Aksel is one of the most successful alpine skiers in history – winning 2 Olympic golds, 5 World Championships, 36 World Cup races and two overall World Cup titles. He began his career as a serial entrepreneur and investor while still competing, and since 2015 has been part of the partner team at Norselab, where he is now Deputy Chief Investment Officer. Norselab is an Oslo-based impact investment platform in which Capricorn Investment Group’s Capricorn’s Sustainable Investment Fund owns a 20% stake.
ML Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to Cleaning Up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning Up is brought to you by Capricorn Investment Group, the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is one of the best alpine skiers of all time. Aksel Lund Svindal won four medals at the Olympics, of which two in Downhill and Super G were gold. He's won five World Championships, he's won 36 World Cups. He's been two time overall Alpine Skiing World Cup Champion. He's a skiing legend, and a household name in Scandinavia. Aksel is now the Deputy Chief Investment Officer of Norselab. And that's a fund in which Capricorn Investment Group has invested. Let's find out why. Please join me in welcoming Aksel Lund Svindal to Cleaning Up. Aksel, thank you so much for joining me here today.
ALS Thank you. Thanks for the invitation.
ML Now, where are you calling in from? You've got a rather sort of special background there.
ALS Yeah, I'm sitting in my office in Oslo, Norway. So it's I mean, there's some wood on the wall here. It's yeah, I guess it's kind of typical Norwegian actually, in that sense, we use a lot of wood, wood in Norway.
ML Right, right. Right. Now what we should do. I have a very general audience, and it goes right across, you know, clean energy and policymakers and business and investors and civic society etc. And but it's sort of embarrassing to ask you to explain your kind of your sporting career, because some of them may not be familiar with. And of course, I'm a skier. So I'm kind of I kind of know, but if you could give a thumbnail of your bio, this should be fun.
ALS Yeah. I mean, don't be embarrassed because I wouldn't expect everyone to know of course, because sitting in Norway, then this is a country where we love our skiing, and it's a national sport. So then people would know, but you have a very international audience. And then that's a little bit different sometimes. So yeah, I'm so my name is Aksel Lund Svindal. And I've been… I retired in 2019, I guess I was a professional ski racer for 15-16 years prior to that. And did a long career and fairly successful career with… won the Olympics a couple of times, five World Championship titles, and definitely spent of those 15 years spent about 10 of them, you know, fighting for the gold medals at different events. So had a lot of fun and was very, very fortunate to say that I could take my you know, the sport and what I did as a kid, then make that into professional life, doesn't feel like a professional life when you're doing it because it's kind of like gradually, you're going from being a kid than skiing around all of a sudden, it's kind of a big deal. But luckily, it doesn't feel like that big of a deal. It just feels like tons of fun. And then yeah, then it was kind of hard to retire, of course, but had a knee that had been to through too many surgeries. And I couldn't really stand the pressure anymore when you go down icy downhill course. So had to had to retire and then start looking at other things.
ML So I'm smiling very broadly, those who are listening on the podcast won't see that but those who are watching on YouTube well, and the reason is, obviously, I have my own very modest Olympic career, which lasted about 30 seconds in total, if you actually take the time that I was moving on the snow in the Olympics, but I still get I always get introduced. People say well, there's another thing about Michael, you may not know he was actually an Olympic skier and then people you know and the way I then defuse the ripple of excitement which comes even from just being introduced like that, I say, well, you know, people ask if I won, and I then say well, there's a clue I was on the British team. And that usually kind of moved then I move on to talk about clean energy. So you're very modest talking about oh, you know, I won the Olympics a couple of times. You won some other things as well didn't you?
ALS Well, I mean, I spent like I said around let's say 15 years fighting for the for the win at different locations. So yeah, I have some a few other medals as well from the Olympics and of course World Championships. But I think the highlight this I would say is just being able to spend that life because it gets pretty intense when you fight for the gold and to be able to stand at the start so many times and actually have, you know, as one of the favorites, and with everything, everything that comes with that pressure and nerves and everything when the spotlight is on you, it's also it's a pretty cool feeling, you know, being able to be in that position. So yeah, I've a couple of overall World Cup wins as well meaning and that's, to me, as an athlete, that's actually the biggest achievement because if you are, for one specific year, if you are then the athletes that took the most points that, you know, if when you combine all the events, by definition, as a skier, then you are the best skier in the world, at least racer in the world, we wouldn't go through the bumps like you did, but we had different bumps, bigger, bigger bumps, but doesn't mean you will win in that event. But as a ski racer downhill ski racer when you win the overall World Cup, then you perform, you know, solid all through the year. And that's really I think, for us even bigger than an Olympic gold.
