CA: Laura, can you please summarise your career to date?
LN: I started my career at Goldman Sachs in New York, on the equity sales desk. A big part of my role was IPO fundraising, which gave me insight into how traditional investors (my main client base was hedge funds) value companies, but also what they don’t include in their valuations - such as the social and environmental impacts of their investments, which felt crucial to the long-term value of these companies.
That sparked my interest in impact investing, so from there I joined impact PE firm Bridges Fund Management, initially working on fundraising. I spent 2 years on the team, and then went on to do my MBA at INSEAD, which helped me build a skill set to shift into an investing role. After graduating, I returned to Bridges, this time on the investment team of the Sustainable Growth Fund, which focuses on investing into UK-based companies making a positive environmental or social impact.
This role gave me the chance to work closely with the management teams in the SME community, and eventually sparked my interest in being closer to the beginning of their journey by getting involved with companies at Start-up stage. I’m drawn to the idea that the biggest problems attract the best entrepreneurs and that these big problems require truly disruptive, often technology-based, solutions.
CA: What attracted you to Hambro Perks?
LN: I’d heard about Hambro Perks’ reputation for embracing a pioneering, risk-taking approach. But until I met the team, I honestly had not been aware of their conviction in only investing in companies that aim to make the world a better place. I was struck by how matter of fact this conviction was – as though it didn’t even need to be said (which is perhaps why I wasn’t aware of it as being core to the firm and its way of working). As I mentioned earlier, I think the combination of being both risk seeking and motivated by tackling huge challenges is very powerful, so I’m really excited to be part of this team.
CA: Which sectors of technology interest and excite you the most?
LN: Given my focus on sustainability and ESG, I’m particularly excited by a lot of the new solutions in the Climate Tech space.
We all know that decarbonisation is one of the greatest challenges facing companies and countries today. But I also think it’s a challenge with a particularly investable set of solutions, especially in the UK and Europe. As regulations push more and more companies to publicly state their carbon targets and map reduction plans, they are now in need of help to achieve those targets. This in turn presents a huge opportunity for new companies that can offer solutions to make it easier for companies to understand their footprint and to achieve targets they’ve set. I’m also interested in technologies and services that make it easier for consumers to shift towards more sustainable alternatives, such as EVs and circular consumer products, given this scale of challenge needs to be tackled from both a demand and supply perspective.
CA: What is your prediction for the ‘next big thing’ in tech?
LN: An area that has fascinated me for a while is the growth of distributed or home energy production, and the role it can play in “balancing the grid” basically looking at how small-scale and domestic energy generation can smooth out the variability in energy supply and demand caused by renewable energy sources. There is some exciting technology being developed that should ultimately make us more able to rely on renewable energy, in a more cost-effective way. The confluence of the Russia / Ukraine conflict, the related cost-of-living squeeze, and the falling cost of renewables has helped focus minds on how home-based solutions can help address rising bills but also the broader climate change agenda, and provide greater energy security.
CA: Tell us about some of the best books you’ve read lately.
LN: Before I joined the Hambro Perk team, they gave me a venture capital “curriculum” of books to read. I liked Good to Great by Jim Collins, particularly its analysis of what makes a great leader (“a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”). Though I should flag that some of the company case studies and personal anecdotes have not aged well.
At the moment, I’m reading John Doerr’s Speed and Scale, which is filling me with equal parts doom and motivation. Before that, I read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, because it was the only English language book I could find on a recent trip to Peru, and because you can’t always think about income statements and carbon emissions.