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Unblocking finance at scale to cool the planet

Monday 16 December 2019

Three of New Zealand’s top innovators have teamed up with the founders of Movac to build a financial marketplace that bridges the gap between environmental entrepreneurs and impact investors to solve climate and environmental challenges at scale. founder Nathalie Whitaker, leading scientist Professor Shaun Hendy, and Māori economy specialist and tech entrepreneur Mike Taitoko have set up Toha Foundry to develop and launch the Toha impact investment platform.

Ms Whitaker, who founded New Zealand’s largest crowdfunding platform, says Toha’s ultimate goal is to build a global marketplace that simplifies capital raising for environmental impact while capturing data to measure, prove and ultimately value impact in ways that engage financial markets.

“We need to unblock capital, at mass scale, to fund grassroots action if we’re going to cool the planet. Toha’s mission and system design will enable that,” said Ms Whitaker.

Toha Foundry recently completed its first round of external seed capital led by Movac founders Phil McCaw and Sharon Bryant, and supported by Sir Stephen Tindall’s investment arm K1W1. Further capital raising is ongoing.

The team’s first priority is to channel more than $1bn in investment over the next 24 months to innovations that can dramatically shift New Zealand’s emissions profile.

Mr McCaw, who is also Toha Foundry’s chairman, says Toha’s mission is the most ambitious, potentially disruptive and important that he’s seen over the last 20 years investing in Kiwi tech.

“It’s really important that the investment community figures out how to get involved in environmental impact now. We can’t wait. Not only must we do this, I believe that the environmental impact sector will lead innovation over the next 10 years and become a real focus for venture capital. It’s a real pleasure and privilege to be working with the Toha team,” said Mr McCaw.

The teams’ ambitions are matched by their collective experience and skills. Ms Whitaker believes that the time is right for this opportunity. “We’re at a point in history where the demand for innovation and action on climate is colliding with a rising appetite for investment in proven, measurable environmental impact. There’s no shortage of global capital looking to invest in impact initiatives. It’s just waiting for the right infrastructure and financial instruments to help flow capital to those who can prove they are achieving the most impact.”

Mr Taitoko says Toha has identified a range of initiatives with significant climate benefits such as homegrown regenerative agriculture breakthroughs that are improving soil carbon sequestration, freshwater quality, animal and food health and financial resilience for farmers.
“Toha is excited to partner with initiatives that are finding reliable and scalable solutions to climate and environmental challenges while de-stressing the business model at the same time.”

Professor Hendy recently released his latest book, #NoFly: Walking the Talk on Climate Change, which documents his journey to measure the personal impact of not flying for a year. With Toha he is taking the idea of individual action a step further. A protege of Sir Paul Callaghan, Professor Hendy’s plan is to mobilise a groundswell of Kiwis taking action in their community, giving scientists data and measurement that will unearth climate solutions faster.

Professor Hendy hopes this will result in “public science funding being deployed closer to the point of impact”.

Movac founder and experienced impact investor, Sharon Bryant believes that “as the market for environmental innovation grows, it’s critical that experienced players continue investing boldly in order to achieve large systemic change. Toha is a solution that is thinking big, has measurement at its core while still offering a way for everyone to take positive action.”

The co-founders have seen first hand that global capital is stuck and not flowing to the initiatives that show the most promise. With a mission to ‘cool the planet’, Toha is working with urgency to launch the digital market’s first category in regenerative agriculture before Christmas. Mr McCaw says he expects to “see Toha coming in behind categories that can transform New Zealand’s emissions profile and our environmental future”.

Founder biographies

Nathalie Whitaker has founded multiple digital crowdfunding ventures and impact organisations. She is CEO of Toha Foundry and director of Two Tales, an impact venture innovation lab.

Mike Taitoko is Chief Executive of Takiwā Ltd, a data analytics firm. He is also a Director of Mercury Energy and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and a member of the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group; and Director of Mercury Energy and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development.

Professor Shaun Hendy is a Professor of Physics at Auckland University and Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence, which is focused on the study of complex systems and networks.


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