Nancy PfundNancy Pfund is an ‘impact investor’, investing in cleantech and companies making positive social, economic or environmental change.  

She is founder of DBL Partners, which was one of the early investors in Tesla Motors. It recently released a White Paper urging investors to put money into clean energy projects in Africa, and predicts this area is going to be worth trillions in the near future.

She was also named in Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and was commissioned by Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton for several environmental projects.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. We were one of the first venture capitalists to promote social change and environmental improvement, and I’m very proud to have played a part in bringing that to the fore.

I sit on the board of several companies working to do exactly that, including Farmer’s Business Network, The Muse, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Off-Grid Electric, Primus Power, and, prior to their public offerings, Tesla Motors and Pandora. My involvement with Tesla saw me featured by Fortune in its 2014 list of the World’s Top 25 Eco-Innovators.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really! The one consistent thread has been my passion for entrepreneurship and innovation and my passion for social change and environmental protection. My various jobs have touched on or both of those over the years. My move to help to create double bottom line investing was a conscious effort to bring both of those things together and create a new, conscious investing approach. So it happened organically.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Many challenges. Many people doubted that this was a good thing to do so it was hard to raise money. Also being a woman in a male-dominated field slowed things down – I encountered a lot of scepticism at first.

Once we launched, it was challenging to find deals that met our criteria and because we had created a new form of investing, we had to educate entrepreneurs on what this meant.

You’ve been commissioned by Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton for several environmental projects. How did this come about?

The Clinton commission was to widen internet access and the Bush one was the first environmental commission on technology. In both cases my work on policy that was embedded in my investment activities spurred mentors from both the public and private sectors, to recommend me for these commissions and coach me on how to be a successful candidate. It was a great privilege to serve two Presidents.

What more can the general public do to help the environment?

Invest in companies that are changing the climate equation. Engage in political activities to make your voice heard on climate change and hold elected officials accountable. Question the status quo when it comes to energy, transportation and infrastructure, and embrace new ways to promote consumer choice rather than relying on the same old same old utility, or car dealer, or agricultural seed supplier.

Vote with your wallet as well. Buy products with an environmental screen or mindset. Walk the walk. Find positive ways to convince your family and friends that, for example, it’s great to drive an EV compared to a regular car. Explain that there is no sacrifice at all in going green.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Quite simply, we need more women in senior positions.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I didn’t have formal mentors although there were many people who helped me along at various periods of my career in significant ways. I think mentoring can play a key role in building gender equality in the workplace. I have mentored a few women and hope that they are bigger and bolder as a result.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Creating the premier impact venture capital firm and helping to create a whole new kind of investing. I’m also incredibly proud to have helped finance and create some of the most iconic companies of the 21st Century so far that combine purpose and profit.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to continue helping to grow the field, continue making DBL successful, and continue building amazing new companies that change our world for the better, create the highest quality jobs, and deliver strong financial returns to investors.