Samer Salty is the Founder & CEO of Zouk Capital. Mr. Salty has 27 years’ experience in PE, investment banking and technology. He also invested in companies such Anesco, Solarcentury, Lightning Science Group, Off-Grid Electric, Sigfox and ip. Access. He is a B.S. in Electronic Engineering from California Polytechnic and a M.S. in Management & Finance from MIT
Leaders League. What is Zouk Capital's DNA?
Samer Salty. Zouk’s DNA is all about a broad approach to investing in the clean and efficient economy. We have a distinctive dual track strategy of managing both Growth Capital and Infrastructure funds, which we believe capitalizes on the wide spectrum of investment opportunities created by the global shift to greater resource efficiency. Our ambition is to build resource-efficient companies and clean infrastructure assets that generate economic and sustainable value.
Leaders League. How have the investments in the Cleantech sector evolved over last decade?
S. S. We believe there has been quite a natural evolution in sustainable investing over the past ten years, which today goes beyond the traditional mandate of cleaner and greener to encompass a broader “resource efficient” approach. For our investments, efficiency is not simply about “doing more with less”; it is about using technology to uncover improvements in resource consumption. Technology is driving resource efficiency and sustainability.
Technology has indeed become integral to sustainability. Take Tanzanian “solar-as-a-service” company, Off Grid Electric as a prime example of how technology is key to its success. Not only is it providing affordable solar to homes across Tanzania, it is technology that allows Off Grid Electric to be the world’s first massively scalable solar service. It is the way the system works, managed through IT and mobile payments, that makes this business so disruptive. It is not simply about light, and yes the solar power offers 100x the illumination of one kerosene lamp, but it is much more about how the internet of things is lighting up Africa with a possible 50 million homes gaining access to light and electricity through this revolutionary approach to technology.
Leaders League. What are your criteria of selecting investment targets?
S. S. If we look at our growth capital team and their investments in resource efficient businesses, then we are looking primarily at European companies, which are at a stage in their development that requires growth-stage capital, the companies must have commercially proven technology and we are active hands on investors. We have investments in sectors such as Fintech, cybersecurity, and Internet of Things.
Leaders League. What are the current challenges or risks in the sector? What can PE do to support and develop resource efficiency?
S. S. As I mentioned before, the objective of resource efficient investing was traditionally to “do more with less” - such as substitution, reduction or recycling of materials, water or energy. The widespread adoption of digital technology is driving an explosion of new digital resources – such as data, networks, and computing power – and creating new efficiency mechanisms such as digitization, connectivity, analytics, automation and machine intelligence. Zouk views these new resources and efficiency mechanisms as significantly expanding the scope for delivering disruptive efficiency gains with lesser dependence on constrained physical resources. One of the main challenges is the understanding of how sustainable investing has evolved from energy efficiency to a much broader resource efficient approach. Alongside supporting the companies we believe best fulfil these criteria, we are also in a position to promote a wider understanding of resource efficient investing in business as a whole and the positive impact this approach makes on the future of a clean and efficient economy.
Leaders League. What do you think will be the next big thing in sustainable investing?
S. S. There is no doubt that the next big thing is the opportunity itself. While resource scarcity will long remain a critical issue, it is no longer only a “green” approach that addresses the dilemma. Technology is filling the void and creating highly efficient sustainable businesses – efficient in resources and efficient in business model. It is our job as investors to support the growth and development of these companies. Today, I would say there is no doubt that the biggest driver of a sustainable approach to investing is the revolutionary effect of technology.