Investment Notes: Cecil

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report concluding that we can expect to see warming of at least 1.5°C within the next 20 years. Impacts of this warming will be felt across all regions of the world, from rising sea levels and increased flooding, to intensifying heatwaves and shorter cold seasons. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, referred to the findings as a “code red” for humanity.  

While the IPCC report has certainly served as a wake-up call, it’s important to note that it doesn’t raise a hopeless alarm. In fact, the report’s authors note that human action still has potential to determine the future course of our climate--but, we have no time to waste. 

A problem worth solving: scaling up ecosystem restoration for climate action

As nations and corporations alike double down on climate action, there is growing recognition of the role that nature-based solutions (NBS), such as sequestering carbon in soil or managing agricultural practices and land use to improve biodiversity and water quality, can play in addressing climate challenges. Recent research shows that NBS could help save between 10 to 20 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year. And, the demand for these outcomes is growing. In the US alone, the market for ecosystem service credits from agriculture is estimated at $13.9 billion.

Right now, though, the process for finding, registering, and managing NBS projects is clunky and inefficient. The science and natural systems that underpin the outcomes are complex, so managing these projects is also complex. Add to that several evolving methodologies on how to quantify and verify outcomes, strict compliance and reporting requirements, and a comprehensive web of stakeholders involved in every project….and it’s easy to see why scaling up the supply of NBS is difficult! The end result is that while demand for NBS projects is rapidly growing, supply isn’t materializing at pace to serve it. 

Introducing our 10th investment: Cecil, a collaboration platform for NBS projects

Our 10th investment, Cecil, is digitizing the scale up of NBS projects. You can think of them as the Aconex (acquired by Oracle) for NBS projects: they streamline project management and empower investment decision making. 

Their collaboration platform provides landholders, project developers, investors, and auditors with a suite of tools to standardize and digitize workflows and reporting. By doing so, Cecil enables efficiency and transparency in NBS management, driving better outcomes for all stakeholders involved, including the planet. 

We led Cecil’s AUD 2.2M pre-seed round, joined by Macdoch Ventures and Global Founders Capital

A big impact vision: addressing an immediate gap, with a view to the future

The objective of NBS projects is to generate environmental outcomes, such as sequestered carbon or improvements in water quality, that can be sold to interested buyers as credits. These credits can be purchased by buyers in different compliance (run by governments) and voluntary (i.e., private) markets, each of which has unique requirements and protocols that suppliers must follow to list their credits. These requirements help ensure that credits meet certain quality standards, giving buyers confidence that the offsets they purchase have been achieved according to a transparent set of rules. 

Establishing and selling credits is complex, so it’s common for landholders to work with organizations, called project developers, that specialize in NBS project delivery. Cecil provides project developers with a single workspace where they can access information and data from various sources, so they don’t have to manually work across many different spreadsheets, physical documents, and databases. Cecil also enables standardized and streamlined workflow and methodology management, real-time project monitoring and tracking, and portfolio and operational analytics. By making it easier to set up, manage and report on NBS projects at scale, Cecil is well placed to extend its services to assist large corporates, asset managers and governments originating in-house projects to meet compliance or self-imposed emissions targets.

Today, Cecil is filling a gap in the natural capital market. While there are lots of companies providing solutions in the natural capital space (including our own portfolio companies Nori and Regrow), most focus on developing marketplaces or supporting measurement, reporting, and verification of outcomes. Cecil is uniquely focused on enabling efficient project management for NBS project originators, agnostic to markets, geographies, and credit types. 

Moving forward, Cecil will be uniquely positioned to serve as an independent, 3rd party data and insights source that enables the demand side of natural capital markets to manage their assets at scale. As a platform to manage NBS projects that sell into different marketplaces, Cecil can provide project- and portfolio-level insights and tools to investors looking to build and manage robust, diverse portfolios for natural capital assets. 

Why we love it: product-led growth and stellar co-founders

Central to Cecil’s ambition is the team’s focus on product-led growth. For example, by making it easier to manage projects, Cecil creates a natural pull for project developers to invite their collaborators onto the platform of projects across the EU, UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

Cecil’s co-founders, Alex Logan and Rory Oxeham, are the perfect fit for building a supercharged product-led growth engine to realize their vision of helping teams restore land ecosystems. They are razor sharp, curious, and bring operational experience across both startup and corporate roles in sales, product development, and user-centered design. 

They are also incredibly passionate, committed to Cecil’s mission, and have displayed an innate eagerness to learn and grow--continuing to form, test, and iterate hypotheses as they listen to and work with customers. They are also exceptional communicators- perhaps the only founders we’ve met who have sent an agenda ahead of every meeting before and during their raise!

And of course, they have shown an incredible amount of hustle: while Cecil only launched earlier this year, they already have over 1,000 projects and 1,000,000 acres on the platform. In less than a year, Alex and Rory went from an idea to MVP to delighting their customers--and we’re proud to be backing them on the incredible journey that lies ahead. 

Are you excited about what Cecil is building? They’re hiring--learn more and apply here!