Meet the investors: James Joaquin, Obvious Ventures

We asked James Joaquin, a Los-Angeles based investor with a keen interest in sustainability, what’s currently piquing his interest – and what’s turning him off.
What business models are interesting you currently?

‘We were early investors in software and services that accelerate the deployment of renewable energy generation like solar and wind. We look for companies that have a scalable business model not requiring government subsidies or carbon taxation. Examples include Sighten (software for solar installers) and Mosaic (customised financing for residential solar and energy efficiency).’

What sectors are hot at the moment for ethically-minded brands right now?

‘We’re excited about two consumer sectors at the intersection of profit and purpose: plant-based foods and wellness. Shifting away from eating animals has a profound positive impact on both climate and human health – our investment in Beyond Meat is a great proof point. In wellness, we saw great success with Olly vitamins and we’re now investing in CBD wellness with Beam.’

What do you want to hear from a sustainable founder?

‘First, I want to know “why”. Of all the things you could do, why this? Starting with purpose is important. After that, the team, the market size, and the uniqueness of the product are all key.‘

When you get a pitch, how do you judge it?

‘I believe interpreting a pitch is part art and part science. There are tangible things to fact check and measure, and intangible feelings and intuition that come into play.’

What buzzwords are you tired of hearing?

‘Honestly, I’m tired of hearing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in pitches. They are really important as a global lingua franca for impact, but they’re way too high level for the nuts and bolts of building a startup.’

How do you assess the trade-off between profit and doing good?

‘I think this is a false trade-off. For the right kind of company, profit and purpose are a flywheel that accelerate each other. That’s what we call world-positive business.’

You might like these, too