“It's the first time in history that there's a sense of urgency for humanity. And that same sense of urgency can drive innovation within companies.” - Chris Lindener
For Mach49 Co-Managing Partner of EMEA Delivery and Client Success Chris Lindener, the sky's the limit—literally.
Before he joined Mach49, Chris served as Head of Airbus Scale, Airbus’ incubator, where he oversaw the company’s internal and external innovation activities. He’s also the co-founder of numerous startups, including Reflex Aerospace, a venture-backed satellite manufacturer, Skyroads, a digital operations platform for the urban air mobility market, and a virtual reality company that was acquired by Booking.com.
Chris, who has lived and worked on three continents, is also an experienced venture accelerator, having advised over 20 incubator and accelerator programs in Europe.
We sat down with Chris to learn more about his background and hear why innovation and sustainability are inextricably connected.
You’ve seen corporations achieve fabulous success with venture building, and you’ve also seen them fail. What sets apart companies that succeed with sustainability ventures?
First, you need a sense of urgency. If there’s not a sense of urgency, you can’t do it right. Companies are starting to see that urgency around climate and sustainability and are realizing that action in this area isn’t just nice—it’s essential to survive over the next years and decades.
You also need an aggressive portfolio of sustainability initiatives, not just one venture. The magnitude of the challenge is so big, it’s not enough to build one. The climate and sustainability market is huge, so you need to work in many areas and do it at scale. When Mach49 comes into projects, we say, “we’re going to do this well, and we’re also going to do it fast.” Big companies tend to need to go to the board for approval, to hire new talent, and suddenly three years have gone by. The way they’ve done things for 30 years may have led to growth then, but it won’t work in this new environment. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for big companies to do what they can do best, which is investing heavily in technology and startups. Focusing on sustainability is what they need to prosper.
When we assessed our recent ventures, we discovered that 50 percent of Mach49’s projects are already related to climate and sustainability. We’ll probably reach 100 percent in a few years because everything needs to be in that arena moving forward. And net zero alone is not enough. We’re supporting our clients with both net zero and nature-positive efforts. Loss of biodiversity is as serious as climate change, and investors and big companies are increasingly realizing that they have an important role to play in conserving it.
You’ve worked on innovation initiatives with major companies around the world. What recent Mach49 project stands out for its potential sustainability impact?
Right now, our work with a major global real estate firm stands out. In 2021, the building and construction sector, including construction, maintenance, and building operations, was responsible for 37% of CO2 emissions. Decarbonization of the construction industry is essential.
These big companies are building, building, and building, but is what they are building sustainable? It’s going to decrease in value, and they’ll start seeing that on their balance sheets. If they look longitudinally, companies will see they need to address this.
And using net zero approaches for new construction isn’t enough. The real problem is that we need to convert existing buildings into net zero and nature-positive buildings. We’re looking into how we can leverage technology and data to build systems that could be used to make any building in the world nature-positive.
Large companies that take on this challenge have the potential to disrupt the entire market, which is a huge financial opportunity.
The global economic and geopolitical situation is likely to remain uncertain in the near to longer term. Why should companies continue to prioritize venture building in this context?
The opportunity cost of losing everything is much higher than the cost of investment in innovation. Now is not the time to be cheap. The companies that are investing heavily and taking bold action will come out stronger. They’re the companies that matter.
We’ve seen how fragile startups are in downturns without access to capital or technology. Companies have the brand, capacity, and capital to make big investments, so they have a huge advantage at this time. Often, major corporations have existing IP that has massive potential for commercialization—they just need to overcome their own inertia and embrace the venture-building mindset to take advantage of those opportunities.
Get in touch with the Mach49 team to learn how your corporation can get started with climate and sustainability venture building and investing.