New European early-stage VC Revent launches with an impact focus, and sights set on a $60M first close

Mike Butcher
·4-min read

Revent — a new European early-stage (pre-seed to series A) venture capital fund with an "impact" focus — is coming out of the gate today, and is poised to reach its target of a €50 million ($60 million) fund, with the first close of that already completed. Focusing on environmental and societal problems, Revent will be looking to fund startups with both "purpose and profit". Headquartered in Berlin and investing across Europe it will home in on companies in climate tech, health and well-being, and economic empowerment.

The founding partners are Otto Birnbaum, who was previously with French VC Partech, but also worked at HelloFresh; Dr. Lauren Lentz, formerly of McKinsey and an expert in impact measurement; Emily Brooke MBE, founder of Beryl, a micromobility startup; and Henrik Grosse Hokamp, who worked previously for Partech’s late-stage fund.

Revent’s founder LP is Benjamin Otto, member of the influential German Otto family, founders of the Otto Group. The Otto Family also backed the launch of two other German VCs, e.ventures and Project A. Other investors in the fund include Max Tayenthal (N26), Sascha Konietzke (Contentful), Verena Pausder (Fox & Sheep), Luis Hanemann (e.ventures), Benjamin Roth (Urban Sports Club) and Dr. Florian Heinemann (Project A).

Revent has so far made four investments: Tomorrow Bank, a sustainable challenger bank based in Hamburg; Sylvera, a London-based company that developed AI-enabled monitoring of nature-based carbon offsetting projects; Tmrow, a Denmark-based team building technology products for consumers and companies to understand and reduce their carbon footprint; and net purpose, an impact data stream for asset managers to understand the quantitative net impact of their portfolio, acting like a “Bloomberg” terminal of impact.

Commenting on the launch, Otto Birnbaum, Revent general partner said: "We’re not acting as philanthropists, but rather aim to demonstrate that achieving very attractive financial returns is possible precisely because of the positive impact these companies will achieve."

Benjamin Otto, Revent anchor investor, said: “Social and ecological challenges have reached a new level of urgency. We depend on entrepreneurial innovation to find new solutions. With Revent, we want to create a platform for founders that not only provides them with optimal support but also contributes to a change in mindset: Entrepreneurial success and social-ecological impact can reinforce each other."

Speaking to TechCrunch, Brooke and Lentz said the “purpose economy” has been accelerated by the COVID pandemic, which has amplified many of the planet's systemic problems, such as inequality of access to healthcare and edtech, creating massive changes in the world of work. Their mission, they tell me, is to positively affect the lives of 1 million people and to abate 5 million tons of C02.

They also say they are seeing a new wave of founders who want to tackle these problems. While overall VC investment is up only by about 2%, investment in "impact" spaces such as edtech and mental health is booming.

As Brooke told me on a call: “We want to build a new version of venture capital, that authentically and genuinely prioritizes environmental returns and societal returns, along with commercial.”

Lentz said: “We think that there is this generation of founders who are looking for an investor who really brings both financing and an impact mindset. So not a classical impact-first impact investor, or a classic VC that is only looking at the growth trajectory and the financial upside returns. And we think that this founder is looking for an investor who really believes that these two things reinforce each other, and that the returns are going to be generated by positive societal impact, and that there needs to be a European home for this kind of founder.”

The main question is, how are they going to measure the impact?

Lentz said: “We view this holistically, and we start very early, so when we're in diligence we go through a structured process of basically trying to assess the team, the founder DNA, how committed are they to achieving positive impact. We're investing very early, usually pre-product, so we need to understand what is the motivation for this team. And then we try to systemically look at the different dimensions of impacts or how deep the impact, how many people will they reach, what additionality are they offering. We go through a structured exercise during the due diligence. And then we do something a bit unique which is we do an impact forecast. And so before we pull the trigger and invest we basically take what the founders have told us, and what we have learned through our conversations about possible growth trajectories, and we try to make some estimates and assumptions around the depth of the impact that the company will have. So it might be how much carbon do we think that the company will be able to beat or avert over the next eight years, or how many lives would they be able to significantly affect and to what extent... We're not building a 20,000 line model, but we are trying to put some rigour around what we expect to happen on the impact side. Only if we anticipate that the company is going to have very significant potential upside from a commercial point of view and also very significant impact upside would we invest."