Superorganism wants to be the conservationist on the cap table

The earth has seen a 69% decline in wildlife populations over the last 50 years. In the same amount of time, carbon emissions have increased by 90%. And while many venture firms have been created to fund the startups tackling the rise in carbon, the same couldn’t be said about biodiversity. Until now.

Superorganism launched on Wednesday to be a venture firm solely focused on biodiversity and nature. The firm was started by Tom Quigley, a former conservationist, and Kevin Webb, a VC and angel investor.

Both Quigley and Webb got interested in the role that venture capital could play in solving these biodiversity issues a few years ago before finding each other by kismet, Quigley told TechCrunch. “There are very few other people that are thinking about how to invest in biodiversity with a venture lens; Kevin is the first person I had talked to,” he said.

Webb had started angel investing in the sector to see if there was enough deal flow — that could produce venture returns — to launch a firm dedicated to the category. He reached out to Quigley because he was impressed by his background. The pair found alignment and formally started working on Superorganism in 2022.

Superorganism is currently targeting $25 million for its first fund, according to SEC documents. The firm declined to comment on fundraising.

The firm will invest in pre-seed and seed-stage companies and write checks from $500,000 up to $3 million. Superorganism plans to donate 10% of all the firm’s profits to conservation efforts. Webb said that the firm won’t lead rounds but rather invest alongside other managers to lend their expertise.

“It’s really designed to be complementary to a number of other firms working with founders who might have been calling themselves ag tech and invest alongside a great ag tech lead,” Webb said, using ag tech as an example. “We have sometimes called ourselves the closest thing to a conservationist on a cap table.”

Superorganism focuses on startups in three broad categories: how to advance biodiversity and adapt to climate change; tech that reduces harm to biodiversity or the extinction of species; and tech that may not be focused on biodiversity specifically but that could enable it down the line. Webb said that while not every company building in this space fits the venture return model, Superorganism wants to back the ones that do.

INVERSA Leathers, a startup that makes real leather out of invasive species, is a portfolio company. CEO Aarav Chavda started the company after seeing the damage lionfish had on the coral reefs in the gulf of Mexico. Now, the startup works with more than 25 brands.

Chavda said working with the Superorganism team was like a “breath of fresh air.” He added that it was nice to not have to explain things like biodiversity to the firm — they already understood why it mattered.

“There is a lot of climate tech, a lot of blue tech — having biodiversity tech, it’s really useful and really it is Kevin and Tom who have created it as an angle,” Chavda said. “There is a lot of white space and untapped value here.”

Quigley said that this category is actually larger than many people would realize because for a long time, it didn’t really have a name. Startups looking to solve these issues have previously largely been slotted into other categories, like climate tech or ag tech.

“In a lot of cases these founders are not starting from zero; [there were] people hiding in these other categories because it hasn’t been a category,” Quigley said. “This is focused on nature to really be able to explain their best interests.”

Quigley and Webb also think that the timing is right for a firm like this as more people and entities are getting increasingly interested in how their supply chains and businesses affect nature. The past year has seen movement on corporations coming together to figure out ways to best disclose their impact. Webb said they hope the momentum follows a similar path as climate with this renewed focus, leading to policy down the road.

“When I left Webb [Investment Network] in 2018 and said I wanted to invest in biodiversity, I got a lot of puzzled stares in many directions, VCs who said, ‘how is this going to make money?’” Webb said. “The world today is different. The success of what climate tech has been able to provide, there is a lot more openness to what venture can do.”

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