Duncan Grierson (1988)
Duncan Grierson (1988) has worked in sustainable investment for the past 20 years. His app, Clim8, allows the public to easily invest in companies that are making a positive impact on the environment. Read on for more on Duncan’s newest venture, as well as his thoughts on the climate crisis and becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Hello Duncan! Briefly summarise Clim8.
Clim8 is a digital app for sustainable investments, designed to empower people to make a difference with their savings. Our mission is to make a positive impact on climate change. Clim8 is a “pure play” (a company focused on a single industry niche), and offers a sleek, transparent and easy-to-use platform for people to invest in companies that are already tackling the most significant problem our planet faces. Our ambition is big: we want to build a global movement and raise awareness of climate change. We recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube and have already raised more than 200% of our investment target from over 800 investors. It really shows that people are looking for this kind of solution!
How did you come up with the idea and how did it then become a reality?
I come from a sustainability background. For the past twenty years my passion has revolved around tackling climate change. I have built and invested into a range of companies that are positively impacting our environment. A year ago, I had the idea for Clim8 and I have had my head down since, making it a reality.
While the impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful, there’s an even deeper emergency — the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis … Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return.
What are your personal thoughts on the climate crisis?
I have two children, aged five and eight. Like most parents, I want to leave a better future for them. Over the last few decades, we have contributed significantly to the climate crisis. We now need to act decisively to protect our planet from the enormous disruption that the crisis is already bringing to our lives. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently stated, “While the impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful, there’s an even deeper emergency — the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis … Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return.”
What does your work-life balance look like? Do you work in an office, from home or on the move?
At Clim8 we have an office in Hammersmith, West London, where our team of 11 people is based. Due to COVID-19, we’ve been working from home and I’m very proud of how we’ve continued to be productive and work collaboratively while staying close to our mission, even from a distance. The whole team cares deeply about our objective and we have developed a positive and transparent work culture. We recently introduced #TeamTime, a 20 minute virtual coffee break after lunch on Zoom where we get together to share non-work related updates. Last week we had a crazy T-shirt morning. These kinds of things help with morale, while also developing an environment of creativity and inclusivity.
What attracted you to entrepreneurship?
I studied law at St John’s, which I really enjoyed. I then qualified as a lawyer with Clifford Chance, during which time I discovered venture capital and private equity. I spent a few years in VC in Paris, London, Silicon Valley and Chicago, mainly investing into software companies, but I always dreamt of starting my own business. While working for a US investment firm, I became increasingly interested in sustainability. My first business venture developed a new technology to convert household waste into biomass and after several years of struggle we eventually raised over £50m from Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and some environmental funds. More recently, I have been helping other entrepreneurs on their startup journeys, which can be a real roller-coaster ride.
You’ve also founded a couple of other businesses. How do you manage the workload and focus your time so that each venture receives adequate support?
Right now I am focused on Clim8. The mission is massive and we need to get to scale fast to make a real difference!
Tell us about your personal and professional support network. Where do you go for advice, help and inspiration?
Great question. The startup journey can be lonely. I have large network of friends and contacts, some from Cambridge, some from INSEAD (where I studied for an MBA), and many from various parts of my career. I would also add that my wife has been incredibly supportive over the years, through the ups and downs.
The challenge of climate change is daunting and scary, but we can all make a difference.
What one tip would you pass on to Johnians thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
I would say that your career is long and would therefore recommend trying a few different things, having some different experiences, and growing your network before plunging into starting a company — unless you truly believe that you have a world-changing idea and are driven to make it happen now! It’s worth noting that companies are typically successful not because of a unique idea but because of excellent execution by a great team.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The challenge of climate change is daunting and scary, but we can all make a difference. That difference might be in the way that you live (for example, flying less and eating less meat), or it could be changing how your savings and pension are invested.
You can find out more about Clim8 at www.clim8invest.com.