Last week, I had the pleasure of joining two fellow startup CEOs, Eyal Amir of Parknav and Patrick Henry of GroGuru, to discuss impact investing and how each of our companies are trying to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our World—and rewarding our investors handsomely while doing so.
Our discussion was highly informative (you can watch it here), but I also wanted to share some of my personal takeaways. Eyal and Patrick and their companies are impressive and it was inspiring (and a little cathartic) to hear how they view some of the same challenges early-stage companies, like Joule Case, face.
All three of our companies are currently raising a crowdfunding equity round on Wefunder. With all three off to successful campaigns, we saw an opportunity to leverage each other’s audiences to expose our mission, company, and impact to more like minded people. While each company is in very different businesses, it occurred to us that each company’s investors might share a similar mindset—using capital to make a difference in the world.
What is Impact Investing?
Impact investing is an investment strategy that aims to generate specific beneficial social or environmental effects in addition to financial gains. The point of impact investing is to use money and investment capital for positive social results.
Every year since I moved to Seattle, I inevitably drive less and less. There are a variety of reasons (shout-out to you Sound Transit and Kestrel bikes) but a main reason why is parking. It’s awful. I know it probably seems less awful in less urban areas, but it’s still awful. Well, Parknav uses AI to identify available on-street parking in real-time. Best of all, there’s zero hardware and works on every street, 24/7, for all types of on-street parking (including free, metered & permit).
At first, I will admit, I didn’t fully understand the size of the market or the importance of the need. It’s just an annoyance, right? But when you do the math, the issue is astonishing. It takes on average nine minutes to find on-street parking. Across the United States that equates to 5,000,000 workdays spent on finding parking EVERY SINGLE DAY. Five Million. Two commas. 🤯
Parknav can drop the average time to find a parking spot from nine minutes to three minutes. If adopted across the country, that would save 3,000,000 workdays every day and 8,000,000 tons of CO2 emissions yearly.
To make an understatement, water is important. Ok, it’s not. It’s all-important. With global climate change, the strategic management of water for farms is not just for boosting yields, it could mean the difference between vibrancy and catastrophe. That’s where GroGuru comes in.
GroGuru provides software as a service for strategic water management, assisting farmers in sustainable crop monitoring that saves them water. Unlike other options, GroGuru is the only platform that pairs permanent, in-ground soil sensors with intelligent software to maintain and allocate optimal water levels for crops.
Like Parknav above, some of the statistics of this market are shocking. For starters, 70% of global freshwater is used for agricultural irrigation. Paired with the predicted 70% increase in global food production needed by 2050, the world simply does not have enough freshwater to support our food production needs. A big step towards solving this issue is improving water efficiency through GroGuru’s intelligent strategic water management.
The opportunity to make a difference either through company creation or investment is vast. The pessimist would say, “Of course, there’s that many problems to solve!?!” The optimist, on the other hand, would say, “Of course, there’s that many problems to solve!?!” The point is, opportunity, both financial and societal, is everywhere. But for each opportunity to reach it’s full potential, they can’t happen in isolation. Water efficiency that helps boost crop yields is only helpful if those crops aren’t decimated by ever-increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, right?
Startups that have an impact-oriented mission are uniquely positioned to work together. Impact companies are already oriented towards action. That means they aren’t bound by legacy (structural, technological, or perceptual) and will explore all available ways to make change real. This also enables faster technological convergence that may otherwise face substantial barriers to adoption. As an example, Joule Case recently shipped a battery system for a pilot project with DroneDek. DroneDek is the smart mailbox of the future and they have been awarded the first utility patent issued for drone package receiving and storage.
I took inspiration (aka stole) for this one from our gracious emcee, Travis Brodeen. Unfortunately, too many financial incentives exist to maintain the status quo. At the same time, challenges are getting more consequential by the day. New ideas from new founders of new companies who are comfortable operating outside of pre-defined structures and expectations are the key to making significant progress towards our most pressing challenges. It takes a special mindset to see constraints as opportunities rather than hindrances. It’s that very mindset that has the power to unlock the economic and societal potential of these opportunities.
Published most recently on March 15, 2022, the video on the right is what’s known as ‘the climate spiral’. It’s a compelling visualization that shows the increasing average global surface temperature change. It’s also a reminder that innovation, capital, and focus needs to shift towards impact NOW! Like I’ve mentioned above, things are getting worse by the day—more consequential by the day. There’s no time to wait.
This is a good reminder that venture creation is not about perfection, it’s about the pursuit of perfection. At Joule Case, our mission is to provide power where people need it and reduce carbon emissions while we doing it. Currently that means using Lithium-ion batteries. Clearly, Lithium-based batteries have environmental impacts of their own, but we have specifically developed our technology to be chemistry agnostic. That means that once a better, more sustainable battery chemistry is available, we can seamlessly integrate it within new and legacy products. It’s through this mentality—progress over perfection—that will get us closer to a more perfect solution faster.
The issues that Joule Case, Parknav, and GroGuru are tackling affect everyone globally. That’s why it only makes sense that the economic upside is democratized and shared by more people—not just a few. Crowdfunding is also an effective way to raise awareness of these global challenges and that solutions are actively being developed to tackle them.
If you weren’t able to watch the webinar live, you can access the webinar replay here. I highly recommend giving the roughly 54-minute replay a watch if you are interested in adding more impact-focused companies to your portfolio.