Rising startup investor David Hamilton Nichols believes in business models that are doing well by doing good, and the companies in his impact portfolio are creating value for their shareholders by adding value for all stakeholders while addressing many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In a world facing existential crises and potential extinction events, individuals and businesses are called to find new solutions to current and age-old problems. Those who do will not only bring sweeping changes to society as we know it, but also reap extraordinary rewards of both social and financial capital.
COVID-19 in the shorter term and climate change in the longer term are causing the planet to reconsider ways of doing things. Those who solve these problems will impact billions of lives for years to come. Hence, Mr. Nichols’ portfolio contains companies dealing with both of these global issues, including Aō Air, whose New Zealand founders are rethinking respiratory protection for the world with a “new alternative to traditional N95” respirators and CHOOSE, a Norwegian company that “builds digital tools so that we all can make climate action part of everyday life.”
With tremendous changes affecting industry through automation, a trend only to be accelerated by the pandemic-induced job losses and future potential shifts caused by the changing climate, another impact startup in Mr. Nichols’ portfolio is positioned to make impact. Ahura AI is a company “retraining workers for jobs of the future” using AI to “upskill your workforce up to 5x faster than traditional education.”
This decade all comes down to how we can survive and thrive as a species, and those providing a path forward will prosper by creating progress. Or as Mr. Nichols phrased it as a panelist at the Nobel Peace Center during Nobel Prize Week 2019: “A lot of times businesses in the past have looked at doing good as an option. Actually, it’s the way to go. If we don’t focus on what’s good, we’re going to miss out on the solutions that are actually going to be the biggest moneymakers of the 21st Century.”
Mr. Nichols also views emerging markets, such as Africa, as key in alternative development strategies because they have the opportunity to see what the United States and Europe have done, both the good and the bad, and, starting fresh, add their own unique flavor and improve upon it through innovative technologies and practices.
David Hamilton Nichols believes that by handling today’s crises well and with forethought, we lay the groundwork for not just the continuance of civilization, but for tomorrow’s sustainable economic growth and greater wellbeing for our societies and the planet.
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