“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? Radical politics? The end of air travel? As Extinction Rebellion gains ground as a grassroots movement, one pirate has found a different way to save the planet.
For ten years, Jim Edmondson had run a highly successful tech company that created and sold cutting edge engineering solutions. Starting with just two employees, he grew the team to 90 in the UK and set up offices in China and the US. By the end of 2017, Jim had raised 78 million dollars for the company but on a personal level, everything was falling apart.
“It was one of those 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.”
For a couple of years, Jim dabbled in consultancy - teaching people about leadership, business, and how to create profit - everything he was good at. Yet, all of the fulfilment of his early career, the innovation and problem solving, was gone. Nothing was sticking.
It was after a day spent surfing on holiday in the Maldives that Jim started reading Be More Pirate, one of the few books his girlfriend had packed.
“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 lightbulb came on. Everything just connected. Boom.”
Suddenly, Jim came up with an idea that would unite his skills, knowledge and concerns about the environment. Growing up in Bermuda he’d always surfed, and was starting to see first hand how the oceans were being impacted by pollution. But, he’d never been able to get on board with being a fully-fledged eco warrior. So much of the green narrative ran counter to his understanding of capitalism and profit as a means to a better quality of life. He was no hippy.
He now realised that there was a clear point in-between the ‘fat cats’ and the permaculture crowd. A way to work with human behaviour rather than against it.
“We’ve all known for a long time we’re fucking up the environment, we know we need to change but most of us don’t want to. We only really innovate in crisis, but the best innovations come from free market scenarios instead of soft money from charity. So there has to be both an urgent need and the free market to force it to be a business. I thought, here is a way to really shake up the finance industry, by being more pirate.”
So TAKK Cap was born, a fund that only invests in early stage, disruptive, environmentally focused innovations.
As soon as Jim returned to the UK, he set to work and almost instantly, got a clear ‘Go’ from the universe.
“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.”
The plan is to rewrite the rules of finance without actually breaking them. TAKK is approaching the idea of raising money from a different angle by aiming to make TAKK Cap the world’s most famous fund. TAKK’s network of advisors and ambassadors is what will set them apart. Social change is happening on the fringes of society and surfers are seeing first-hand the damage that climate change is doing.
In Jim’s view, investing in environmentally focused businesses is common sense since the indicators are that the climate change market is set to explode. Last year the meat market fell by a staggering 2% and the substitute meat market is predicted to be worth £7.5bn by 2025.
Major climate change drivers such as agriculture, energy, construction & manufacturing will be TAKK Cap’s investment focus.
“Oil and gas have 50 years left, and if we burn all that we’re going to be three times over the global UN figures for the total amount of emissions we can burn. We’re going to build New York City 20 times every single month for the next 40 years - the issue is how much water it will use, how will we source sustainable materials? We’ve also looked at transportation and AI models and performance planning; how do we move humans around in a way that saves energy?”
And, TAKK Cap, as a business, is determined to be different.
“Our culture comes first, we have no office, I don’t force anyone to work 9-5, I don’t believe in Victorian ways of working and I don’t think 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.”
They apply this to their investment model too. Anyone applying for funds has to answer TAKK’s unique matrix of 200 questions assessing the financial, environmental and cultural aspects of their business. TAKK recognises that culture is as much an indicator of success as profit, or even the product itself.
The whole venture is the result of Jim’s realisation that the way things are, are not the way things have to be.
“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. I believe we can do good, we can make some money, and, we can have fun along the way.”
TAKK is creating an ecosystem where investors and the companies they invest in all benefit from each other. The investing companies are investing in technology which is going to connect them to the new market emerging from the environmental crisis and the new tech is benefitting from financial investment and an introduction into the world of the big corps.
“We’ve coined the term ‘Giving 2.0’ to illustrate a new way of applying corporate donations. By investing in early stage start-ups through one of TAKK Cap’s funds, not only is there a possible opportunity of getting a return on the investment but, more importantly, there is a higher chance of finding a technology that can have a huge impact on climate change.”
Jim is facing down barriers as he goes; he doesn’t have a background as a fund manager, he didn’t understand all the financial regulations to begin with but he is finding ways to work around them, and doors keep opening.
Being more pirate is about using the knowledge and resources at your disposal, and above all, not being afraid of the scale of the challenge.
If the public perception on climate change really starts to shift, and more people realise they don’t have to wait for governments to act, there may be more TAKK Caps. We all have professional rule breaking power; the hardest part is starting.