John Mairlot / Endgame Capital

Published on
June 4, 2024
Last edited on
min read
min read

John Mairlot / Endgame Capital

Published on
June 4, 2024
Last edited on
min read
min read
Photo of John Mairlot

John Mairlot and his co-founder Jinna Li lead Endgame Capital, an investment syndicate focused on early-stage climate technology.

Endgame invests in companies that have the potential to reshape entire industries, reduce more than 100 megatons of CO2 emissions (or equivalent) and offer a solution that is simply better than the status quo co-founder Mairlot says that this philosophy is key for companies to deliver at scale and tackle climate change.

Mairlot spoke to Roundtable about his journey to climate tech investing, how the syndicate leverages mentors as well as investors, and their future plans to launch a fund.

Journey to Climate Tech Investing

Roundtable: Can you share a little about your background and how you founded your syndicate, Endgame?

Mairlot: I began my career in classical private equity and later-stage deals, but was always interested in more societal topics. I decided to spend one year in eastern Congo working with local entrepreneurs to create social businesses. That was eye-opening, and it cemented my conviction that I wanted to do something that really made a difference for the rest of my career.

While studying for my MBA at INSEAD, I met my co-founder, Jinna. We’re also married and have a second child on the way. After INSEAD, I took my first step into impact investing, working for a fund in the Netherlands called Aqua Spark, the world’s largest sustainable aquaculture fund. I learnt a lot there, but my interest was broader than aquaculture. That's why I left Aqua Spark last summer to create Endgame Capital.

Recruiting Syndicate Members and Leveraging Expertise

Roundtable: Who are you hoping to recruit as syndicate members?

Mairlot: Our syndicate is open to angels and family offices interested in climate technologies. However, we particularly target value-add investors who fall into four groups: climate tech founders, exited tech founders, industry executives, and family offices with operating businesses.

We have a monthly catch-up with each of our companies. We share companies’ key asks with our investor base and connect the company with someone who could be helpful, whether they’ve invested or not.

Asides from money, these investors can leverage their experience, time and networks to support Endgame’s portfolio companies. We also welcome mentors with relevant backgrounds to support our mission of combating climate change.

Investment Process and Criteria

Roundtable:  What does your investment process look like?

Mairlot: Our due diligence is similar to a typical fund. We go through the data, and we ask companies extensive questions. Since we are generalists, for us to invest, we require a sector-focused VC to lead the round and rely on their technical due diligence. If we decide to go forward, then we negotiate.

Our typical check range is EUR100K to EUR500K. Our syndicate is different in that we have people who have pre-committed to all of our deals, which means we can enter the round with at least EUR100K – founders really like this since it gives them security. We always negotiate an upper range, which gives much more space for our larger base to enter.

For each deal, we write a deal memo around between 5 and 10 pages. We contact our base with a high-level email, and upon show of interest, we provide access to the investor data room with key documents and our deal memo. We like to give our investor base four weeks to decide, but we can move faster given our pre-committed capital.

The current minimum to invest per deal is EUR10,000 for male investors and EUR5,000 for female investors, because we're trying to encourage more women to invest. Our fees are deal-dependent.

Roundtable: You only invest in companies that at scale can mitigate at least 100 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. What else do you look for, or avoid?

Mairlot: As we deal with early-stage companies, the team is a large part of the assessment. Do they have the right founder problem fit? Do they share our vision? Do they seem coachable?

Other key elements include the superiority, uniqueness and defensibility of the technology, the size of the market, the problem being tackled and the company’s business development strategy.

Since our background and value-add is mainly in commercialization, we look for companies that already have or are close to first commercial sales. We generally don’t invest in very capital or asset-intensive companies - there are other players in the capital stack better positioned for these opportunities.

A side note here: we don't believe that companies can succeed if they're just more sustainable. They also have to offer a better product, a better service, be it higher quality or cheaper or more convenient. And that's really going to scale the mitigation of greenhouse gases and provide the right returns for our investors.

I can give you two companies where their financial success, their sustainability and the value-add they bring to their customers are fully correlated.

Roundtable: Yes, that would be great.

Mairlot: One is a UK-based software company called Elyos Energy. It's our only pure software deal. Their AI-enhanced software decarbonizes commercial buildings by connecting with their heating and cooling systems, and tweaking how energy is consumed throughout the day. In this way, they aim to lower the buildings’ energy bill by around 15% and lower their greenhouse gas emissions by around 10%. To explain why: when it's cheaper at off-peak times, it's also greener because there's less demand on the grid. The grid will always prioritize the cleaner energy sources and when there's more demand they will go to the dirtier ones. So, for each pound the customer is saving, they're also lowering their greenhouse gas emissions.

We typically invest in Europe and North America, but we did one deal in Africa. Kubik upcycles really low-value plastic waste, which is usually not recyclable, and transform that into building materials. Their materials are in line with EU norms, 40% cheaper, and five times less greenhouse gas intensive than brick and cement, as well as much easier and faster to build. It’s a huge market: there's a housing deficit of 100 million homes by 2030 in Africa alone.

Future Plans and the Climate Tech Growth

Roundtable: You have used our platform to fundraise via creating SPVs, and you have plans to raise for a fund. Can you tell us about that and how it differs from a syndicate?

Mairlot: We are still in the early days of designing the strategy of our Endgame Fund I, which we plan to start raising for in 2025. The fund will have a similar focus to our syndicate.

The difference between a fund and a syndicate approach is speed to market. With a fund, we, as the general partners (GPs), would have spent years fundraising prior to actually investing. With a syndicate and SPVs, we raise funds deal by deal, and since launching in September, we’ve already closed five deals, deploying over 1 million euros.

Another major difference is that funds are bound to a strict portfolio strategy, and each deal should in theory have the potential to generate returns for the entire fund. Whereas syndicated deals are much more flexible in equity targets, allocated capital, or sector focus. Under the syndicate model, we have the flexibility to explore various climate tech sectors without being bound to a certain strategy or portfolio construction.

In many ways, even though we operate a syndicate, we are like a fund in our quality of deal flow, depth of due diligence, our appropriate check sizes, and being true value-add investor partners to our portfolio companies.

Roundtable: How do you view the growth of climate tech and is it enough to affect real change?

Mairlot: Over the past five years, there has been a wave of new technologies and people working towards a net-zero future for 2050. We’re collaborating rather than competing because there's so much to be done.

As for more investors entering this space, you hear of new climate tech funds being launched all the time, and generalist VC funds and accelerators launching their own sustainability, ESG, or climate tech investing arms.

I find it exciting that climate tech is giving rise to a whole generation of scientists and engineers to take the front stage in driving change. However, given climate change is arguably the most species-threatening situation that we have, I don't think there is enough talent entering this space overall. Precious talent is still attracted to other shiny fields like Gen AI, Web3, etc.

A lot of people make tweaks in their private lives, and that’s great for many reasons, however the biggest impact that you can have at scale is to contribute your professional career to climate or other societal challenges.