ML And I absolutely concur. I think that winning, winning that globe as being the World Cup overall winner, that is I can't begin to imagine how how, you know, that's just week after week, getting up there and performing at the absolute top level, it's the only way to win that, right? And, you know, I had a couple of wins, you know, national championships and some good places that Europa Cup and the odd top 30. You know, it's just a completely different world.
ALS It's I mean, you know, athletics, you say it's a completely different world, but that I am sure you have the, you know, in your, in your national championships, you know, you felt the nerves, the excitement when you won, you know, you just, you know, crossing the finish line, that feeling. It's, of course, everything gets a little more intense at the biggest events, but it really isn't, you know, all that different to you. I mean, I still feel that if I do some sports even, even for fun, I think that's the awesome part about sports. When you practice something, then you're able to bring out that performance when you know, you're measured, and then you can celebrate the wins. Even if it was like a local championship. It doesn't have to be the Olympics.
ML It was certainly, you know, did I feel the nerves the same? Yes. Was it exciting? Yes. Was it intense? Yes. The difference is you kept winning, and I kept placing midfield. But you went on from that. And you're now I don't know, if you mainly see yourself as an investor. But you were actually investing while you were still skiing for some time. And we'll get on to what you're now doing with Norselab. But you had started investing even before your last Olympic win, you already were an investor, right? Because you won, I'm gonna look at my cheat sheet here, Pyeonchang Downhill 2018. But you have already started investing well, before that, right?
ALS Yeah, I think it's it's a journey that, you know, kind of happened a little bit, you know, that depends what kind of people people you meet, and you know, your network, right? Like, if you meet some smart people, and you can learn something, then that's always even better than reading a book. And speaking about book, we'll actually get to that, that later. I see. I mean, we have to talk about the book that you wrote, but let's, let's get that later. I was, I think, as an athlete, you have an advantage you, if you ask for a meeting you you're very likely to get that meeting. And to me it started, you know, even before I was famous athlete, at some point, I met with all these agents that want to represent you. And I, this is kind of unfair to the industry, but at least the ones that I met, I wasn't too impressed about what they could do for me, in a sense, and also the fact that some of them, they're very aggressive in terms of negotiations, and I guess the sales pitch when they're trying to promote their athletes, and I just, I actually wasn't that comfortable having someone in a room, you know, trying to sell me that hard. Because it's, it's a relationship, right? You have what your, what your sponsors or the companies that back you and hopefully it's a long lasting relationship. That's a win win situation and not a relationship where someone felt like they got tricked into signing a deal that's not worth the money. Or I don’t know. I just ended up doing it myself because my dad, my dad's an accountant, and has some, you know, friends that are lawyers and I kind of have people read the writing for me and I didn't have to worry too much about that. And then I actually did most of the negotiations myself, I would say that probably not being the best idea when I like first started doing it my last year as a junior, but then the sums are pretty small, right? And then you learn quickly when it's your own money because it kind of hurts when it doesn't go well. And then I did get pretty good at it. And I would say that it was at least not a disadvantage, when I got older. And then, you know, of course, the numbers are higher, you make up for what you lost in the beginning, real quickly. But even more important, I got to know all the people instead of having an agent to represent me everywhere, and I would meet everyone myself. So it was a good learning experience. And then I also started getting interest. Yeah, no, go.
ML And so you, you actually started doing this negotiating your own deals, when you were in your last year as a junior? So I mean, we're talking about that's 2003 – 2004. I mean, this is well, before you got involved with Norselab or even, even Is it your A management, your management company?
ALS Yes. Well, A Management was basically that's the company that I set up to that I had my contracts to, basically, that was my company where I work, because, you know, there's when you do all this yourself, there's expenses too, right, like you would, so that's a company that I, private company, basically. And, but what happened then, is that when these contracts were successful, they pay money, right? And you know that you said 2003, or 2004, and then in 2006, I started to not just be top 10, but to win races. And then I started to get interested in how to invest this money. And I would do, you know, do some funds and different stuff actually looked at when the markets markets crashed in 2008, I started you know, just for fun, basically buying stocks, because instead of looking at your funds that were like, way down, it's just embarrassing. I bought some stocks that I thought were super cheap to have. That's that was kind of my way of not touching the stuff that you can't sell now because it's gone down so bad, like is not a good time to sell, you know, focus on something positive instead then maybe they will there's there's some possibilities there. And then I realized I'm not that interested in numbers and you know, technical signals go and analyze system, what could possibly happen there I'm… As in sports, I'm more interested in like, you know, the mentality that people like what drives so then I got the opportunity to, to meet small companies, basically, where you can actually meet the people. And, of course, first they were kind of sports related. So one company that I invested in is called Sweet Protection and it's helmet and goggles company, then in skiing, now also in biking,
ML And you're still you're still working with them are you not now? You still do designing some, I saw jacket look, looked good.
