Martin Giles article appeared on Forbes.com
Robert Downey Jr. dives into the world in venture capital, announcing, at the virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum (staged on January 27 in Davos), the launch of two new investment funds. Forming part of a larger theenvironmental initiative Already initiated by the Hollywood superstar, the funds will support companies developing business models and technologies that help address some of the toughest challenges posed by climate change.
“This global existential threat is not something that will be solved by a handful of elite mega-corporations,” the Iron Man actor said at the event. “I think the paradigm needs to be broken in favor of innovation by a large set of new companies.”
Building a coalition for change
Talking with Forbes, before the formal announcement of FootPrint Coalition Ventures (FCV), Robert Downey Jr. stressed that the funds represent an important extension of the work of the FootPrint Coalition, a philanthropic project that debuted in 2019 and which aims to bring together investors, donors and storytellers to find new solutions to pressing environmental issues.
“This is not the time to stand by,” Downey said. “We are becoming very serious about our ability to play a relevant role in this industry.” FCV’s goal is to support for-profit initiatives that can become significant players in their sectors while fighting climate change.
One of the funds will focus on seed and series A investments, while the other will focus on the opportunities of the next phase, from Round B onwards. FCV hopes to attract thousands of qualified and accredited investors using a one model rolling fund (a new type of vc fund), managed together with AngelList, which accepts quarterly subscriptions.
The funds will be managed by experienced tech investors and entrepreneurs such as Jon Schulhof and Steve Levin. (Levin is also the brother-in-law of Robert Downey Jr. and co-founder of Team Downey, a television, film and digital production company that he leads with Downey and Susan Downey, wife of the star.) Rachel Kropa, who recently joined the FootPrint Coalition to advance her scientific and philanthropic efforts, will be responsible for evaluating the possible environmental, social and governance benefits of potential fund investments.
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The personal commitment of Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr, what a second Forbes in 2019 he earned 66 million dollars thanks to his film work and more, he would have provided the 10 million dollars necessary to start the FootPrint Coalition itself, with the knowledge that he would have invested more of his own money in the funds. “I am willing to show that my skin is at stake,” he told a Forbes.
Schulhof says Downey and other partners will invest 10% of the equity in each rolling fund, up to a limit of $ 500,000 per year for the initial phase and $ 1 million per year for the subsequent phase vehicle. Obviously these limits on their commitments can be modulated according to how the funds develop. The team will seek out promising young companies in industries ranging from food manufacturing to energy and materials science. It will also analyze media opportunities related to green tech.
FCV has already made its first investment, participating in a $ 50 million funding round for Aspiration, a Los Angeles-based lender that ensures that clients’ money is invested in sustainable projects rather than those involving projects such as fossil fuels. “With the FootPrint Coalition, Robert Downey Jr. is literally putting his money where he promised and is getting others to do the same,” said Andrei Cherny, co-founder and CEO of Aspiration, in comments emailed to Forbes. “Even if there are not enough people on the platform yet, thanks to his profile he is able to make others take that courageous step”.
FCV could also invest in future rounds raised by companies that the FootPrint Coalition has already supported. These include Ynsect, which is building the world’s largest integrated manufacturing factory to turn insects, and mealworms into animal proteins and fertilizers, and Cloud Paper, which uses ultra-renewable bamboo to make products like toilet paper and paper towels.
In search of sustainability
The movie star and his colleagues will enter a crowded market. A report published last year by the Responsible and Sustainable Investments Forum found that US assets subject to investments that focus on sustainability amount to just over 17 trillion dollars, or about a third of US assets managed by professionals.
Robert Downey Jr., who intends to use his storytelling skills and huge social media following to help the funds and companies he invests in, says he is excited about the challenge and is looking forward to taking the difference. And he’s already stepping into his new venture capital role, joking that he’ll be seen as one of the financial backers who tested entrepreneurs in the series. Shark Tank of ABC. “I am the shark,” he said, “who wants to tell the story of the rescue of my species.”