Interview with the Expert: A discussion with Naveed Chaudhry, Co-Founder & Head of The Greenhouse at the Centre for Climate Change Innovation

Every year, the CCCI [Centre for Climate Change Innovation] selects 30 positive climate change startups to join The Greenhouse accelerator. The popular scheme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and HSBC UK, is in its second year and recently accepted its third cohort. In 2021 Construction Carbon joined the first cohort of successful applicants.

We caught up with Naveed Chaudhry, Co-Founder and Head of The Greenhouse who gave us an insight into how the programme is run and what makes a compelling applicant.

Following on from its predecessor, the Climate-KIC accelerator, The Greenhouse is a 12-month support programme which also offers grant funding, amongst other benefits: “We really look for a sense of commitment from the founders. A passion for what they are building needs to shine through,” explains Naveed, who started working life as an investment banker but discovered he preferred engaging with companies at the early growth stage on a more direct level.

The Greenhouse process starts with a detailed application form followed by a two-day bootcamp for successful applicants: “The bootcamps are hard work,” says Naveed, “we want to see how they apply a business innovation framework to their business model. On day 2 the founders present a modified business model, incorporating feedback that we provide them on day 1and take questions from their peers”.

Naveed’s experience in this area stems back to when he began mentoring start-ups in the fintech space. It was during this time, as his focus began shifting towards impactful companies, that he came across the Climate-KIC accelerator, designed to make a positive impact on climate.

From there, successful applicants join a 12-month programme at the Royal Institution. They have regular meetings and workshops with Naveed, the wider team, and external partners, and in due course get the opportunity to interact with the angel investment network and institutional investors.

An important factor is “why are they doing this?” explains Naveed. “Is it a niche idea or could it be scaled across different geographies?” Emphasis is put on whether the idea will have a significant director indirect impact on climate change.

What stood out about Construction Carbon was how strongly they felt about what they were doing: “They were humble and curious and accepted they were on a learning curve”. The Greenhouse enjoys supporting teams that are willing to listen and learn.

A final and deciding factor is whether the business could be commercially viable: “We want financial investors to be interested. We love it when at least one founder is working on the project full time”.

The Greenhouse has deliberately stayed open minded when it comes to the range of startup ideas they consider: “In every cohort we have at least two to three startups addressing the built environment. Food and agriculture come up too as does mobility, plastic packaging alternatives, plastic recycling, zero waste shopping and most recently a few carbon capture initiatives. The range is very broad.

The accelerator is proud of the number of success stories to come out of its programme. To date, the businesses that it has supported have raised close to $750m and created around 1,500 new jobs.

The scheme certainly hopes to continue to support at least 30 startups a year. It also sees a gap at the ‘scale up’ stage to support businesses that have moved on from the initial phase and are set to expand into more mature companies but need guidance on how to begin that process.

As for what the future holds, Naveed explicitly states The Greenhouse is still in ‘startup’ mode too. “We are in our second year running and although we are seeing application numbers and investor interest soar, we are also innovating and will continually adapt our programme in line with the feedback we receive”.