Greenbackers Founder Robert Hokin was interviewed by Forbes.com sustainability contributor Marianne Lehnis about his thoughts about climate technology, investment, and future opportunities.
In the past 15 years, Robert Hokin, Managing Partner at Greenbackers Investment Capital, has seen cleantech grow from “an alternative asset class that’s kind of nice to have” to a burgeoning investment opportunity: “There’s pressure on boards to be more receptive and proactive to the sustainability agenda, fossil fuels have come out of favour, funds are finally seeing the economic opportunity in investing in net-zero. These elements were absent as recent as five years ago, but they have come into play in a huge way,” says Hokin.
ESG funds quadrupled from 2019 to 2020, and global assets in sustainable funds hit a record high of £930 billion in the third quarter of 2020, according to Morningstar data.
“There’s a tidal wave of potential and pent up capital waiting to come into the sector, but on the innovation side of things, early-stage companies with great programs may not know how to access it.
“Governments are focused on net-zero, corporates are trying to green their supply chain, investors are looking for the next level of return,” says Hokin.
Greenbackers links up investors with cleantech startups, and is gearing up to launch a £50-£100 million fund next year: “my partners and I see it as an economic, environmental and societal necessity, but the entrepreneurs who invent and develop these technologies were struggling and continue to struggle to access private capital and see the adoption of their products and services.
“We’re pathfinders in that area and we’re very passionate about catalysing investment needed to make things happen to build a more sustainable society.”
Greenbackers Investment Capital is cabled into about 150 accelerators and is tracking about 2,000 companies.
Hokin says he’s seeing hotspots for greentech investment emerging in E-mobility: “One of the companies we supported in their early days was an outfit in the EV charging space called Osprey. We helped them raise a series A funding round,” says Hokin. “Since then, they’ve been rapidly rolling out charging spaces and infrastructure across the whole of the UK. They’ve been bought out by an infrastructure fund so there was a successful exit for the initial investor, which is always good news because if it’s an investment bank, they’re going to recycle the capital.
“You have a company that is going places, investors that came in and made money, and a technology programme that is helping the faster rollout of electric vehicles which are critical to the transportation space in the UK going forward. It’s a triple win.”
Hokin flagged green hydrogen, agtech and the convergence of AI – intelligent computer-generated farming as further high-interest areas for climatetech investors.
The oceans have become a further hotspot for innovation, not just for offshore renewables, but the generation of power at sea for underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles. There are also promising new developments in agtech with seaweed or kelp which may provide ocean-based agricultural solutions for human consumption as well as animal feed.
With a flood of capital pouring into climatetech innovation and snowballing momentum to transform every industry to carbon-neutral, today’s current investment trends and cleantech startups are likely to become the multinationals that change the world of tomorrow.