When you’ve spent your entire life hitting the world’s most exciting race courses in some of its fastest cars, one imagines retirement can be, well, a bit slow. Some move into lower octane championships, some become commentators. Others sell cars or – in the case of Paolo Barilla – helm the family pasta company.
When Nico Rosberg retired in 2016, just five days after winning his first and only world championship, it was a big surprise. At 31, the German still had plenty of years on the track in him and was clearly at the top of his game but, he said, he wanted to quit while he was ahead. So what would he do next?
Well, after a quick stint on the podcast circuit, the answer for Rosberg was to join the heady world of investing – and specifically eco-investing. He now holds shares in environmentally conscious firms including Formula E, Tier Mobility, Lilium and Chargepoint, as well as becoming a founding member of the Greentech Festival. Here he tells us about his journey into eco-investing and why he’s devoted his life to helping green entrepreneurs.
Why is it important to you to invest in organisations that have a low or positive impact on the environment?, As an entrepreneur, I try to follow one principle: I want to make a positive impact with my business, whether it’s for the environment or for society. As humans, one of the biggest challenges we face is the climate crisis and all its associated consequences for life on this planet. This is a tragedy of which we are all aware but I want to face it with positivity. I believe we can find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems and that we have the responsibility to do so. Being able to contribute to endeavours that are doing this is a great source of personal happiness.
Do you think this is something more investors should be considering?, Sustainability is not an investment trend, but a necessity. Our global economy will collapse if we don’t make every effort to reduce its negative impact on the planet. Many companies have already adapted to become more environmentally conscious and governments everywhere are working on stricter regulations. Investors can help drive this development so it’s great to see the interest we receive from stakeholders at the Greentech Festival.
"I’m fascinated by green food trends like meat replacements. It's amazing how technology in this area has resulted in a new mindset among consumers."
Where did the idea for the Greentech Festival come from?, In 2018, I was awarded the Greentech Entrepreneur of the Year award by Marco Voigt and Sven Krüger, who had established the awards more than a decade ago. We had all been looking towards CES Las Vegas for new technologies and wondered why it was all being carted into the desert. Why couldn’t we showcase innovative solutions in Europe? We decided we wanted to give it a go and founded the Greentech Festival.
What do you hope to achieve with the festival?, Before we founded the festival, there was no global event for green technology. Projects and innovations were exhibited at various events and scattered around numerous trade shows. We want to offer a single platform for the most forward-thinking and cutting-edge green technology, and exhibit it all in one place. We’re also aiming to bring the topic of sustainability into everyday life and show that green is ‘cool’.
We want to to share knowledge, entertain and make the future tangible all at once. A classic trade fair doesn’t spark joy and create excitement like our festival does. The Green Awards are still at the heart of it but all the different parts of Greentech – the exhibition, conference, concert, Formula E race, and awards ceremony – create an all-encompassing experience, where different groups can connect, exchange knowledge and inspire one another.
Some exhibitors, for example car brands, don’t fit the traditional idea of a ‘green’ company. How do you decide who to include?, We show green technologies, not green companies. There is a difference. And car manufacturers are under particular pressure to develop energy and carbon efficient solutions to make mobility more sustainable. There are a number of technical approaches to one problem, not just electric vehicles, so it is vital to show there are different solutions that will make it into our lives sooner or later.
As far as our exhibition criteria is concerned, it is crucial for us to present ideas that are sustainable to their core and exhibitors who truly intend to change their products or industry. We’re trying really hard to avoid any kind of ‘greenwashing’. We’re looking for the latest innovations and want to give a platform to exhibitors who have the potential to have a big impact on our future.
"Our global economy will collapse if we don’t make every effort to reduce its negative impact on the planet."
What eco innovations should we know about now?, 3D mobility solutions, or EVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing devices), are going to be very impactful. I am convinced that in a couple of years we’ll see them in big cities like Los Angeles or Singapore. I’m also fascinated by green food trends such as meat replacements. It is amazing how technology in this area has resulted in a new mindset among consumers.
Lots of projects have also come about as a result of the festival. A great example is Continental’s sustainable tyres made from Russian dandelion instead of rubber. There was little interest in the project at first and they were going to pull investment, but we found it really innovative and inspiring. The project won a Green Award, which gave it a platform for further investment, and it has since been brought back to life.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned since becoming an eco-investor?, Patience goes a long way. Technologies are long-term investments dependent on so many factors outside of the innovation itself so it’s important to stay calm and sit it out. If you’re looking to start your own green tech company, do your research and due diligence – a positive impact on the environment may not mean that the market is ready for your product. It’s vital to understand your sales potential and get every bit of knowledge on competitors, target groups, marketing requirements and growth opportunities.
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