We chat to Robert Hokin of Greenbackers – an investment broker for Cleantech companies.
What inspired you to set-up Greenbackers?
I’ve been in the business of technology for over 25 years with last decade in the cleantech and climate change arena. Greenbackers started out life as a line of business in ecoConnect, the trade organization that I used to chair. It commenced as a sort of dating agency – we’d introduce five cleantech companies to over 30 investors via a boardroom pitch every quarter. 20 pitches, 100 companies and 600 investors later, we’ve become something much more engaged – more like a marriage broker crossed with a boot camp.
What are the issues that Greenbackers helps to address?
Cleantech as an industry and asset class is maturing. The market is literally worth trillions, so there is huge commercial potential but most UK cleantech entrepreneurs struggle past start-up funding. That’s where we come in. We’ve spent years speaking to and profiling investors: public and private funds, asset finance, angels and syndicates in the UK, EU, USA, China and have a deep understanding of who is investing in what, when, where and in what circumstances. We guide our client companies through this maze to find the right investors and also client investors to the right company or companies.
How does Greenbackers work?
Not every company coming to us and seeking investment is actually investment ready. That’s our starting point: an assessment of technology, the business team behind it and its market potential. It’s rare that we come across a company that we could put immediately in front of investors. So we poke our noses into the gaps: the marketing may be overly technical; there may not be a deep enough business plan or understanding of the target marketplace. The sales strategy may need tuning. Quite often we determine a need for pitch training. Once that groundwork is done and we agree that a company is investment ready, we can then start to introduce them to appropriate investors. We can also help crack open international markets and partnerships.
Please share one of your success stories with us?
A private investor raising next-round funding for one of his companies came to us after they had been selected to pitch at a tech showcase – whose audience were mainly investors. Good company, good tech, good management team, good track record, but terrible pitching skills! We spent an entire weekend deconstructing, rebuilding and then coaching the CEO in how to pitch for funding. We helped raise £2.5 million on the back of that.
What next for you/Greenbackers?
A venture fund where we invest our own money, alongside others, into some fast moving, curated start-ups that would benefit from experienced businessmen on their Board – who have a deep understanding of cleantech commercialization.
Where can we find out more?