“I was following the crack cocaine salary trail, wandering around in the commercial wilderness. Until one afternoon, after a day surfing in the Maldives. A light bulb moment.”
In 30-50 years the Maldives will be underwater: the first extinct nation state. Is there any way of preventing climate change from becoming a truly apocalyptic scenario? Activism? Radial politics? The end of air travel? Jim Edmondson believes its possible to fight the war on climate change, and to get there he’s rewriting the rules of the financial sector.
For ten years, Jim Edmondson ran a highly successful tech company that sold cutting edge engineering solutions. Starting with just two employees, it grew to 90 in the UK with offices in China and the US. By the end of 2017, Jim had raised 78 million dollars for the company, but was beginning to peer over the cliff edge
“It was one of those wicked turning points where my marriage fell apart and I didn’t know what direction to go in. I was really down and so after being CEO for 10 years and having a huge stake in the company, I quit my job.”
With some cash saved, Jim had the chance to think about his next move and for a couple of years dabbled in consultancy, and teaching people about leadership, but it was all still geared towards making money. Having already made millions in his previous life, it didn’t feel like the right goal. Noting was really sticking.
Then one afternoon while on holiday in the Maldives he started reading Be More Pirate, one of the few books his girlfriend had packed for the trip.
“At first I thought, I really don’t want to read someone else’s business book, but I didn’t have much else to do. I got into a hammock and started reading and it was like a like a lightbulb, everything just connected. Boom.”
Jim suddenly came up with an idea that brought together everything he’d been thinking about. Growing up in Bermuda he’d always surfed, and had becoming increasingly concerned about the environment. But, he was turned off by the hippy image of being eco, and disagrees with the view that making money is evil.
“I realised that people aren’t going to change consumer behaviour rapidly. Lots of people say they want to make a lot of money but they don’t do it, and those that do, tend to be the ‘fat cats’. I think there’s a point in between. We only really innovate in crisis, and the best innovations come from free market scenarios instead of soft money from charity:. So there has to be an urgent need and the free market has to force it to be a business. I thought, yes there’s a way to really shake up the finance industry, by being more pirate.”
Jim’s plan is not quite about breaking rules – there’s a lot rules in the finance industry that you’d go to prison over. It’s more about norms, and about approaching and making and investing money from an entirely different angle. He came up with the idea of a totally different kind of fund. A fund that could breathe life into innovation.
The original idea was to create a retail fund and look to surfers as investors. Inspired by the idea of fringe movements forcing change, Jim imagined mobilising the world’s 20.4 million surfers and getting them to invest. Here was his crew.
But upon returning to the UK, the financial control authority made it clear that a retail fund would involve a huge amount of costly compliance legislation. Around the same time, he collided with Sam in person:
“By complete chance, I actually bumped into Sam at Clapham station, and I had Be More Pirate in my bag! I told him about the fund and the plan.
I know that we’re at war, I know the facts, I know that it’s a crisis, but I think we have to stop painting it as doom and gloom. We’ve overcome crises before because we’ve innovated.“
In Jim’s view, climate change is the biggest and cheapest market that’s about to explode. When you have resources depleting and a change in consumer behaviour, something will happen. Ecover, for example started in 1979, up until now it’s been seen as something that people using hemp jumpers might use, but now you have Waitrose, Tesco and other brands stocking it which tells us there’s a consumer change around that product basis. Also if places like Pret A Manger are taking the whole vegetarian model seriously, now being driven not by the suffering of animals but by the fact that meat delivers 24.2% of overall greenhouse gases. There’s another movement here. Bill Gates said this year in his annual letter that the biggest thing we need to do is invest in innovations for climate change. It’s starting to show – the predictors are there
So talking around all this, I was talking to a friend, and I was saying I was despondent because I can’t get around the regulations and he said just set it up as a normal fund, a VC fund, just one that’s not evil. So that’s when we came up with it. It’s called Takk Capp. Takk is Nordic for thank you, and our tagline is make money, do good. You can read it both ways.
He pledged that night for 1 million. We’re starting a small fund of 15 million, and I’ve raised a quarter of that in the last two weeks. That’s where we are today.
- The reasons it culminated for me, is that I’d been sitting there judging everyone else and not taking the risks.
- II believe we can have a similar lifestyle to what we’ve always had. I want to find a way we can still continue our lifestyle and make money and do good for the environment.
- It comes down to the theory of need and want. We’ve all known for a long time we’re fucking up the environment, we know we need to change but we don’t want to. That’s the difference.
That is the calling of Be More Pirate – how do we make this cool. The whole Be More Pirate thing, is not about making it a need – it’s about making it a want.
This is the fundamental of this brand and why I want Sam involved. So we’re in talks with Kelly Slater, and with Bill Gates and Richard Branson. I can’t ask people in finance – give me a million pounds for my fund –it’s totally illegal here are big laws around that. But I can break the rules slightly differently and this is totally taboo in finance, there other way is to say, we’re looking for investments. So if I get Kelly Slater out there say they’re looking for investments. it’s totally difference. My goal is not to be the biggest fund in the world (15m), but to be the most famous. I want to be the most famous fund, so I want ambassadors, people who can go and shout about the work, they’re doing it differently they’re breaking some norms, not rules. That word in finance is dangerous.
