Stockholm (NordSIP) – Despite the economic crisis and the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, impact opportunities continue to flourish. Jonas Skattum Svegaarden (pictured) who just took the helm as CEO of Oslo-based Katapult Ocean, moving from his previous role as Director at Katapult Impact Accelerators, shares the exciting challenges that lie ahead.
Since we last caught up with Skattum Svegaarden in November 2019, Katapult has accelerated and invested in 33 companies from 15 countries through its 2 accelerator programs, Katapult Accelerator and Katapult Ocean. The latter focuses, as its name indicates on supporting startups with a positive impact on the ocean. From inception in 2018, Katapult Ocean has invested in 22 ocean startups in 14 countries.
Skattum Sveggarden is particularly excited by the progress made by Kataputl Ocean recently. “We recently hosted our Katapult Ocean Demo Day attracting more than 300 investors and mentors,” he starts. “We have screened more than 1300 tech-companies and shared our insights about innovation in the Ocean-tech space at the World Economic Forum and the UN Global Compact General Assembly.”
For now, the pandemic has changed the dynamic of how the accelerator interacts with entrepreneurs and Skattum Svegaarden sees the bright side of this new way of business. “The pandemic forced us to digitalize our accelerator program, and the feedback has been great,” he says. “Our busy founders appreciate more efficient participation and tailor-made content. We are also spending more time with our portfolio companies. We assist them to adjust, pivot, strategize and grasp the opportunities – because there are great opportunities right now for the ones that are pushing through.”
Katapult Ocean is currently raising a larger fund to invest the next 4 months. “The pandemic is working in our favour,” Skattum Svegaarden adds. “As many other investors are pulling back, financing has become harder for startups. Great companies seek us for ‘smart capital’, and I think the value of our program has been increased. Startups value the benefits of getting accelerated and being connected to our network of more than 200 mentors and investors, even more than they used to. Isolation and travel bans are not ideal for making new connections which is crucial for growing a startup. With our successful digital accelerator program, we can also reach out to companies that normally were not able to leave their operations and travel to Oslo‚” he adds. “We have also imposed the possibility to increase our investment amounts to create a longer runway for the companies, which decreases the financing risk and increases their chances of success.”
Skattum Svegaarden is very enthusiastic about taking the reins of Kataput Ocean as CEO, given his passion for the see. “I am joining an amazing team at Katapult Ocean, in an environment where I can contribute, hands-on, with creating value for investors, helping passionate founders, and making great impact on the Ocean and world,” he explains. “I am fortunate to have a passionate team of tech-investors and true friends of the ocean. Rikke, Ingrid, Jakub and Ross complement my expertise and experience, and I think I can add some great value to the investment team after analysing various business models and sectors and investing in many companies. I cannot wait to dive even deeper in the details of the ocean-tech and the blue economy, a passion I have enjoyed privately, but that I can now work with full-time. As all my friends and family know – whenever I get the chance, you will find me in, on, or by the ocean. To grasp the opportunities and create a positive impact with this enormous, powerful and blue element is a privilege.”
In the near future, Skattum Svegaarden’s days will likely not be spent idling by the water, as his agenda is already full. “We need to select the best 12-20 startups to constitute the next cohort to our program in September. We are interviewing companies from all over the world now, and our problem is to have to exclude high-quality companies and teams rather than to scout and search for them. Alongside, we are meeting investors for our fund. Some investors are still consistent in their strategy, which I genuinely believe in. However, we see several investors taking a risk-off approach. In my opinion, now more than ever, it is important for investors to take risk, while controlling their overall portfolio exposure. A focused, thematic fund like ours is more transparent to investors, and we invest predominately in B2B-models and less correlated B2C. I am somewhat hesitant to buy into new or some existing consumer models as consumer behaviour may shift somewhat in the near future. We are not certain how this will end, but we are confident that we have seen enough to identify which business models, risks, and sectors we are reluctant to invest in. That is an important part of our job as investment managers.”
“We have our eyes on the prize and shall continue to invest and accelerate amazing companies consistently. It is our responsibility on behalf of investors and startup-community to consistently host accelerator programs, grow the ecosystem by field building and provide an impact fund for professional investors to invest in.
Our ambition is to grow our fund and canalize more capital into innovation and impact investments. Hence, we have increased the target fund size to facilitate this,” Skattum Svegaarden concludes.
Picture courtesy of Katapult Ocean