London-headquartered VC firm Northzone has announced the appointment of seasoned entrepreneur and sustainability executive Anna Skarborg to a newly created role, Head of Sustainability. In her overarching position, Skarborg will be advising both Northzone’s portfolio companies as well as the firm itself.
Over the past 26 years, Northzone has raised nine funds, counts $1.7 billion under management, has invested in over 175 European and US-based companies, typically at seed, and Series A and B rounds, and clocked 45 exits including Spotify, iZettle, Trustpilot, and Kahoot!
While the firm already counts a number of sustainability champions amongst its portfolio, Einride, Stockeld Dreamery, and Motatos to name a few, ever observant of the prevailing winds, Northzone’s appointment of Skarborg indicates not only a raising of the mainsail but a call of full speed ahead in terms of sustainability.
Northzone’s Partner Pär-Jörgen Pärson further explained, “The most material impact that Northzone as a VC can have is through our investments. By partnering with founders at an early stage, we have the potential to make sustainability a natural part of their corporate DNA, rather than an afterthought.”
New Futures, New Roles
It’s not every day that we see a new position created at a VC firm as the structures have been fairly well established for decades. However, the role(s) of Head of Stability or Head of Impact and Sustainable Goals, as was the case with Balderton Capital’s appointment of Elodie Broad early last month, is clearly on the rise, and a trend we’ll most certainly see more of in the coming months.
Similar to Elodie's role at Balderton, Skarborg will be plotting a sustainability course for Northzone, not only tracking the firm’s performance across the entire investment cycle and the progress it's making as a business, but she's is also charged with building bridges with other VCs and industry players to facilitate more open lines of communication and transparency on sustainability across the tech investment ecosystem.
Not content with just its own accountability, Northzone's search involved an individual that was not only an expert in the sustainability field, but one that understood the ins and outs of venture capital and could truly know what a founder goes through, the real blood, sweat, and tears of company building. A tall order indeed.
In Anna Skarborg, the trifecta has been found. At the age of 28, she founded her first company Upgrades Education. 11 years later together with the Wallenberg Foundations and Oscar Stege Unger, Anna co-founded Canucci, an agency aimed at, "speeding up the transition to more sustainable business models in established organisations through better use of collective intelligence."
Alongside her entrepreneurial skills, Skarborg began her career in impact consulting all the way back in 2007, at a time when the term impact hadn’t quite made the impact that it does today. She’s served as Sustainability Director at multi-national investment and brand operating firm Axel Johnson where she designed and lead the company’s sustainability transformation programme.
Impressive, yes, but now for the coup de grace in Skarborg’s CV; In 2019, she co-created the Novare/World Economic Forum's first joint international leadership programme for Sustainable Leadership and led a cohort of 16 Scandinavian Leaders through the programme.
Since 2020, she has been an expert member at the WEF, and supported the Strategic Intelligence Team on how to more efficiently support the sustainable transition agenda through its AI solution.
Leveraging this powerhouse of experience and know-how, Skarborg will be working closely with Northzone’s portfolio companies on a one-on-one basis, providing specifically tailored insights as to where value creation, opportunities, and risks lie within sustainability practices and ensuring that this key focus influences future business strategies and growth plans.
“Sustainability and venture capital should go more hand-in-hand. We need to apply VC thinking in our aim to reach the SDGs and in the fight against climate change in order to find the best possible products and services that we can scale at speed,” explained Skarborg. “This mindset is crucial in ensuring that sustainable solutions do not become compromises. But we also need to keep in mind that every company has a role to play in sustainable development, especially the ones that form today and will grow going forward.”