A glimpse into the future with early-stage investor Rockstart

“Through the early-stage eye, we are looking at innovations that will be relevant five to ten years from now.”

Rockstart CEO and co-founder Rune Theill on building ecosystems and looking into the future.

Since 2011, Rockstart has been working with young cleantech companies; first as an accelerator, later adding follow-on funding until series B to the mix. What started as a mission to create the ultimate start-up machine has evolved into an even more ambitious impact agenda: Rockstart celebrated its ten year anniversary a couple of months ago by setting the goal to build a portfolio worth $100 billion. “Our funds cover agrifood, energy and emerging technology, three domains which are crucially important for a regenerative sustainable future.”

Early-stage investors are constantly evaluating new business ideas and are well positioned to pick up on new trends as they emerge. What does the future of these three domains look like?

In agrifood, alternative proteins have already gone big. Next we’ll see innovation in the enablers such as bioreactors, formulators and processing. We’ll also see optimisation and democratisation of energy networks, for example microgrids for areas of the world that don’t have coverage. Emerging technology will drive a decentralisation of the internet, enabled by blockchain. It will be interesting to see how the big players react as peer-to-peer interactions increase, and consumers demand more control over their data.

This privileged view on the future is an opportunity for the whole capital network. Later stage investors often get involved in pre-seed selection as well.
"It’s a way for them to start imagining what that company might look like in five years, when they are ready for series A or B investment.”

Rune sees Rockstart as an ecosystem builder: “Our goal is to connect start-ups with the best profiled investors, market partners, mentors and expertise.”

One way of doing this is bringing people together through events. Sector themed ecosystem days bring together the most relevant corporates, market partners and investors from the EU and beyond. “We try to make these high-quality events that people want to spend time on.” When different ecosystem players get excited about the same companies, new opportunities for syndication, synergies and collaboration are born.

Rune’s top three policy wishes:

Value contributions that go beyond revenue: ESG policies are a step in the right direction, but we need to be smart about how we apply them, especially for small companies.

Allow wider investment in early stage businesses: our funds are limited to professional investors, and the market is getting more rigid. Allowing capital from more areas can move the needle, and increase the speed of innovation.

Get more women into investing and entrepreneurship: we actively try to recruit for equality, but see more interest from men. Corporate finance education is dominated by men – we need to think ten years in advance to create the change.

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