VC firm Superorganism takes eco-investing to next level

Anna Vod · September 19, 2023 · Short URL:

The firm invests in early-stage startups combating loss of biodiversity

Invasive species, destruction of habitats, overconsumption, pollution, and climate change are some of the main threats to the variety of animal and plant life on Earth – biodiversity. And the core actors of these threats are people. The good thing is: we can do something about it, and build a business while at it too.

In the VC world, there’s now a new firm, Superorganism, whose investment strategy combines innovation and nature.

Based in San Francisco and New York City, Superorganism launched last week “to find and supercharge founders taking on the planet’s most important work.” The firm invests in seed and pre-seed startups developing tech solutions involving AI, biomanufacturing, genomics, remote sensing, and robotics that address the issues of climate and biodiversity.

"Every day we meet founders using cutting-edge technologies to build nature-positive businesses, where their impacts grow with scale,” said Kevin Webb, co-founder of Superorganism, in a statement. "Because so many industries are linked to biodiversity loss, there are endless opportunities for startups to help incumbents transition, or to compete directly against them.”

Webb is a long-time angel investor, having backed companies like biotech giant Ginkgo Bioworks and carsharing platform Turo. To create Superorganism, he teamed up with Tom Quigley, a coral reef and forest conservationist and startup operator.

“I started with just a broad goal: protect the thing that I loved, and that thing was nature,” said Quigley about his journey in a LinkedIn post. “Now looking back and connecting the dots, this isn’t just the result of the past two years of work, it’s the culmination of a 15-year journey.”

An SEC filing dated January 2023 shows the firm was seeking to raise $25 million for its first fund. And Superorganism already has some unique nature-connected businesses in its portfolio.

To name a few, Superorganism’s portfolio lists Funga, a DNA sequencing and machine learning startup that restores native communities of mycorrhizal fungi, improving the wellbeing of forests; Cambium Carbon, which gives tree waste a second life and sells Carbon Smart Wood for furniture and construction; Array Labs that builds satellites to create real-time 3D maps for purposes including climate science; and Thrive Lot, which sets up and maintains edible gardens with the fitting ecosystem in people’s backyards.

There’s also Inversa Leathers, which uses invasive species like lionfish to make leather products. While it sounds inhumane at first thought, here is some context: lionfish likely spread in U.S. coastal waters after they were released from aquariums by humans. They have venomous spines, can live for 15 years and consume 56 species of valuable fishes and many invertebrates, displacing native predators and destructing coral reefs.

Addressing this issue, Inversa launched on its mission: “Crafting luxurious leathers from animals that harm the planet and harnessing the power of fashion to revive ecosystems around the world.” On its website, the company notes that it works with individual divers, ensuring traceability, that the fillets are also consumed or sold, and that it practices sustainability in its leather making.

In a statement last week, Inversa founder Aarav Chavda said: “Hands down, Superorganism has been our most valuable investor.”

Superorganism said 10% of its profits will go towards supporting future conservation efforts.

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