The photos are by Norman? – most famous surf photographer in the world (jack Johnson cover art).
Facts: Oil and gas have 50 years left, and if we burn all that we’re going to be 3 times over the government and the global UN figures for the total amount of emissions we can burn.
Maldives are only going to be there for another 30-50 years, a nation is going to disappear in our lifetime.
The other thing is in the intensively farmed lifestyle, if we got rid of that you can leave your car on for the rest of your life and light on and we’d do less
One of the amabssadors we’ve just got on board is Mohammed Nasheed (look him up), he’s the first demoncratically elected President of the Maldives. He was overthrown by a military coup, and he ran away to England in exile, his best friend is now the second democractically elected President of the Maldives and what’s interesting about him is that his nation is going to be lost, so he’s come on board as a Patron, and most VC funds can’t say they have a President as a patron.
How do we look for opportunities: so we have an award dinner and as part of that we have 3 pillars: a financial matrix (pretty normal), an environemental impact matrix (what is the impact twe create; the cultural impact, so you can do all of this online when you apply online for funding. THe cultural one is really great because we send an anonymous survey to your team and then will say honestly whetherit’s a good company and we will receive a blueprint of the company, and understand it well. So the awards will be: best culture, best finance model, best innovation environemental impact. It’s also a great way for us to meet big corporates and to put money back in to the fund.
Intrnally, our values: for funding it’s all about innovation, breathing life into innovation; our culture comes first, so we ave no office, I don’t force anyone to work 9-5, I don’t believe in Victorian ways of working, I don’t believe in the way we’re taught at schools, it’s like the industrial age, telling people to work a machine for these hours and not question anything. I hate the fact that when your paid to do a job, it feels like your owned between 9 and 5. So if you work for us in our fund, this is the value your looking for, I don’t care how long it takes, so long as your motivated and enjoying it.
So educate, I’m doing a series of talk around the world, dong one in LA, at 6 senses in the Maldives and it’s the first time I’ve felt like me.
The substitute meat market will be worth 7.5bn. Last year the meat market fell by 2% it’s staggering.
What am I asking for:
Looking for someone who are interested in getting involved and spreading the message, and saying this is really cool and spread the word.
For Ikea, they have a 300 million dollar fund per year, but they can’t play in this space, we’re playing at the bottom space of innovators of climate change, the great thing is that only 1 out of 10 will work but they will make the biggest impact. But these massive funds can’t invest in them because it’s too expensive and they’re saying he minimum they can invest is 5 million or 10 million so the reason I’m setting this up, so they can say you take it and you go and play around there. I’ve set the fund up soe that it doesn’t cost them as much to do it, if they went out and made 1000 investments at 100,000 to manage all those investments costs money, more than they’re actually going to make from the investment so the cycle doesn’t work and they actually lose money. So same with Red Bull, they’d be a great one to invest in.
Big hitters that are fucking up the environment: so Red Bull’s a good one.
Quite a few dinners, so if Sam wants to come along and do a talk to a very different crowd. And if wants me to come along to any of the workshops and tell the story then that’s great.
A bit more pirate for the ‘skull and cross bones award’ for the dinner.
Seed funding is really difficult in Africa because it’s so tied up with corruption,its expensive and you’re not really going to make any returns on it so I can’t use the main fund to invest in things I want to invest in.
So my first thought was Kelly Slater has just launched this brand called OuterKnown it’s a really cool brand that’s making some really cool partnerships with LEVIs and then Levis have to change their production line because its all about sustainability
So part of the conversation I’ve been having with Kelly is why don’t we do ‘Outer Known plus Takk as one off hoodie or pair of jeans and all the profits from that will go to investments that we know we won’t get a big return on, so that’s what we’re planning to do with the award dinner too.
Housing and Agriculture are the two big ones though. Housing is interesting, we’re goin to build NYC 20 x every single months for the net 40 years that is how much we’re going to do. THe issue is how much water it will use, how we source the materials, 70% of those building supplies is wood, so where is that going to come from. So I’ve been looking at substitute materials and water, and I’ve got a friend who runs a beer company called toast so they take all the excess waste bread from beer and so far they’ve used 1.5 million slices of bread which is awesome, and the amount of methane saved, and they recycle the profits. In terms of innovation tech, I’m open to anything. We’ve looked at transportation and AI models, so performance planning; how do we move humans around in a way that saves energy.
End of next year or 2021 we’re commissioning a catamaran in the Maldives which is made out of driftwood and beachwood, and we’re giving it to a school and we’ll get the world class surfers to go with. The reason I say this is that we should shy away from the fact that we should have fun while we’re working. I don’t say I’m going on a business trip, I say I’m going on an adventure.
Yes we can do good,
Yes we can make some money
Yes we can have fun along the way
We’ll be more positive and more people will be positive around you.