You know, thank you. I did some ski clothing with them. And but that, you know, I really, like I think being an entrepreneur is a lot like being athlete. Like it's risky. Obviously, it's a lifestyle more than more than a job. And I kind of liked that mindset. And then, you know, going from there into more the, you know, not sport related but more tech companies was… The chairman of this company. He was a serial entrepreneur that sold tech company to… he didn't sell to Bloomberg, he sold to Reuters was a basically he was looking into energy companies. And he was his original idea was not to not to try to project the revenue or the profit of the energy sector. It was he actually had a different idea but his tools were really good in projecting energy prices and then what the income stream would be for energy stocks, so he actually sold to them and anyway, I met him at this ski helmet company and he was just a completely different person than anyone I had in my network like clearly different background. He like I felt like he talked differently he definitely was thinking differently. And I kind of had the sense that he was always the smartest person in the room, no matter who we were sitting together with so I told him that if he ever thought about going back into his old sector and network with sport, sporting goods, but going back into tech that I wanted to be a part of it's about and then you started the company and I was investor in the first round and that was kind of my my bridge from the world of sports than to tech.
ML So you're starting to make your angel investments and your investments in tech. And, and you've, I know, there's a number that you've made, but I understand that it was 2015, that you sort of started to get involved with what became Norselab. Is that right?
ALS Yeah, cause I it started actually a little bit earlier and that because then I had done angel investments, like I said, then in the fall of 2014, like a week before the first race of the winter, I tore my Achilles. And then you know, you have your like, next six months, perfectly planned out, you have all the races, and then all of a sudden, it's like, boom, you're not going to any of that. And then I, you know, you always try to look for the upside, right? Like, what can I do now that I normally wouldn't have the chance to, and I always wanted to go study to go to, like, you know, this be in an environment where people are really driven to learn and to study in the US, for instance, would have been a cool thing, or something, I never had the chance to do. And I wouldn't have traded now, like I had a pretty cool life as a top athlete, but I figured it's something maybe I can get a taste of it. So I started looking around and asked people that I knew for advice, some if there were, you know, schools that had like, you know, short programs in the fall or leading up to the winter, and there wasn't really that much going on. But one thing that kept coming up was like people said, Silicon Valley, like, you know, you should go there, I have some connections, so I’ll introduce you to some people. And that's what I ended up doing. Like I went to Palo Alto and spent, I was like, a month, probably like the month of December, and would go I had like a physio at Stanford that helped me out with my Achilles and I just met all these people that people had set up meetings for me and met some new people. And that led to new meetings. And then the founder of Norselab was there as well, because they had, he had started a company or cofounded a company and were in the US with the Norwegian government actually looking at some, some business cases.
ML And this this is Eric.
ALS No, this is actually Yngve.
ML This is Yngve. Okay. Chief Investment Officer, so he's now your boss.
ALS Exactly. Well, he's always been my boss, I feel like because, I mean, we've talked about stuff now where I'm an expert, you know, which is skiing and sports. But this is a field, obviously, where I have less experience than, you know, someone who was, you know, older than me more. But first of all, been doing this while I was, you know, playing sports. So I'm on learning learning journey here. And that's why I like having bosses, because especially guys like Yngve, I think the reason why we, why we hit it off so well is that he's, first of all he has. He had something that I had no knowledge of, but he had a group of technical people working with him, like, you know, programmers, software architects, you know, stuff that I did is angel investment. I just had to trust, whatever technical <inaudible> someone else did. But here was a guy who had these resources in house, and his, his really hands on. And then I get kind of frustrated if there's too much meeting activity going on and not enough, like hands on. Let's like, try this and see what happens. I kind of like, I mean, of course, you have to plan a little bit. But I also like to, you know, play it out a little bit and see what happens. And then we can change direction if you have to. And I think Yngve is definitely a hands on kind of guy. And I think that's why I how I really found him interesting,
ML And what was the discussion during that period? Okay, so you're in Palo Alto, you've met Yngve now? And was the talk then about Norselab as it currently is? Or were you just going to kind of hang out and do some investing? How did you get… how did Norselab get to be Norselab?
