Stockholm (NordSIP) – More and more entrepreneurs are finding ideas to improve the world we live in while generating profits. All they need is some help to formalised their plan, coaching from experienced impact players and… a little capital to get started. At a recent event in Stockholm, we had a chance to meet Jonas Skattum Svegaarden, Director at Oslo-based Katapult Impact Accelerators, where he has a driving role in the accelerators’ growing business and global impact.
“Katapult Impact Accelerators build the world you want to live in,” states the firm’s motto. “We are the first global impact-tech accelerator and on behalf of endowments, pension funds and institutional investors,” Skattum Svegaarden starts. “Katapult manages funds which invest in profitable companies which have a positive impact on the environment or society. All companies that receive investments participate in a 3-month accelerator program in Norway. In two years only, we have screened 10,000 companies and invested in 69 companies from 29 countries, aiming to tackle all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Kataput includes two different accelerators at the moment. “The sector-agnostic accelerator covers all sectors (med-tech, food-tech, clean energy, prop-tech etc) whilst our Katapult Ocean accelerator helps ocean-tech companies (aquaculture, transportation, mobility etc),” explains Skattum Svegaarden. “We are planning to launch several thematic and regional accelerators the next years to come, and Food, Clean Energy as well as a local accelerator in Africa are first in the pipeline. The broader Katapult Family also consist of our annual three-day conference in Oslo in May, Katapult Future Fest, our podcast ++.”
Jonas has vast experience from the global capital markets and asset management industry. He was the country head of Svenska Handelsbanken Securities Norway, where he at a young age was responsible for EUR 35 billion invested in more than 60 markets globally. Before joining the Katapult family, Jonas spent 4 year as a co-founder of a successful boutique hedge fund with a responsible investment approach, CARN Capital.
“I left the hedge fund industry to focus my time and contribution to make more impact. More and more value is created by the early-stage companies, and what is more beautiful than an impactful company that is highly profitable?!” he wonders. “I had been following Katapult ever since the start and was impressed and amazed by their achievements in a short period of time.”
Katapult aims to accelerate the development of the companies they invest in but the organisation also has a broader perspective on its role and responsibility. “We have 3 main focus areas,” says Skattum Svegaarden. “First, our fiduciary duty to our investors is to have the best possible investment universe. Hence, we have deployed huge efforts to identify 10,000 companies (50% of the companies applied to participate in our program) in our deal flow. The bigger deal flow to select from, the better the portfolio of high-quality companies.”
“Second, the program must be high quality and we have been rewarded for that!” he adds proudly, as Kataput was recognised as the Best Nordic Accelerator by venture capital database Crunchbase in 2019.
“Finally, we help the companies after their cohort has gone through the program, by introducing them to VC investors, strategic companies or partners etc. This is a positive spiral: if we are known for unlocking the values for the companies after the program, for instance, we will get more and better companies that apply and so on, and so forth.”
“When it comes to a broader perspective, we believe that our mission is to make impact investment mainstream, and we will take a leading role globally and locally to push this agenda. In short, we would like to connect good companies with equally good capital.”
A broad array and a unique set of companies
“We are the first accelerator only focusing on impact tech companies from all over the world,” Skattum Svegaarden continues. “During the 3-month program in Norway, the companies come from Myanmar, Kenya, Costa Rica and many other far-away places. They often sacrificed a lot to be here, relocating 2-3 of their core team/founders during an important part of their company’s life. This shows how highly motivated companies are and how much they are prepared to do in order to get the most out of the program. No sleeping pillows! They all have the same agenda: to build the world you want to live in. Impact investors have not only their head in the game, but also their heart – which make them even more motivated and hopefully successful.”
“An example is Oziom, an Indian company that helps cities monitor Ambient Air Quality and noise pollution in real-time. Scaled to more than 25 cities on 3 continents and grew their revenue 12x the past 3 years. Another one is Deligate, a Swedish company that digitizes and automates the expiry date tracking for grocery stores to help them reduce food waste and increase revenue. More than 330 stores using its platform in 2 countries.
ESUSU tracks rent payments for middle- and lower-income class Americans, making them visible to the financial system, thereby increasing their credit score and giving them access to credit and mortgages. The company raised a seed financing round worth US$1.6m from Kleiner Perkins, among others.”
Growth and expansion
At the moment, Katapult’s biggest challenge is how to tackle growth and expansion, according to Skattum Svegaarden. “We are in an excellent position to achieve great impact, financial returns and to grow the impact scene in the Nordics and globally,” he says. “We are experiencing a lot of traction and inbound queries, for instance for our corporate accelerator programs. We have done this for several years and are currently doing one in Stockholm at the moment. There is a huge untapped potential, as some corporates are struggling to put their sustainability and innovation strategy into practice. We come in as a low-risk, off-balance-sheet option, bringing our team, know-how, deal flow, playbook and brand to the table.”
Personally, Skattum Svegaarden would like to see more investments into early-stage companies and preferably impact. “It makes sense and the investment opportunities should be greater. I hope that we soon will get over the perception that an investor should have a lower expected return by investing sustainably or ethically. On the contrary, we believe that investors should receive a premium if their investments are contributing to solving the many overarching societal and environmental challenges.”
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