Former Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario has joined early-stage venture fund ReGen Ventures as a partner, to continue her work advising and investing in entrepreneurs who are building companies around solving the climate crisis.
Marcario says the next decade is crucial to finding transformative solutions to help save the planet. “We’ve got this 10 years to really focus on scaling transportation, energy, industrial and agriculture systems, and to really reimagine business to a more just form of capitalism, that takes into account people and the planet,” says Marcario, who served as Patagonia’s CEO from 2014 to 2020.
ReGen Ventures was started in 2020 by former investment banker and hedge fund manager Dan Fitzgerald to accelerate investment in regenerative technologies, who reasoned that being sustainable wasn’t enough, and that more industries need to find solutions that actively work with instead of against nature. As an investment approach, ReGen asserts that products that are better for people and the planet are growing seven times faster than conventional products and command a 40% price premium.
“For me it wasn’t a hard decision to work on this,” says Marcario. “Startup entrepreneurs need investors who understand these issues. Dan, and me, and the people on our advisory board are all very knowledgeable in this arena, and there are a lot of people just throwing money at ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) right now, who don’t really have the credibility to do it.”
The ReGen team also includes clean technology veteran and former Lucid CEO Will Coleman, as well as such advisors and investors as former CEO of The Nature Conservancy Mark Tercek, former partner of Generation Investment Management Renee Beaumont, and former head of product at Canva Georgia Vidler. Two companies the fund has invested in so far include Hide Biotech, which produces cow-free leather using food waste, and Seqana, which pairs artificial intelligence with satellite imagery to measure soil organic carbon (SOC) at a fraction of the current cost.
Before joining Patagonia as CFO in 2008, Marcario headed up M&A at a West Coast investment firm, was CFO of Apple spin-off General Magic, and then moved into private equity. “What excited me about what Dan was putting together is that he understands on a really deep level that we don’t have time to wait for these things to scale up,” says Marcario, who since leaving Patagonia has joined the boards of electric vehicle company Rivian and plant-based protein startup Meati. “You have to invest in things you know will scale. Technologies you know will scale and are game-changing, because the unit economics make sense, and the facts and figures of how the companies are structured can manage the kind of scale we need to get to a more liveable future over the next 10 years.”
Along with Marcario becoming its newest partner, ReGen also announced the first close of its $50 million first fund, which the company says is the first step in its mission to move $1 billion of capital into the regenerative technology space by 2030. “The ambition is to build a global platform that moves billions of dollars into regenerative technology companies this decade,” says Fitzgerald, “and changes the paradigm of venture so that it bakes in these principles to the core.”
Marcario and Fitzgerald first met years ago as fellow investors in recycled plastics startup Bureo, back when Marcario was guiding Patagonia’s investment arm, Tin Shed Ventures. Fitzgerald says that part of what makes ReGen different from traditional VCs is how open it is to collaboration in order to achieve its goal of advancing these technologies.
“We’re not in the business of hoarding,” he says. “We’re an open-source venture firm that’s sharing what we’ve learned in a particular sector as openly as we possibly can in order to accelerate the collective knowledge and progress made in different areas so more companies are spawned, and more investors come into the space.”
Both Marcario and Fitzgerald have seen the interest, investment, and entrepreneurship explode in the regenerative tech space over just the last couple of years, and credit it to three main factors. First is the convergence of science, technology, and engineering making things possible that previously were not. Second is the growth of consumer demand for more sustainable and regeneratively produced products, such as in the electric vehicle and plant-based protein spaces. And third is the talent that wants to work on these problems and build companies to solve them.
“Some of the most dedicated, experienced entrepreneurs are dedicating their lives to building these companies,” says Fitzgerald. “[By doing that] they’re likely to scale infinitely faster and be these generation-defining businesses. I don’t think that even existed just a couple of years ago.”
And based on the explosive growth of Patagonia over the last decade, Marcario knows that doing good for the planet can also be a very good business. “Making money and making great profits is not incompatible with caring about people and the planet,” she says. “That was not my lived experience at Patagonia.”