Rubio Impact Ventures - Early stage investing for impact

Rubio Impact Ventures was founded to support world-changing entrepreneurs providing scalable solutions for pressing societal issues. Rubio invests at seed and Series A stage, in companies which accelerate the energy transition or facilitate smart use of resources, among others.  

In light of the Sustainable Products Initiative, we spoke to Investment Director Laura Cramer about some of the key circular economy themes she is seeing.

“We need to move away from single use plastics – by making longer-lasting and reusable products, and by switching to bio-based or waste-based alternatives when that is the only option.”

A great example of a company providing a circular solution that fits into the current system is Vytal. Vytal operates a digital and deposit-free reusable packaging service for takeaway and delivery. By using Vytal’s tech platform and containers, a restaurant can easily offer reusable packaging to their customers, replacing the single-use status quo. For restaurant owners the service is cost competitive and often even cheaper than single-use. Companies like Vytal are essential for EU regulation to have effect – businesses need viable alternatives.

To scale circular companies often a system change is required. We need innovative solutions on all levels, from product design to efficient recycling.  

In the last years, awareness among consumers has risen quickly. Increasingly companies are realizing addressing climate issues are required to safeguard their license to operate. Policy initiatives like effective carbon pricing and footprint monitoring can help businesses to make different system choices. Companies like Circularise and Planet A are already offering solutions today.  

Demand side flexibility is another area where regulation has an outsize impact. “the EU has a vast pool of untapped flexibility which can help grid operators transition to a clean energy system efficiently”. However, outdated regulation and a lack of harmonization hampers the scalability of companies like Sympower in Europe, because new entrants have no access yet to relevant markets or face different requirements in each EU member country.  

How do you reconcile impact with a viable model? “The most successful companies we invest in have impact locked-in in their business model.” When the main activity of the business solves a societal issue, growing the business means scaling the impact. Attracting and retaining talent, as well as customers, is easier too: if you have a clear purpose people want to work with you.

Laura’s top three policy wishes:
Mandate phase out of single-use plastics
: apart from a few frontrunners, few member states are enforcing the EU plastics directive.
Harmonise the implementation of the Clean Energy Package and the Electricity Market Design Directive
: competitive, EU-wide markets for demand-side flexibility depend on aligning technical specifications and rules on independent aggregation.
Include a clear framework on metering and data sharing
in the Action plan on the digitalization of the EU Energy sector.

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