ALS Basically the first thing that happened is that they this is it was an old school business model, kind of they did some work and they sent some bills, got some money, and they invest that money. And that's how it worked. And that basically was their first outside investor, and then started working with them. We founded some new companies. And then as time went on, we were in the seed phase, right, like, you know, just starting companies and Norway has, Norway keeps getting more and more and has over the last 10 years seed capital. And there's some really good incubators as well. And there's a lot of private equity capital in Norway, but there's very little capital in… it's typically it's very easy to get 100,000 US dollars, and it's almost impossible to get, you know, like a million or two or three and then once you want the big tickets and private equity, it's gets easier again. So we experienced this with our companies and then we had an idea to, you know, we wanted to scale what we were doing as well, like, also, you know, to make the platform we were working on building bigger and then we made that decision to build this investment platform
ML To turn it into a platform. I think, let me come in here because I, I've spent a lot of time in, in Norway, you may not know, I'm an advisor to Equinor. So I'm on the International Advisory Group for Equinor. And so I've spent some time up there every year. And I've done that for a few years. And even before then, you know, when you're in energy, you know, you're going to end up in Oslo sooner or later, right. And it just has this extraordinary and very unique investment and business environment where there are obviously there's, there's Equinor. And that has a very unique role, because that's the state owned or majority state owned energy company, not just oil and gas. And then it has a couple of there are some, some other companies like <inaudible> and so on around that kind of I would call it big energy. But there are also some incredibly impressive, big ticket, ultra-high net worths who have come out of generally, shipping or energy. And they, I mean, they really command the heights of the economy and the investment economy in a way that you don't really see, certainly not in the UK, it's much more, it's much broader, and the sources of finance are much broader. And so I think Norway is a very specific environment. And I don't know whether you can kind of characterize the rest of Scandinavia similarly, I'm not sure. I think Norway is really out there on its own.
ALS Well, I think, like you said, they're, you know, there are some wealthy individuals, and some of them have a system and some of them are, don't have a system. And it's a little bit I mean, it's good, because they do invest in startups. And I would say scale ups as well, sometimes, but it's also a little bit dangerous, right, because if it's not really a mandate that they do, it's a stable source of funds. And at least if you have the right metrics, then it can also be dangerous, because you get one of these really wealthy family offices on your cap table and the next round of financing they don't really feel like it anymore. Without any this specific reason, it doesn't mean they're, you know, bad or anything, it's just not, you know, something they they're supposed to do, maybe and they just maybe fell in love with you the first time around, but it's not really in the mandate. And it kind of doesn't look that great if you have a big family office with, you know, a billion or two under management, and they can't, they don't want to take, take, get in your next round of financing, and they're your biggest donor. So there’ss been, I would say some unfortunate cases with that. But in general, it's more that it needs to be. I would say, ecosystem that's also that's founder friendly, it doesn't mean that they're not founder friendly, but they might not have time for the founders or time for the companies. And this is where we wanted to contribute and now also more <inaudible>. So it used to be zero structured money, or, you know, capital coming from venture funds in this space. And now, there's a few players and there's, you know, rumors of some more, so it's definitely starting to look better.
ML Right. So it's kind of it was a relatively small pool, but with some huge fish in it. And it's quite a dangerous environment, as you say, there's a relatively small number of potential backers, and then if you outgrow or they lose interest. And so you decided then, together with Yngve to create a platform, in a sense more what you might find in in kind of any other investment. Any other country, perhaps a bit more Californian; and, and, and you've now got, I mean, you've you've done that, right? And you've got you've got things structured as funds, you've got a whole portfolio of companies and you've got a team, how big is your team?
ALS We're 25 and growing. So we're, yeah, we're starting to be a really strong team, I have to say also in that sense, the key, you know, bit of the puzzle that had to come together was someone that you know, has a lot of knowledge with, with finance or with like, you know, let's say the stuff that you don't necessarily learn as an entrepreneur or when you do just seed investment right, because once you have other people's money under management, it just it takes a lot more than investing your own money. So this is where Erik came into the picture who has worked in traditional finance his whole career and was he was really, you know, tempted that this this journey we’re on to set up, like a real system, you know, like real platform. He both for for the fact that he thinks that, you know, regulations they rolled down, you know, this thing, if this wasn't regulated two years ago, you know, it's for sure it's going to be if you look two years into the future, but also the fact that he really liked our impact scope as well as…
ML I wanted to come in on that, because and you're absolutely right. I mean, there's some just some disciplines of running other people's money and reporting, dealing with financial regulation and keeping on the right side of everything. And that's absolutely critical. That's the critical piece, also of what you're doing. But I wanted to ask, where does the impact scope come from? Because we got an all the way through to this point and of the conversation. And, you know, you've got, you've got meaningfulness reports, which we need to talk about where that, you know, what does that mean? What does meaningfulness mean, but where does the impact thrust come from? At what point did that sort of materialize?
