine and reshape the urban environment. 2150’s investment thesis focuses on major unsolved problems across what it calls the ‘Urban Stack’, which comprises every element of the built environment, from the way our cities are designed, constructed and powered, to the way people live, work and are cared for. Find out more at www.2150.vc