Business

Profile: Gullspång Invest forges an impressive impact investment strategy

Gullspång Invest – a family office owned by Sweden’s Brandberg family – is out to deliver a paradigm shift for key sectors, led by food and energy.

By way of example, it aims to repeat a successful investment in Oatly, a maker of plant-based dairy food, by backing Nick’s, a low-sugar producer. In energy, it wants to harness geothermal heat to produce electricity with the backing of Bill Gates. Other moves, on other sectors, are planned. 

Oatly uses a system developed at Sweden’s Lund University to turn oats into products that substitute for milk. Its products are a big hit with vegans and climate activists. The company floated on Nasdaq in 2021 and now commands a market value of $7.6 billion. Gullspång was an early investor in Oatly, ahead of Oprah Winfrey, rock star J-Zee and Blackstone. 

It has gone on to lead a $30 million January 2021 funding round for Nick’s, which also employs food science, after initially investing in the company in May 2020. Other January backers included Khosla Ventures and Djursholm Investment Group run by Martin Söderström, son-in-law to DIG’s beneficiaries, the Persson family, founders of fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz. Other backers included DNS Capital, owned by Gigi Pritzker and Michael Pucker, plus Swedish property concern Skandrenting and foodtech firm PeakBridge. 

The Brandbergs have now invested in a $100 million fundraising by Nick’s, confirmed on 28 October. Other supporters include Kinnevik, Temasek and Ambrosia Investments, led by Serge Schoen, former CEO at trading house Louis Dreyfus.

Nick’s manufacture snacks and ice cream with 70% less calories than usual and no added sugar. Founders Niclas Luthman and Carl Backlund now access 16 markets with snacking treats like “Better For You.” Their products are a boon to diabetes sufferers, as well as vegans.

The Brandberg family is evidently well-connected. Their family office was built on the success of Christer Brandberg, a seasoned investor and businessman at companies like Electrolux. It sets out to invest in energy, food, water, health and education. In health, it invested in a software company called Medpeople in 2020 alongside Bonit Capital – a family-owned investor run by Jonas Ahlen – to create efficient staffing at health providers. 

Magnus Brandberg is Gullspång founding partner and investment manager. One of his biggest ventures is Baseload Capital,  which seeks to turn geothermal heat into electricity. It is financing projects in the US, Iceland, Japan and Taiwan. Unlike wind or solar energy, the supply of energy is constant.

Baseload is backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy, Chevron, LMK Forward and specialist provider Climeon. Veteran venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Breakthrough and Khosla Ventures is a big fan. The Baseload board is chaired by Magnus Brandberg.

Other Gullspång energy deals include Alight which offers turnkey energy solutions to its clients and Trine which is seeking financial solutions to solve energy poverty. 

Gustaf Brandberg joined the family office in 2010 after developing tech consultant Citerus. He led the decision to invest in Oatly and Nick’s. He has developed an incubator business called Gullspång Re:food to foster the early development of food companies. In September it provided seed finance to alternative cheese venture Stockeld Dreamery. 

Erik Brandberg serves as investment manager at the family office which continues to seek new partners in its chosen sector. From the outset, he makes it clear that Gullspång will be investing for the next generation, not the next quarter.

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