HomeInterviewsKiko Ventures, Interview With Founding Partner Jamie Vollbracht

Kiko Ventures, Interview With Founding Partner Jamie Vollbracht

Jamie Vollbracht, the Founding Partner of Kiko Ventures, a London, UK based evergreen cleantech venture investor, participated to our Q&A. Find it below.

Jamie Vollbracht, Founding Partner of Kiko Ventures
Jamie Vollbracht, Founding Partner of Kiko Ventures

VCWire: Hello Jamie, can you please tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background? 

I’ve been working in cleantech for 20 years. I started in the solar industry doing business development and international expansion. Then I moved into a broader set of technologies, designing programmes for the UK government to support cleantech innovation and working with major corporations on their venture programmes. I joined what is now Kiko 10 years ago.

VCWire: Can you introduce Kiko? 

Kiko Ventures invests in high growth potential clean technologies, primarily in Europe and occasionally beyond. We’ve delivered top decile performance over the past 10 years and use our experience to actively support our portfolio companies to deliver impact and financial returns.

VCWire: What is your overall strategy (geo/amount/sectors)?

We tend to write single digit million cheques initially. As we invest primarily from a IP Group’s (a listed company) balance sheet, we have a more flexible mandate, meaning we can double-down on winners and/or hold portfolio companies for longer to maximise impact/returns.

VCWire: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?

Gosh, on many fronts! As hands-on, pro-active supporters of our portfolio, we lean in  wherever/whenever it’s appropriate. In our experience, by being on the front foot with things that are important but not yet urgent,  the business is better positioned and we’re there to help with that. 

It could be helping with business development, perhaps recruitment, maybe a specific area of expertise the business needs. We often hear positive feedback from our portfolio leadership teams that we talk about value-add and actually deliver on it.

VCWire: What do you like to see in founders?….And what don’t you like to see in them? Is there something which impresses you at a first glance? 

It’s important to strike the right balance between self-confidence and hubris. It’s a hard job. There are many walls that need to be run through and that can be difficult if you’re a shrinking violet with a negative outlook. However, sometimes that self-confidence can become arrogance or being too proud to ask for or accept help.  Usually, one can get a reasonable sense of this in the first engagement with a leadership team.

VCWire: What can you tell us about your LP base? Are they helpful? How? 

At present we invest primarily from IP Group’s balance sheet. IP Group provides a wealth of back office support that helps us with things like legal drafting and financial reporting. And as described above, the flexible nature of IP Group’s balance sheet has enabled us to invest in opportunities that would be out of scope for other investors. That said, despite trying many different sources, we’ve yet to find a perfect source of capital for cleantech venture and there are some downsides to our current setup, for example the volatility and lack of visibility over future capital availability. For that reason we are actively looking to raise third party capital that doesn’t face these issues. Ideally this would enable us to have the perfect setup.

VCWire: Please, tell us a bit more about the portfolio. You can list five startups whose paths have made you particularly proud of.   

A couple of exits first:

  • Ceres Power has been a fantastic success story for us financially. We first invested at a valuation of £1m and last sold when the valuation was £1bn.
  • At a smaller scale, Dukosi was a win-win-win from its sale to private equity: we had a strong IRR return, the founding team was able to access additional growth capital and the PE house could leverage Dukosi’s battery optimisation technology with other activities they already have in the battery industry

Then three current portfolio companies:

  • Bramble represents a paradigm shift in electrochemistry, with their multi-patented approach making it possible to literally print fuel cells and electrolysers in well-established printed circuit board gigafactories. Bramble’s technology delivers a critically needed step-change reduction in the costs of these devices, alongside other functional benefits, making them cost-effective and scalable today. And in terms of progress/path: they now have contracts with some of the world’s largest companies; it’s gone a long way since we first invested in a tiny team with an idea.
  • Oxa is revolutionising the way goods and people move, with autonomous vehicle software. The scale of the market opportunity is enormous, as is the potential for environmental benefits. And the business has gone a long way since we first invested in 2016, to now having multiple autonomous vehicles, importantly, operated by third parties on third party vehicles (so a scalable model) as far away as Florida.
  • Vytal is a German-HQ’d business that unlocks the circular economy. They started by providing a compelling alternative to single-use food packaging and have expanded rapidly. It’s a good example of a leadership team being able to iterate fast, since they started in canteens and restaurants and have more recently added major events (think sports stadia and music gigs) to their repertoire. One could argue that Vytal increasingly has a platform digital ERP tool that could unlock circularity in many verticals.

VCWire: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents on in the next five years?  

We think fashion/textiles is going to undergo a much needed overhaul. The sector represents 5-10% of global emissions – and one in every eight people on the planet are employed in the sector.

As climate/cleantech is now mainstream, we are also seeing large, scalable opportunities for specific segments within cleantech markets. For example businesses focused on improving the building fabric of/deploying renewable energy technologies on buildings occupied by SMEs