ALS Meaningfulness just you know, to put that, get that clear meaningfulness to us is that’s the way we talk about impact? We that's our impacts’ scope, it’s meaningfulness. That's our way of let's say framing what we need to do, but also talking about it, we want… because if you do something meaningful, to that's the way we feel about it, and also, that's how we see we can, we're trying to find people, but we're not trying to find people <inaudible> was hard to recruit like, we've got an awesome talent. And because people find it meaningful when you can actually be a part of doing something good, something positive, something meaningful. But also, impact is also something different, like, you know, then you need to have real impact. You just can't just tick some boxes, but you need to measure the fact that you know, that what you do has an impact. And meaningful that's our impact. Let's that's how we look at impact.
ML Okay, so now you've got this platform, and you've got your kind of philosophy, the meaningful meaningfulness philosophy, you've got your 25 people, you've got a portfolio, can you just, this is an awful thing, because it's like saying, what are your… which is your favorite child, but within that portfolio, pick out a few of the ones that you like most. And you know, this audience is particularly interested in anything that's kind of, you know, energy, infrastructure, transport, industry, resource efficiency. I mean, maybe that's everything you do, but what are some of the companies that you think are going really well?
ALS I think, you know, there's one thing that I always thought was super important, because you see it every single day. And that's resources, both in terms of food, it's like, I'm the kind of person that I think I was brought up this way, especially by my grandfather, but also in general, like, I hate food waste, like it just it makes me sick to see. And when you start reading up on how much food is thrown away around the world, it's unbelievable. So I really I personally, I really like company that's that tackle anything in the food industry. And we've got an also because we're more and more people on this planet, and it's going to be very meaningful to see how we can how we can feed everyone in a way that's sustainable for the planet, because we have to take some responsibility because the numbers, don't they don't add up now. And if we don't do anything, they're not going to add up in the future. So I think that's something that's, you know, because one thing that I think people struggle with, which is unfortunate, but it's only natural is that when we talk about climate change and and you know, big numbers and goals that are into the future, it's it's not as visible. To me, it's been super visible because I've been around the world skiing and I see how the glaciers are getting smaller and smaller. And, you know, we have the ski resorts that are not in high enough altitude, they struggled to hold all the races because it's warmer. And, but the problem is with I think, when you when you talk about the 0.5 degrees, or it's not as visible to everyone, that seems like a goal that's kind of into the future in that sense, right? So of course we all need, we all need to come together. It's, I mean, it's no question about it. We all need to come together and improve the way we do things and also find new new way to do things but what's in your face every single day to me it's food, and also resources on the other side is like what is trash or landfill and what's actually resources that should be recycled? These things that you see every single day.
ML So I'm looking at my cribsheet of companies in the portfolio and I'm seeing Plateful I'm seeing Wanda, I don't know, Carrot. There's that there's a number in here that are about resource efficiency, particularly around the food space.
ALS So let's jump. So let's just use that Farmable. So Farmable. I liked the story there of the founder as well. He's very technical guy who had let's say, he had technical jobs. Let's put it that way. But then he inherited the family fruit farm from his parents. And he was like, you know, I'm gonna make this farm digital. At least you know, how much I can do. And but then it was like, how do I go from my dad's notebook into like to putting a robot out in the field like this? How does this connect, like there's no connection whatsoever. So Farmable is basically and it's a fairly, very simple app to use for, for a farmer to do the most important stuff that you need to do as a farmer, these are all rows, like, you know, things that grow in a row. So not open fields, but rows. And two things that's super important. It's the, I can't think of the English word here. But so one is pesticides. First of all, it's important because you want to use as little as possible, and you need to report on it. But you also need to make sure you do each row once and not twice and you don't miss a single one. The same is with the fertilizer, it needs to be reported on, you need to use the right amount, and you need to make sure you cover everything, but only once. And what happens if you're the farmer, Michael, then unless you have you know someone working for you that has worked with you forever, you're not going to trust anyone with this, because this is the most important task to do for the whole the whole season. And this is super simple app that tracks everything that happens on the rows. And now the GPS in these things, they're good enough to separate the rows. And we just, you know, we give this to the farmers with some advice, also how to use it and it calculates the <inaudible> at us, they can then generate reports everything. And we have now farmers all over the world using it and what's happening at the same time is that their farm is getting digitalized, because they're actually then have this device turned on and tracking everything that happens on the farm, meaning that it prepares the ground for robots, or anything else that's going to happen on the farm that can't need read, like generations of notes,
ML So they’re creating a digital map of the farm every time they go up and down doing something that's adding data, a data layer.
