Business

Icelandic billionaire sets up London-based impact investment office

A gaming billionaire has launched a new impact investment office with a head office in London that is targeting environmental investments. 

Called Transition, the impact investment group is the brainchild of David Helgason, and is linked to his Reykjavík-based family office, Foobar Management. Although not officially launched until later this year, Transition has already done its first deal, seeding with one other investor Waterplan, a SaaS platform for water management based in San Francisco. 

It has also employed Kjartan Ólafsson to run the new group, which will also have an office in Reykjavík. Ólafsson is a well-known venture fund manager and has an MBA from Harvard. 

Helgason co-founded Unity Technologies, a gaming software development business, in 2004. Following the company’s listing in September 2020, he left his role as CEO but remained on the company’s board. Today, Helgason retains 4% of the business while Unity is currently valued at $26.5 billion. Forbes says Helgason is worth around $1.2 billion. 

Helgason has very much put climate change at the heart of his investment strategy, saying recently: “I met some climate tech founders who started to educate me about the problem and possible solutions. I found it so inspiring and fun because in climate, there is a grand strategy. Everything is connected to everything.”

Climate investing has grown rapidly in recent years. Records sums have been allocated to climate tech ventures. In recent months, there’s been a clear trend towards direct carbon removal from the atmosphere. Three recent transactions demonstrate this: La Famiglia’s $73 million investment into Sweep, BigPoint Holding’s CHF600 million investment into Climeworks, and the creation of Stripe’s $1 billion Frontier fund along with other big names in tech and consulting.

Despite the vast sums being allocated to climate startups, a recent PwC report suggests that investment was actually falling short in the sectors that contributed the most to global carbon emissions. “Of 15 technology solutions analysed, the top five, representing more than 80% of emissions reduction potential by 2050, received just 25% of the climate tech investment between 2013 and H1 2021,” the report said.

But Helgason reckons billionaires like him can make a difference, saying recently: “There’s rapid change taking place in terms of companies now getting funded.

“And the perception that having a strong climate focus jeopardises returns is completely gone. Investors can see the gigantic transition taking place and the opportunity for value creation.”

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