Before starting my journey as a Green Techpreneur, I worked as an Environmental Manager and consultant. I was heavily involved in the sustainability sector, mainly within construction and engineering. For example, I worked on major engineering projects like the newly launched Elizabeth Line in London. It was rewarding to make a real difference and reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impacts of such massive projects.
I committed to work in sustainability because climate change is the biggest challenge facing EVERYONE on earth but it’s insidious… It’s slow, gradual and almost invisible so it doesn’t get the urgent action it requires. But I guarantee it will affect, or has already affected every one of us.
The most important, impactful and life-saving businesses of the next 100 years will be those that solve the innumerable issues that arise from climate change, whether it be flooding, food and water shortages, drought and forest fires, rising temperatures or biodiversity decline. How could you NOT want to be part of the solution for that?
I founded GreenGrowth, a sustainable investing app, in 2020, and shortly after found two incredible co-founders to build with. Our mission was to empower consumers to invest and spend for a more sustainable world. We wanted to make sustainable investing as transparent and easy-to-understand as possible, showing our users in simple terms, where their money is invested and the impact it’s having on the environment around us.
From the outset, we knew it was going to be a challenge. Acquiring customers was incredibly costly for us, as it is for all retail investment platforms and that’s the game they play, how can you acquire investors for the lowest possible cost?
We always knew we needed Venture Capital investment to give us the marketing budget we needed to acquire enough customers to break-even. Unfortunately in Q4 last year, just at the start of the economic downturn, Venture Capital funding that had been available previously dried up. Where funding used to be available for high-burn high-growth companies it suddenly wasn’t. Businesses were, and still are cutting costs, letting go of employees, and some are unfortunately folding or looking for buyouts at steeply discounted valuations.
So after being on the fundraising trail for months and receiving rejection after rejection, the founding team and I could read the writing on the wall and decided to close down the GreenGrowth investing app.
It was an incredibly tough call to make, the team and I had been working tirelessly on the project for 24 months and it was very sad to let it go. One thing we always made a huge effort to do, was communicate with our shareholders and app users at this time, and all credit to them, they were incredibly supportive which really helped at a tough time.
It can be a cliche but it’s very important to reframe anything that could be seen as a ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. One of my favourite quotes from Edison is ‘I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.’
Now that’s obviously a hyperbolic example and certainly something that is impractical in the business and startup worlds. But you’d be hugely surprised at the amount of businesses that are now hugely successful but once pivoted away from a ‘failure’ of an idea:
- Nokia began as a Finnish Paper mill in 1865.
- Twitter (despite what you think of it now!) started out as a podcast subscription platform.
- Instagram was a location check-in app.
- YouTube was originally a video dating site.
The biggest lesson I learned is that failure is not failure, but being foolhardy can be your downfall. If you pursue a business, a dream, a vision to the point where you run it and yourself into the ground then you’ve helped nobody.
Stick your head above the parapet for a second, think ahead, and sometimes you can steer the ship in the right direction before you run aground. Don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.
At GreenGrowth, we read the signals, we took feedback and advice onboard and now we have successfully pivoted the company into a B2B SaaS platform that empowers the wealth management industry to make better sustainable investing decisions.
The last bit of advice I’d like to share is to ask for help. Get advice from someone, or better yet multiple people who have been there before and got the battle scars. They will be able to help you make that all-important decision on whether to stick it out, quit or simply change course.
Do you have a story about learning from climate tech startup failure that you’d like to share?
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