ALS Exactly. And this is I mean, I think there's a couple of things here that I find, first of all, I think, high cost country like Norway, we're gonna you know, we need tools in agriculture in order to be I'm not gonna say price competitive, because you should pay more for a good product. That's, you know, if you love the product, you should have the will to pay somewhere. But it still needs to be efficient enough that it's, you know, that it's a good economy for the farmers to actually work, work on the fields, and then you need help. And so I think in that sense, it's super important to have more local production and less transportation around the planet, but also the yield, like, we need precision agriculture, if we're gonna be able to grow enough food. And then we need tools that are not applied on the fields right now. So to me, food, I mean, like I said, I really liked food. But even more than I like food, I hate to see food being thrown away. And Plateful is another one. Founders again, they really know what they're talking about, because they used to work in Norway. And there's the two founders, they worked at the let's say, the distributor. So if you are, if you have a company that makes some kind of food for the for the grocery store chains, you would first sell into to these guys and they are the ones who transport and have the booking systems and everything for big hotel chains and for grocery stores around Norway and they saw this… it's unbelievable. Like it's, it's sad to talk about it, but you have these problems that are let's say you've made I don't know how many kilos, hundreds and hundreds of kilos of hamburgers, for instance. And something happened in production and the result is that there's 2% less fat than what it says on the wrapping. You can't sell it because it's not what it says on the wrapping, and it's too complicated for you to make a new wrapping or you know something to have it, a box or so, you unless someone is willing to take this off your hands, you could end up throwing everything because it doesn't fit the signal or whatever disclaimer that you've sent to the consumer. The same, we had this other case now, local grown apples in Norway. And all of a sudden, there's some cheap apples coming from Spain can’t compete on price and 300 kilos of apples were supposed to be thrown away, because they couldn't sell them all of a sudden. And these guys, they built like a whole, I mean, it's a digital experience, meaning that if you run a hotel or a restaurant, or let's say like the cantine, catering, then you like you can order this online, you know, products what's available, but because these guys have the whole infrastructure, so we help them with the marketing, communication, the digital experience, everything, but these guys have the connections in the industry. And also, they have the hardware, this, you know, the trucks, you need to get this out, the storage, the cool freezers, you know, so you can actually take care of this, because that's the problem, like you need to be fast or else this stuff goes to waste. So that's, that's two investments that we made, let's say in the food space, and I think they're important because they tell a message that people see everyday, and they need to be aware that you can actually do something about this.
ML Right. Exactly. And food is, funnily enough, in my earlier life, I did a lot of work in the in the food industry, when I was a consultant with McKinsey, including in the cheese industry. And I've seen huge waste actually cheese being recycled into processed, the most ghastly processed foods because they don't meet spec. So I know what you're talking about there. Okay, so we get a solid sense for the types of companies that you're working with. Now you've got the, you've got all this assembled, you've got the platform, the team, the portfolio companies, and so on. And now, you've just raised a round of finance. And this is actually how you and I were put in touch because one of your incoming investors is our supporter on Cleaning Up, which is Capricorn Investment Group, and they came into your most recent round, what is the thinking behind that capital increase? And, you know, how, how did you come across? And why did you choose Capricorn?
