Seth Bannon, Fifty Years: Big swings at big challenges (podcast). Back in 1931, Winston Churchill predicted we’d grow real meat without the animals. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its first approval for climate-friendly cultivated meat to Upside Foods. In his prescient essay, “Fifty Years Hence,” Churchill also predicted synthetic biology, nuclear power, satellite telephony and genetic engineering. But the pace of technological change was advancing so rapidly, he warned, that technologists could be accelerating in the wrong direction. Seven years ago, Seth Bannon and his partner Ela Madej launched the venture capital firm Fifty Years to try to get tech back on track. “We only want to back founders that are taking incredibly big swings and incredibly risky paths but ones that might fundamentally push the world forward if they succeed,” Bannon told ImpactAlpha’s David Bank in an Agents of Impact podcast.The San Francisco firm raised a $90 million third fund last year. Fifty Years’ big swings include chemical decarbonization firm Solugen, now valued at more than $2 billion, and satellite internet company Astranis, valued at $1.4 billion. Upside Foods, the lab-grown meat producer whose cultivated chicken was green lit by the FDA, is valued at over $1 billion (for background, see “Fifty Years’ bets on ‘deep tech’”). Bannon says a focus on hard-to-solve, long-term challenges like climate, disease and connectivity could help VCs rebound from short-term, get-rich-quick schemes like “crypto, jet packs and delivery apps.” At the same time, impact investors could accelerate transformational change with bigger, riskier bets on deep technologies like clean hydrogen and carbon-negative chemicals. Fifty Years’ thesis is that founders building companies to address the world's biggest problems “have systemic advantages that will help them outcompete companies that aren't,” Bannon says. “That thesis has been proved out.” – Dennis Price
The Week's Dealflow
Deal spotlight: TPG Rise’s $7.3 billion climate plan takes shape. Jim Coulter has gotten climate religion. Since taking the helm of TPG’s impact-focused Rise fund last year, Coulter has completed his transformation from buyout buccaneer to climate apostle (see, “The education of Jim Coulter”). This week, Rise Climate stood up Rubicon Carbon, a marketplace for buying and selling carbon offsets, with $300 million and a pair of former Bank of America heavyweights. Rubicon will source carbon offsetting projects from Anew Climate, itself a TPG-led rollup of Element Markets and Bluesource. That sets up a powerful flywheel for carbon offsets, which are projected to reach $50 billion by 2030 as corporations scramble to meet net zero goals. TPG has also taken a $1 billion stake, with Abu Dhabi’s ADQ, in an electric vehicle spin-off of India’s Tata Motors. Climate-tech, Coulter told analysts last month, is “one of the real bright spots” in a complicated investment landscape. Policy tailwinds in the U.S. and Europe and this year’s extreme weather around the globe have highlighted an historic “imbalance between the amount of specialized capital needed and the amount of specialized capital that's been formed,” he says. TPG’s Rise Climate fund clinched $7.3 billion in commitments in April to look for “the “Googles of the climate revolution.” The firm is already looking to raise climate-adjacent funds next year and a follow-on to its climate flagship fund in 2024. Says Coulter, “There's lots of opportunities between now and then.”
The Week's Talent
Gary Community Ventures’ chief investment officer Santhosh Ramdosswill replace Mike Johnston as president and CEO… Victoria de Castro, ex- of World Benchmarking Alliance, joins The Predistribution Initiative as an associate director… Kate Turner is promoted to global head of responsible investment at First Sentier Investors, succeeding Will Oulton, who will retire at the end of the year.
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures, which supports ImpactAlpha’s Investing in Health coverage. In partnership with J&J Impact Ventures, ImpactAlpha is exploring the …
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