There are new modes of operating and a shift towards more environmentally-friendly solutions on the markets where our companies operate and are experiencing strong growth. During the last five years, the cost of more environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional solutions have radically dropped and we clearly see through the growth of companies such as ResQ Club, Swap.com, and Plugsurfing that willingness to adopt these solutions has increased steadily.
No single geographic location can tackle our global challenges in isolation.
Loudspring invests and grows companies that create impact in their respective industries. Eagle Filters reduces the amount of CO2 that a power plant emits by purifying intake air to make gas turbines more efficient, and is recently being tested for use in diesel generators. ResQ Club saves thousands of meals every day from going to waste while giving consumers an affordable alternative to feeding both themselves and their families. Similarly, Swap.com gives consumers a cheaper alternative for clothing that would otherwise have gone into a landfill through an online secondhand marketplace, and is helping to re-define the way we consume clothing. NoCart’s offering is in line with the way that the third world is being developed and because of the affordable micro-grids that we are providing projects are being developed that would otherwise be unfeasible. Populations will be electrified, food will be grown locally, and economies will be created. All the companies in our portfolio have been selected because of their wide-ranging impacts, and potential as a viable alternative to traditional capital intensive or waste intensive industries.
Based on the previous article in this series (which you can read here), the question at hand is to find the correlation between impact and recession proof with regards to both investor or shareholder sentiments and the fundamental feasibility of impact oriented business models in a recessive economy .
Our model has primarily relied on staying away from business cases that depend on state funding to succeed and have companies that simply make sense and have focused on the fundamental offering. Swap.com gives you 90% off retail; ResQ Club gives you great meals at half price; Eagle Filters and Enersize both have a less than one year pay-back on your investment.
Loudspring CEO Alexander Lidgren comments:
“Resource efficiency simply always makes sense and maybe even more so in a correction. Shareholders are not immune to the companies they own, there is no rational capital. We are all influenced by external factors, even though we try to remove it through valuation models. Shareholders would rather invest and own companies that they care about. They will also have more patience with these companies in tough times.”
Taking a closer look at companies’ operation in the industrial space, the challenge has been moving into current industries without disrupting their process while at the same time providing incremental innovations that individually increase the profitability of an asset, and rolled out on a larger scale have a significant environmental impact.
It may seem individually irrelevant if a single gas turbine opts to use a more efficient air filter, however when you take into consideration that over 40% of all energy in California is generated through these turbines, and a better air filter can provide up to 10% efficiency gains on the asset, the cumulative impact becomes increasingly important.
Juha Kariluoto CEO of Eagle Filters puts it as follows;
“Gas Turbines are needed in the transition phase from fossil fuels to renewables and after that supporting renewables with using H2 as fuel. What we do is minimize the environmental impact of production, maximizing a product’s impact to customers emissions and optimizing a product’s service life. As much as it is possible we exploit digitalization and develop our own digital services, monitor technological research and develop new, better and ecologically more viable products. While at the same time educating customers to understand the impact on emissions and profit. 1M saving (in 5% net profit level) in fuel represents approximately 20M revenue.”
The business feasibility of Eagle Filters lies in its ability to seamlessly integrate into the current assets that are powering our cities. Eagle’s solutions offers at its core a significant reduction of CO2 savings for the turbine operate, however this reduction in CO2 comes as a result of less fuel burned for the same energy output which subsequently comes as a result of burning cleaner air. The marketplace for gas turbines is complex and is populated by large energy providers, private equities, and private owners with PPAs. Eagle’s success in the space comes not only from the CO2 savings, but from the ability to promise better returns on investments to the owners or operators of the Gas Turbines. The incremental investment to install Eagle into the Gas Turbine is minimal and has been proven to be paid back within months, and in some cases even days. Therefore it is difficult to see a scenario in which this proposition would be turned down, regardless of the economic environment.
Perhaps none of our portfolio companies is as poised as Swap.com to thrive during a correction, as we can see from the following excerpt from a 2009 survey conducted by the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops (NARTS) following the GFC:
“Of the 263 stores that responded, 64.1 percent said sales increased — with an average increase of approximately 31 percent — 11.5 percent said sales were about the same and 24.4 percent had a decrease in sales,” it said.
With Swap.com, we are creating the market for mass preowned merchandise. The big retailers are reacting to the uproar over fast fashion by launching green initiatives while continuing to operate in their usual way. Swap.com has reengineered the process for sourcing, selling and buying from the ground up.
Rich Lesperance, CMO at Swap.com comments:
“We operate in the apparel market, which is important because the amount of waste and pollution this industry generates is staggering. What we realize is that we have to compete on price and selection with the same retailers that are polluting the earth. People think kindly of us for what we do for the planet, but everyday consumers can’t choose what they purchase based on the environment alone.”
The market for second hand clothing is something which is often overlooked. However, the market has been growing significantly over the last decade, partially as a result of the increased adoption of fast fashion which has created massive surplus, as well as more recently increased consumer awareness on their own personal emissions. Similarly to Eagle, the fundamental business offering that Swap.com offers is not primarily based on emission, but on marketplace inefficiencies. The reality is that a vast majority of the population still lives from paycheck to paycheck, and the solution that Swap.com offers is a cost effective alternative with relatively little or no downside.
Sofi Filtration operates in the industrial water treatment space, but their technology has wide ranging implications that are being put to use around the world. Water is an increasingly important resource, and as problems continue to arise, this is not a space that is geared towards short term profits. As the need for clean water, and smarter uses for our resources in general grows, the potential for those providing solutions will continue to increase. Investors who put their capital to work understand this.
As Ville Halkala (CEO Sofi Filtration) puts it:
“The water need and fresh water supply is and will continue ever strongly to be imbalanced due to the rapid population growth especially in water stressed areas. Technology and entrepreneurs will play critical roles in the change, and it is the responsibility of us who have the means (educational, capital, etc.) to solve the water crisis to do so. Higher level of automation in this instance helps local municipalities as the water treatment operational complexity is lowered and local talent pool can be more widely utilized.”
When asked about why he chooses to tackle this problem every day Ville points towards his sense of responsibility. Something that resonates among most, if not all our CEO’s:
“The personal responsibility, the way I see it consists of 3 major items: Firstly, I have responsibility to clean and save water for primary human needs. Secondly, I have a company culture and a team that hopefully feel at home in the company and that the company values would reflect to the stakeholders largely. Thirdly, the company has received significant support from the Finnish government, and I feel obligated to give back, in form of employment and exporting activity.”
Sofi Filtration is poised to take advatange of perhaps one of the greatest macro-trends to hit our lifetime; water-scarcity. While like Eagle and Swap.com Sofi offers a cost saving and emission saving alternative. The implications for providing industrial amounts of clean water are far greater. The market is quickly realizing that clean water can no longer be taken for granted and Sofi is positioned to provide a solution not only in the industrial space but as well in your own home.
Leaving aside the business model, I would like to take a look at the structure of our portfolio companies from a disruptive point of view, and shine a light on why we chose to focus on companies that operate within the current economic landscape.
To that end while the success of a FAANG or a Tesla may make the news today, what creates a better future are not the achievements of a single company but incremental changes across an industry. This is why we believe in supporting foundations, and consistently making industries better through innovations that when bundled together create significant impact.
When we look at the way that technology has evolved over time, it has been a mix of incremental innovation that cumulatively lead to disruption. Regardless of the industry, we do not operate in isolation. We often overlook the seemingly unimpressive innovations which over time lead to something revolutionary.
Malminrinne 1 b, 00180
Joshua B. Kirkman