ALS Well, first of all, , we started talking to Capricorn a while back, so we've gotten to know each other over the last, I would say, two years almost. And I have to say, I didn't know Capricorn before I was introduced to them first. And since I'm, I have to say I'm quite impressed. Because it's important to have players like Capricorn to show that impact investing is… mean you can make a difference, but it's also good for business, it's a lot easier to make this transformation, if people show that done in a good way that it's also beneficial for the financial results. And I think Capricorn have made some, they were early, really early in, you know, having the guts to say that this is what we're going to do. And they want to build system value. So they so they kept track on us, we they got to know us better and better and did a really a due diligence where definitely our impact criterias and how we work around that was more, more important. Important, at least, it seems like it was more important part of our of the due diligence than our you know, financial departments. And they believe than us they believe in what we've done so far and, but more importantly, what we can do in the future. So they've invested in in us to scale up, like I said, we're 25 people plus and scale up our impact invest platform. So we can, you know, now we’re in venture we have one fund, we're going to raise a second fund, but we're also have and that's kind of what's cool about this is that we also have initiatives that goes a little bit outside of the of the venture space and with Capricorn’s help that then we are going to prove that impact investing is the way to go in all asset classes but if you back people that you said it yourself meaningful, right? People want life, want it to be meaningful, want their life to be meaningful. And if you can back those, then it's a double win.
ML Right? So we had Ion Yadigaroglu who is the managing partner of the venture piece of what the managing partner of Capricorn Investment Group overall and also responsible for that venture piece. We had him on Cleaning Up, I think it was four weeks ago, four or five weeks ago. And they have been enormously successful. And he's got an incredibly interesting portfolio. But the bit that you were dealing with a bit of Capricorn Investment Group is their sustainable…What is it? It's called their Sustainable Investment Fund? And the partner there, Michaela Edwards, correct?
ALS Yep. Yeah. Correct. So that's what they do. So they, they invest in platforms like us. So we can scale and build system value, basically.
ML Right. And, and the new products, I think I read somewhere that you're looking at a credit fund. So venture debt fund is one of the next potential things that you might do.
ALS Yeah, so this is something we've worked on for a while, of course, I'm… this is something that I'm not, I mean, I'm hands on in terms of you know is this in our Norselab, meaningfulness, the DNA, but when it comes to like the terms around debt, this is a little bit out of my financial ballpark, if we can put it that way. But what I will say is that, because we're also starting a high yield initiative, and just to prove that the meaningfulness and the impact works is that we did recruit two of the possibly the best, but really senior, high yield guys from Norway, and I’ve mean, since you've been to Norway a lot, you would know that DNB is by far the biggest bank here. And, for instance, the guy with a black belt DNB, he came to join us instead. So it just goes to show that it works. And we're able to create something here that's, you know, far bigger than a couple of guys sitting around the table and discussing what companies could be the best.
ML That's pretty exciting. So that means in a few years, you will have the meaning funds, sort of two, three, perhaps beyond, then some credit, some high yield. And and so on. I mean, it's, it's a good and a very compelling vision. Now, I want to just, we got a few minutes left, I want to ask you about risk. It's a favorite topic of mine. And I had, I don't know if you've seen the film “Free Solo”. This is Alex Honnold, who climbs El Cap without ropes. And I had him on Cleaning Up. And we talked about risk. And he was fascinating, because he talked about the difference between consequence or how bad things can go wrong, and how likely they are to go wrong. So he doesn't see it as if something's not likely to happen, then he doesn't see it as risky, then I introduced this area of time, because in climate, we're doing a bunch of things today that could cause enormous hardship and destruction of human and planetary systems in a number of decades or even centuries. But I've got to ask you this, you know, what, how do you manage risks? How did you manage it when you were a skier? How did you think about risk?
