One evening earlier this year I joined a substantial crowd of City folk above a Covent Garden restaurant. We had gathered to hear about advances in green technology. Altruism aside, most potential investors seemed to be hoping to discover a smart new way of making money by investing in technology that could have the capability to help save our planet.
We settled down to watch various presentations. Rainbow Development showed us better ways to farm in drought-stricken areas. Impact Recycling had technology that could sort out mixed plastics. Nova Pangaea proposed replacing fossil fuel with biomass waste. Smile Plastics provided large-scale recycled plastic panels to architects. The event was organised
by the Green Angel Syndicate, described by its founder and CEO, Nick Lyth, as the only British angel investment company specialising in the fight against global warming and climate change.
Nick Lyth’s insistence that disaster is imminent unless we collectively take action is mesmerising, convincing and terrifying.
‘It’s actually dangerous to be talking about sustainability any more,’ he says, ‘because if we just carry on sustaining the position we’re in, the world’s going to end very soon. We need to be talking about reversing the catastrophe that’s unfolding. Hurricanes, storms and typhoons on an unimaginable scale, huge forest fires, Biblical floods – how can anyone say the climate isn’t changing?’ He dismisses sceptics as being incapable of processing what’s already happening daily or too ignorant and unaware to know or care what’s going on around them.
Lyth has the zeal of a young convert rather than an experienced marketing man in his sixth decade. In recent years he helped develop International Resources and Recycling Institute, becoming increasingly disturbed by our failure to manage energy, water and food – the resources we need to live on Earth – effectively for the global population and the consequent impact of that failure on the planet’s ecosystem.
When not conjuring up a vivid apocalyptic vision of global collapse, Lyth is amusing and anecdotal, a gifted speaker, flitting between topics brightly and nimbly. He talks at conferences across Europe and Britain and his crusade is to identify the young brilliant tech entrepreneurs who could have the solutions for our salvation. ‘Whatever established businesses are doing is not working,’ Lyth says, ‘so we have to back and help start-ups, so their creativity and brilliance can shine through.’
While it might seem obvious that anyone with a way of slowing down the destruction of our planet is worthy of financial help, the beauty of what Green Angel does is that it sifts and curates its companies before it nurtures them and it’s this narrow focus, knowledge and attention to detail that have won City investors’ trust.
Lyth is adamant that Green Angel only invests in companies that are really creating definable change. Take BetterPoints, a behaviour- change platform transforming habits across Europe. Its recent initiative in Bologna saw more than 20,000 people abandoning their cars to travel more sustainably. The result was 787,000 journeys on foot, 590,000 by bicycle, 508,000 by public transport and 5,450 in a shared car, saving 1,400 tonnes of carbon emissions. Richard Kirk is CEO, having done a spell as executive chairman on Green Angel’s recommendation. He says, ‘Green Angel is keen for BetterPoints to work because we’re in the social impact area. They don’t just invest and walk away, they’re about growth and see opportunities to make a critical difference. They introduced BetterPoints to two associates who manoeuvred it out of the public sector into the corporate sector, which has far wider reach and where we were able to access bigger budgets and make faster decisions.’
Powervault is a London-based start-up that specialises in smart home energy storage systems that can retain free solar energy and cheap electricity. Green Angel became a shareholder and appointed Lyth’s co-founder Simon Acland as director and chair. ‘He’s been a pillar of support and given us so much experienced business advice,’ says CEO Joe Warren. ‘Simon’s opened doors to us at senior level into some major companies and power networks, some of which have become key customers. Members of the syndicate have now invested in three funding rounds and it’s not an exaggeration to say that without Green Angel, Powervault might well not be here.’
‘None of us might be here soon unless we all step up to the plate and start doing our bit,’ concludes Lyth. ‘We should all greet the new year resolved to change our consumption habits. Green Angel will do all it can but it’s never going to be enough until we all face up to the realities of global warming.’