Cookies help to improve your website experience and provide secure services. Some cookies are essential for security and login functionalities, others enable easier use and convenient support. You can revoke your decision at any time.
FINANCE & INVESTING | 13.4.2023
Maarten de Jong realised early on that entrepreneurship and social good belong together and later founded the successful Dutch crowdfunding platform Oneplanetcrowd. Maarten explains in an interview what exactly drives him and how investors benefit from a double return with Invesdor.
Before working for Oneplanetcrowd, I ran an investor network for companies in emerging markets that helped raise capital. Then I got to know the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in the US when it came to the Pebble Watch, the first smartwatch at the time. The watch had already been developed and was offered for pre-sale on Kickstarter. The company wanted to collect 100,000 dollars, but in the end, over 50 million were raised. It was a huge success and a very effective and innovative way to raise capital. That's how I got to know crowdfunding and was inspired by it.
One of the investors in my network was Start Green Capital, a fund company that primarily invests in the energy transition in the Netherlands. When I spoke to one of the fund managers there, it turned out that Start Green already had the idea of a crowdfunding platform for sustainable investments or impact investing in the Netherlands. At the beginning of 2012, we decided to launch that. My job was to bring the platform to market together with Start Green Capital. Since the founding of Oneplanetcrowd, we have financed 300 companies with 35,000 investors and with a volume of around 120 million euros.
We announced the merger of Oneplanetcrowd with Invesdor months ago, but we have only now received approval from the regulatory authorities in Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. In April we will be able to close the merger formally. But the two companies have already been working closely together since November. First, we want to merge the crowds of both platforms. The goal is to give investors access to all investment projects with just one login. We want to realise it this summer.
One of the main reasons for us to merge with Invesdor was that Invesdor is already active internationally and across borders. Conversely, Invesdor chose Oneplanetcrowd because we are highly specialised in impact investing here, including projects around renewable energy in the Netherlands. We are now working to build the people, expertise and network for sustainable projects in Invesdor's locations in Finland, Germany and Austria.
As Managing Director Benelux of the Invesdor Group, I continue to manage the team in Amsterdam, which looks for interesting sustainable investment projects to offer to crowdinvestors. The big difference is that we can now offer financing projects from our colleagues in Finland, Germany and Austria to Dutch investors. Conversely, we can also offer our investment projects in these partner countries. We expect more "crowd power" with larger business projects and faster capital acquisition via a larger European platform. This opens up many more opportunities. I can also reveal that we are planning, among other things, to expand to Belgium in the near future.
Yes, for example, Fairphone. This is an Android smartphone made with metals and minerals from sustainable supply chains that can be repaired and upgraded by the owner. So users don't have to buy a new smartphone when their old one is broken or obsolete. The project has enormous sustainability potential, as e-waste is also a significant problem of our time. We funded Fairphone in 2018 with 2.5 million euros. The crowdinvestors were among the core investors at the time and have contributed significantly to the company's profitability today. Now the investors can sell their shares in a new financing round with a good return. That is an excellent success story.
Fairphone is an example of scale-ups, i.e. successfully launched young companies that need to finance their rapid growth. But we also accompany many new renewable energy projects in the Netherlands. Actually, they could quickly raise capital through private equity investors or banks. But for projects like solar panel fields or wind turbine parks, the regional authorities in the Netherlands require that a certain percentage of the capital must be investable by local residents so that the local community also benefits from the projects. Together with the project managers, we then organise a financing campaign in the region intending to increase the acceptance of the projects via citizen participation.
Yes, it is very attractive for investors because they finance a project with a good return and very low risk. Usually, these projects are mature, all permits are in place, and contracts with the grid operators or electricity consumers are already signed. Local citizens share in the revenues and become an immediate part of the energy transition. People like that and it attracts many citizens.
Local projects indeed remain local for the time being. But often the projects are big enough to attract investors from outside. We often open up investment to outside crowdfunding investors after the local participants had their chance to invest. In this way, German investors will also have the chance to invest in a Dutch wind farm in the future.
We believe that more and more people in Europe are increasingly interested in investments that offer them both a financial return and a sustainability return. We call this a double return. Our employees, entrepreneurs and investors all think similarly: use business as a source of good. I believe this movement will grow significantly in the coming years.
Through the combined investor crowd, we will attract more of Europe's most promising and ambitious sustainable scale-ups. We also want to follow the companies through several funding rounds and offer larger funding volumes as they grow. In fact, the funding campaigns are getting bigger: we started with funding volumes of 10,000 to 20,000 euros, and today, the average is one million euros per project. If we channel this into impact companies, the contribution to sustainability also becomes bigger and bigger. Our impact as a platform will grow substantially.
Investing money in sustainable investments with a good return does not have to be contradictory. Read more: crowdfunding platforms allow you to invest funds sustainably in a growing market in times of the energy transition and increasing environmental awareness and to advance meaningful projects together.
Maarten de Jong is co-founder and CEO of the Dutch crowdfunding platform Oneplanetcrowd. After graduating in Technical Business Administration from the University of Groningen (NL) and spending six months in Sri Lanka, he started working in the Netherlands for the Business in Development Network, where he and his team arranged funding opportunities for many entrepreneurs in emerging markets. He built a network of more than 150 business angels, high net worth individuals, banks and development banks, and venture capital funds. In 2012, he co-founded Oneplanetcrowd with Coenraad de Vries and Laura Rooseboom under the StartGreen Capital umbrella. Oneplanetcrowd specialises in financing sustainable and social initiatives that offer investors financial and social returns.
The information contained herein is not meant to be, and it shall not be interpreted as investment advice or a recommendation and investors must neither accept any offer for, nor acquire, any securities unless they do so on the basis of the information contained in the applicable investment material of a target company. Investing in securities of unlisted companies is associated with high risk.