ALS Well, first of all, I get both sides of the argument. But I think the way that I looked at it is a little. If, you know, if, if the consequences are big, then I would say the risk is higher, even if I you know if it's not, you know, a 50/50 chance of it happening because if you do something a lot, then it does catch up to you even if the chances are not high of it happening, right. So in downhill skiing, for instance. The first thing that I always thought is that there's nothing I know more about than downhill skiing, like I've skied my whole life, and Norwegians claim to be born with feet on their skis, which is a little bit of a joke, but the fact is that I've done this since I was a kid and I've done it as a full time, not just a job but passion for a long, long time. So I can push the boundaries pretty far in downhill skiing because I know exactly what's going too far and what's staying on the right side of the limits but on the other side, every once in a while you do cross the limits because in order to win a race, sometimes you have to go a little bit outside of comfort zone. Actually you go outside the comfort zone almost all the time but sometimes you go over also the line that you know if this is this is gonna be a little bit dangerous. But that's, that's just, you know, you want to win. And when it comes to risk, I always, it's funny because I had some bad injuries. And that's one of the reasons why I was able to work a lot with, you know, Norselab, before I retired was the fact that I spent a lot of time on crutches in the last I would say the last five years of my career, I had, like three of them, half of them on crutches. So I spent a lot of time on crutches. And then you have time, at least you have mental time, you do rehab training, but rehab training is kind of boring in the gym. And you do have a lot of mental energy, because it takes a lot more mental energy to go down a dangerous downhill course than it does to be in the gym. So I did spend a lot of time in Norselab already then. And all of these crashes happened when I was winning back to back races. And it's not. That's not just bad luck. It's because when you go that extra mile, when you push a little bit harder, because you want to win the race, I can convince myself to do that. If I know I have a big chance of winning the race, if I know that if I do this, I might be top 10 I can't do it because the risk reward isn't worth it. But all of those times that I've been winning, I mean, the last crash I had, a bad one, I had one seven out of nine races leading up to that meaning that if I know that, if I push it, and I don't make a mistake, I'll probably win. And to win is, you know that you don't get that chance that often. So you have to attack and take advantage when you're skiing that well. And the same goes for another injury that I had to earlier in my career where I was out for a long time. The risk reward is more appealing, when it's winning, that it's all about winning. And then I push harder. And I and I go down. But you know, bottom line is, yeah, I know, there's risk involved. I don't try to hide the fact that there's risk involved. But I tried to rationalize it in my head and asked if it's worth it. And when you know, when you talk about climbing, it's more of a life or death situation. That can be the case in downhill skiing, but it's not something I put into my equation because it shouldn't happen. It luckily doesn't happen that often. But the risk of being badly injured and going into hospital. That's the risk that I can live with.
ML Right, just listening to you that I was thinking of, of Alex. And of course, the difference is, if he makes one mistake, however unlikely it is, when he's climbing, you know, when he's when he's hundreds, or even 1000s of feet up, we know road he is dead. So there's no question there. And that does change the calculus. So he can only do things that he feels very comfortable are almost no risk or almost no likelihood of an accident. So in a way what you've been doing skiing, thinking there's a really big reward. So now I'm going to take a bit more risk. That's actually pretty similar to impact investing. But we've reached that point where I would love to continue because we could talk about how you took over from the great Lasse Kjus, Kjetil Aamodt and so on, but I think we might lose at least part of the audience. But now you did mention at the very beginning of this conversation you mentioned my book, which we were laughing about before we started recording. And because you apparently you had gone on to the internet and discovered that I have actually written a ski book, which is this thing, if it's if it's not out of frame, there is one behind me. There is, here here it is written in 1992. That is not a one-piece that is actually two-piece even though it looks like a one piece. But I'll be absolutely delighted Aksel to send you a signed copy, which will teach you absolutely nothing about skiing, except maybe a teeny-teeny bit about bumps skiing as it was practiced. Gosh, nearly 30 actually exactly 30 years ago.
ALS Well, I mean it the name is “The Complete Skier” right?
ML It is indeed it's the complete skier
ALS So I mean I definitely will read it and I hope that it will teach me a thing or two because like I said, I did a little bit of research before we're gonna have this this talk and I thought that was pretty cool that I'm going to be interviewed by you and that you wrote the book “The Complete Skier” because then we should have a lot of things to talk about. But this is obviously about impact investing and not about skiing but I would love to get a signed copy of it because I think this was you know, aside just that this is a really important topic and I'm now I'm talking about the impact investing again, I'm not talking about skiing, even if skiing is important, but there's more important things at stake here. And this was an important conversation. But I also really I also enjoyed it, I thought we have had a good time. So that would be a cool memory, if you will, you will do that.
ML Very good. I will certainly do that. And who knows, one day, if your knee allows it, and if our timetables allow it, maybe we'll get to do some impact investment related skiing in real and not just on Zoom?
ALS You know, we can do, we you know, you come to Norway, you said that. So you come to Norway, if it's the winter, we'll go ski and then we'll have some, maybe we can even record a podcast going up and down the chairlift.
ML That would be something very, very cool. Very good. I look forward to that. You know if that's if that's a real invitation, that's something we can start working on.
ALS That is a real invitation, we will go skiing, and then we'll talk about the importance of the… Actually what we should do then is we talk we then we should definitely talk about climate because then we'll be in the snow. And since we both we both love skiing, then climate change is something that we really care about. So we should talk about climate change and because I definitely want to learn, learn something from you as well. And then maybe I can teach you a thing or two when we go down the slope and see if maybe even the author of “The Complete Skier” has a thing or two that I can teach you.
ML I have plenty to learn. I'm intimidated and scared already. Aksel, it's been a great pleasure. Thank you so much for joining me here today.
ALS Thank you, Michael.