Supporting Venture Scale Positive Impact Startups

Responsibly Ventures VC Deep Dive
(Image: Responsibly Ventures)

Responsibly Ventures backs remarkable teams focused on Venture Scale Positive Impacts. Responsibly is investing in Pre-Seed startups in both Sustainability and Social Good – using multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guidepost per investment.

Fund Snapshot

  • Stage: Pre-Seed
  • Check Size: $50-250K
  • Geography: US
  • Lead/Follow: Both
  • Revenue/Valuation Thresholds: Less than $10M post-money valuation

About the Fund

Why was the fund created?

Zecca Lehn, GP of Responsibly Ventures, has been investing in sustainability for 20+ years. He started in the space when it was termed Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), which then turned into ESG and Sustainable Investing, and now Impact Investing. He is a long-term, impact-focused investor. Starting Responsibly Ventures gradually happened. Over the last few years, Zecca was an impact Angel investor, investing in about 40 startups across the US, which now sets the stage for Responsibly.

What is a contrarian idea Responsibly believes to be true/accurate?

Responsibly backs remarkable teams across the US that are highly diverse and VC impact focused. Within Zecca’s Angel portfolio, 84% of the startups have one or more underrepresented founders, and is in the top 1% among US VC since 2019 with 44 startups in his portfolio (as of 10/15/2021).

What domains in climate tech does Responsibly have the greatest expertise in?

Zecca is an Environmental Economist by training. As such, opportunities where there’s an aspect of behavior or consumer psychology get him most excited. As an Environmental Economist, Zecca looks at opportunities broadly within sustainability that can have multiple different ways of having an impact–at the nexus. For instance, alternative protein has an impact on CO2 mitigation, but there are other elements that are also impacted: health, water, land use, and labor.

What type of portfolio support does Responsibly provide?

Responsibly leads with empathy to understand the team and the startup before helping. The fund supports portfolio companies with:

  • Recruiting talent
  • Follow on funding (investor network)
  • Business strategy

About Investments

What is Responsibly’s investment process and timeline?

Responsibly is a PreSeed fund with access to companies that are just getting started. Responsibly likes to build relationships and monitor startup’s traction as early as possible – Zecca encourages founders to add him to their monthly newsletter updates right from the start. As a solo GP, Zecca can reference these newsletters (and their consistency) even before taking calls. Consistent updates are a key piece for Responsibly, as it shows dedication and perseverance.

In terms of process, Responsibly likes to meet founders virtually, through social media (Twitter, Clubhouse, etc.), and then spend a couple months to build relationships and track metrics before making an investment decision. Responsibly’s diligence process only takes 1-2 weeks.

What would make Responsibly consider deviating from their typical criteria?

Responsibly sticks to their criteria: Pre-Seed, check sizes up to $250K, and with valuations less than $10M post money. We also take a nuanced view, steering away from obvious vice, but do look at non-obvious vice on a per deal basis.

About The Author

Daniel Kriozere

Daniel Kriozere

Co-Founder @ The Impact

Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a Product Manager. Outside of his day job, he is a Principal at C3, Tech Scout at For ClimateTech, and Venture Scout at Prithvi. He also works with various climate incubators/accelerators (Cleantech Open, Techstars, and Joules Accelerator) and runs The Impact and Innovate Climate – both are newsletters covering startups in the climate space.

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