Time of the planet: the entrepreneurial UFO in the service of the climate

Nicolas Sabatier co-founded Time for the Planet with Mehdi Coly in 2019. The goal: to discover innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, turn them into companies by attracting CEOs, and find money for them according to the amount of capital. For this, two entrepreneurs from Lyon chose to become a private non-profit company.

Challenges – What is the time for the planet?

Nicolas Sabatier – Time for the Planet is at the intersection of a holding company, a civic movement and an investment fund. We identify innovations that work but need funding to scale up and have maximum impact. We turn it into a company by hiring the CEO and becoming a shareholder. We don’t teach an engineer to be an entrepreneur, but we connect him with a CEO by investing in his company, majority or not. The goal is to save time for innovators who no longer have to waste time on time-consuming fundraising during emergencies.

Where are your funds coming from to allow you to invest in these innovations?

From our 106,000 shareholders, including 2,000 legal entities, who invest between 1 and 2 million euros. One euro invested corresponds to one share, with a limit of 25% of voting rights per shareholder. However, as new shareholders are hired, the voting rights are reduced mechanically. In total, we have already raised just over 15 million euros.

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“Honeypot Strategy”

How do you select projects?

As with recruiting our shareholders, we employ a honeypot strategy. Being attractive enough for investors and innovators to come to us, which saves time and money on recruitment. Innovators can submit their projects on our site, we have received 1200 projects in three years and studied just over 400. For us to invest, their impact on global warming must be measurable and have global potential. Then the scientific committee evaluates the projects and submits a report, and then we put them to the vote of the shareholders at the general meeting. A decision cannot be adopted even if the majority of shareholders represent less than 50% of the voting rights. So far, 7 projects have voted in favor of investment, and five have already received money.

For example, which ones?

We are shareholders of Leviathan Dynamics, a manufacturer of an air conditioning system that replaces greenhouse gases with water and saves about 30% of energy at the same time. A system not far from the description of inventors in their garages, discovered by two French engineers. Another example, we invested in cool roof France, a white coating for flat roofs where vegetation and solar panels are not suitable. This limits the heat in the building in the summer and therefore the air conditioning is reduced. When they applied, they already had turnover, but they needed support, especially at the international level, to accelerate their development. Ultimately, all the innovations we fund will be available in open source, that’s the condition. The goal is not to get rich, but to mass-promote climate solutions.

With what effect?

According to our measurements, the innovations already funded have saved 9,000 tons of CO equivalent.2 50 tons for our society’s carbon footprint in two years. This calculation makes it clear to our shareholders that their money has affected the climate in one year.

Read alsoWhy green finance remains a myth

“Profitability is objective but secondary”

You define yourself as a non-profit company, why?

The company reassures the economic world, unlike unions, which may have a reputation for being poorly managed. As entrepreneurs, we have a risk-taking culture, the agility to act quickly, the purity of associations and the ability to mobilize people. We are able to gather and talk with the economic world. We create a very strong sense of belonging to our community by allowing our shareholders to meet locally. This creates a certain pride, people talk about it among their peers, which leads to a form of contagion by attracting new investors. On the other hand, Time for the Planet will never pay dividends to its shareholders, everything is reinvested for the planet.

Are you giving up on the goal of making a profit?

Not at all, non-profit doesn’t mean “not profitable”, it’s mostly a secondary objective. Turning a profit would be a way to get even stronger at fundraising, but it won’t happen in 5 years. We enter the capital of projects when no one wants to invest. If they reach a stage where they need to industrialize and perhaps welcome other investors, we can exit the equity and resell our shares as a first means of self-financing. Otherwise, if the subsidiary is profitable, we could receive dividends to finance other projects. But when we finance ourselves, we can buy back shares from shareholders who want to exit and return the invested amount. It is still very uncertain.

You’ve been selected as a 2022 recipient of ZEvent, the annual charity event organized by broadcasters, so what did you get out of it?

We didn’t ask for anything, but we were actually chosen to receive a portion of the donations made during ZEvent. We discussed with the organizers that we are not a union, we proposed scenarios that would allow us to collect funds legally, but our legal form caused fear. So in the end we didn’t get any money. On the other hand, we asked to attend the event anyway. We hosted 50 hours of live streaming without making any profit. This but it has been very strong in terms of image, makes our shareholders proud and creates great sympathy. Honeypot strategy.

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