In the first episode of the A Future by Design webinar, Barry Palte explains how technology is giving us the opportunity to change the world for the better.
The webinar series, A Future by Design: The Future of Impact Investing, envisions what the world could look like in the next 20 years. Founded by Lisa Andrews (who oversees tech innovation competition, Extreme Tech Challenge, and is the CEO of innovation ecosystem Singularity University), the series highlights the value of impact investing to a larger online audience; one increasingly made up of younger entrepreneurs for whom making a greater global impact is as important as, if not more so, their bottom line. The webinar’s first guest was leading impact investment expert Barry Palte.
Barry Palte and Lisa Andrews share a similar set of values.
“We came together around a very close alignment of our values, and also what we’re trying to achieve in the world,” said Palte. “How do we bring together technology, disruption, and change the lives of a billion people?”
One example in his impact investing portfolio is his investment in the Canadian ag-tech business, MustGrow. The company has developed a mustard seed crop-derived organic pest control solution and has had some very big wins in the last 12 months.
The product has been trialed around Panama Disease, which affects about 25% of the world’s global banana crop. With no chemical solution for dealing with the disease, it’s a problem that Palte says is “… like coronavirus on steroids for bananas.”
“The company was invited by the Colombian government to test the product, and laboratory trials found it to be 100% effective. Additional, more extensive trials may position MustGrow as the only solution for this disease in the world.”
That would be a key net-positive for any company, but it also reflects how profitable such “impact investments” can be: in the 12 months since Barry invested, the share price on this listed company is up 900%.
Making Solid Investment Decisions
When it comes to a sound impactful investment, Palte’s initial qualifier is that the founders need to be able to describe simply exactly what their impact will be.
“They should be able to describe that in a very quick, precise, believable manner. It needs to cut-through, and impact a lot of people.”
As the webinar series seeks a vision of the world in the next 20 years, Barry’s own global vision for the next 20 years is an optimistic one.
“By 2041, we’ll have a far more collaborative, unified approach to solving global problems. Coronavirus has been the perfect example. Major issues like coronavirus can’t be dealt with in isolation, it affects all of humanity.
“Collaboration, unification, a common sense of purpose is critical. Focus on the combination of objectivity and heart: objectively looking at the data and the science, trusting experts to give a clear, unbiased view of what could be. Then, using our hearts to work through how we can make wise decisions.”
Technology’s Role in Spreading the Impact Investment Ethos
When asked how valuable he thinks online events such as A Future by Design are, Palte believes technology has made altruistic and globally beneficial ambitions reachable.
“The Zoom platform we are talking on is a great example of how technology can bring people together. The importance of events like this is to create optimism and passion, and to encourage participation in people who might not normally have a voice, is critical.”
He is particularly enthusiastic, having interfaced with comparatively inexperienced, but passionate and motivated founders.
“The drive is amazing,” he says. “The great example of Canva announcing their most recent capital raising at a huge valuation. The two founders said that they were looking to give away almost all their money over their lifetime. What drove, and what has been hugely beneficial for the company is a values base of always giving back. And that’s really attracted both customers, staff, and it’s been a key part of their success.”
“The world is truly becoming a smaller and smaller place. … technology has got an immense ability to make a positive change done properly. … people can participate on a personal level, however big or small that might be.”
“I think that more and more, you’ll see organizations like that getting created.”
As for what viewers took away from the webinar, Barry hopes they saw what opportunities are available, and what they can do personally to make the most of them.
“The world is truly becoming a smaller and smaller place. I hope that they took away that technology has got an immense ability to make a positive change done properly. And that they as individuals can be part of that it’s not for other people; people can participate on a personal level, however big or small that might be.”