Ready to scale up, six environmental entrepreneurs from around the world make their case to investors in New York City.
The inaugural New Ventures Global Investor Forum, held last week in New York City, showed how environmental entrepreneurship can provide clean economic growth and investment opportunities in emerging markets. Six environmentally-focused entrepreneurs presented their business models to an audience of over 160 leading investors and businesspeople. The forum, themed “Green Opportunities in Tomorrow’s Markets,” showcased a wide range of companies, from Ouro Verde, a sustainable Brazil nut harvester working with Amazonian communities, to Sinen En-Tech, a Chinese industrial steam recycling company helping its industrial customers reduce energy and water use.
As the world’s population continues to rise, innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will play an important role in conserving resources such as water, energy and biodiversity. Steven “Mac” Heller, Chairman of electric car company CODA Automotive and former Goldman Sachs banker, provided the keynote address. He spoke about the power of entrepreneurs to address critical environmental problems while simultaneously creating profitable businesses. “We have the ability to build companies that are sustainable for the environment and are themselves sustainable,” he said.
“We have the ability to build companies that are sustainable for the environment and are themselves sustainable.”
—Steven “Mac” Heller, Chairman of CODA Automotive
The role of environmental entrepreneurs will be especially critical in emerging economies because of the rapid economic growth expected in those markets over the next few decades. New Ventures entrepreneurs from Brazil, China, India and Mexico delivered presentations explaining their companies’ business models and their positive environmental and social impacts. They also highlighted significant competitive advantage. For example, Ecostar, a Chinese company that recycles and remanufacturers used photocopiers at a fraction of the price of new copiers, is the only company in China licensed to import used copiers.
All of the companies that attended the forum are ready to scale up, and are looking for international investment to implement their growth plans. Mexican biotechnology company AliBio plans to expand into ten international markets, while Indian renewable energy company Husk Power Systems aims to increase its number of rural power plants from 80 to 2,000 over the next five years.
Following the presentations, a panel of experts questioned each company about its potential to provide environmental solutions and solid financial returns. The panel was composed of WRI President Jonathan Lash, Investors’ Circle CEO Suzanne Biegel, Namir Capital Management Partner Erik Mielke, and New Ventures Mexico Director, Rodrigo Villar. The Executive Director of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Randall Kempner, served as moderator.
Panelists discussed the need for innovative financing options for SMEs in emerging markets as well as the value of strong support networks and business training opportunities. “When looking at companies in emerging markets, I always consider what the ecosystem of mentoring and coaching is on the ground,” said long-time impact investor Suzanne Biegel.
The New Ventures Global Investor Forum provided an opportunity for a diverse mix of traditional financial investors, impact investors and emerging market environmental entrepreneurs to come together in New York for the first time. To date, New Ventures’ investor forums have been held in each of its six countries of operation – but as the New Ventures Global Network continues to strengthen, so does its potential to inspire the debate about environmental entrepreneurship on an international stage.
At the post-event reception, audience members were able to meet and speak to entrepreneurs about their businesses and potential investment opportunities. “My fellow entrepreneurs and I were surrounded by a unique atmosphere of supporting camaraderie,” said Francesco Piazzesi, director of Mexican sustainable housing company, Échale a Tu Casa. There were “people from all around the world, investment from many funds, goodwill, and an audience that believed in community, environment and entrepreneurship.”
New Ventures is the World Resources Institute’s center for environmental entrepreneurship – providing business development services to environmentally-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets. Visit the New Ventures website for more information.