17th Jun 2021

Investing in a circular future

To celebrate Circular Economy Week 2021, we're sharing our latest thoughts on what we look for in circular businesses.

Photo credit: Munro Studio on Unsplash

This time last year we launched MMC's new branding, which included making a series of commitments to our community and letting everyone know what you could expect to keep coming from MMC. You can read more on that here. That process kicked off a year-long journey which included MMC becoming one of the first venture capital funds in the UK to become a certified B Corp and creating our own Responsible Investing framework, to integrate ESG factors into our investment selection and management.

As we celebrate the fourth annual Circular Economy Week, our motivations to invest behind the Circular Economy remain unchanged — we see it as both an economic opportunity and a moral imperative. And our experience suggests that achieving large-scale impact requires a more holistic transition to new economic models.

If investors were to focus only on businesses with a directly circular product or service, the transition would be slower and possibly have a reduced impact. That's because most sectors have complex value chains where migration to a more circular model requires change from multiple participants. So when we invest in the Circular Economy, in addition to the companies directly employing a circular model, we also back businesses supporting that value chain or providing key components that allow the creation and wider adoption of those models.

Essentially, we think about circular businesses in three core categories:

  1. Employing circular business models

    This is the most straightforward category and includes businesses that are directly employing one of five identified circular business models which include:

    - Circular supplies: resources that have previously been used for linear lifecycles are substituted with renewable, recyclable, or biodegradable input materials.

    - Resource recovery: recovering and reusing outputs from one process as inputs for another and in doing so, increase the economic value of resources across lifecycles.

    - Product life extension: extending the life of resources through repairing, remanufacturing, upgrading, or re-marketing to keep resources economically positive and keep waste out of landfill.

    - The sharing economy: increasing the utilisation of goods and services through shared access, use, and ownership.

    - Product-as-a-service: maximising asset utilisation by selling capacity, instead of products, to multiple users — through pay-for-use or lease arrangement.

  2. Those participating in the circular value chains

    These companies may not be employing directly circular business models but they are facilitating a core component of a circular value chain. By way of example, MMC has invested in Pesky Fish, a digital marketplace for connecting fishermen directly with wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and home chefs, cutting out traditional middlemen. While fishing stocks are inherently circular, their circularity is under threat due to overfishing and a wasteful supply chain. Pesky’s data-driven digital marketplace will enable a more efficient and sustainable fish supply chain in the UK.

  3. Those enabling and accelerating adoption

    In order to meet the potential of a Circular Economy we also need to back those companies that are accelerating the transition. For example, SLAMcore is a company that fundamentally helps autonomous vehicles, including robots and drones, position themselves and understand their surroundings - making it a key enabler for future circular models in transport and supply chains. That's because, in order to achieve widely accessible autonomous systems, SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping) needs to be solved and it also needs to be commercially viable - meaning the sensors don't cost more than the vehicles themselves. SLAMcore's propriety technology coupled with inexpensive off-the-shelf hardware presents a critical component of making autonomous systems in supply chains and transportation a reality and moving our cities towards a more circular future.

The matrix below features companies from MMC's past and present portfolio and how we think about them in the context of these three core categories. Some companies provide multiple parts of the chains so will appear in multiple sections within the matrix.

As a fund, we seek to catalyse support for, and participation in, the move to a circular future. We are also constantly looking for opportunities to strengthen our own ESG commitments.

If you’re an early-stage company helping us move to a circular future, get in touch to see how we can accelerate your journey.

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