Alessandra Sollberger — entrepreneur and founder of Top Tier Impact, a global network of impact investors and entrepreneurs — has accomplished a successful traverse across the investment spectrum, gaining experience in both private and public markets. After graduating from Oxford in 2012, she got an internship at Goldman Sachs working in M&A before being headhunted by Blackstone to work in private equity.
The Swiss investor covered products in early-stage startups at Blackstone before joining venture capital firm Mosaic Ventures in 2014. Since then, she has been investing in both the biotech and blockchain spaces through her holding firm, the Maverick Group.
In 2016 she decided to revisit her entrepreneurial past — she had started a business reselling her toys at just 11 years old. She founded Evermore Health, an active lifestyle nutrition brand, using the gains from her 2012 investment in Bitcoin.
In the latest Opto Sessions, Sollberger highlights some tips on spotting emerging trends and explores whether we are at an inflection point with impact investing as well as considering if Bitcoin will rival gold as a safe haven and what biotech innovation to watch out for in the year ahead.
Spotting emerging trends
When it comes to assessing a businesses growth potential in the markets, there is a lot to consider, according to Sollberger.
“I've been in the blockchain space for almost eight years now. I came to it from various different angles and it's a very polymath space so to say, it's a space that brings together very different sectors,” she explains.
“When you start assessing something so new, you actually need to work with fundamental assumptions and I say that because in public markets you can work with your ratios, you can really look at the numbers and just go from there.”
“I've been in the blockchain space for almost eight years now. I came to it from various different angles and it's a very polymath space so to say, it's a space that brings together very different sectors”
In early-stage startups, the data just isn’t there. For Sollberger, building out a 10-year outlook for these businesses allows her to create a high-level set of questions that ultimately inform her decision.
The key trait in identifying these growth trends, Sollberger says, is curiosity “because when you build out a future scenario, the more different areas you can bring together into that the better”.
A gold mine: investing in Bitcoin
When Sollberger first came across Bitcoin it was a ground-breaking new technology with huge potential. She recognised this instantly. “For me, it was a convergence of a mix of things. I was excited about [it] from a technology and financial standpoint [as well as] from a more idealistic or societal or a fiduciary perspective,” she says.
Despite her excitement, Sollberger recognises that Bitcoin is still in its very early stages of development and so still has a lot of limitations when it comes to it being designed as a store of value.
However, like gold, it is not necessarily friendly for transactions. “It's actually a lot easier to [make] transactions with gold. But the way it's been perceived by the markets, there is a kind of scale between early adopters understanding that it's designed as a store of value [and those who treat it like a derivative in the beginning before they understand it better],” she says.
Impact investing takes centre stage
Over recent years, impact investing has grown in popularity to the point where a complete shift has taken place. Today, unsustainable investments are not only frowned upon but are now less profitable.
Sollberger highlights the clean energy sector as a good area to find environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) aligned stocks. While 10 years ago the space had experienced a bubble, solar has since become significantly cheaper making returns more profitable.
“This is about super solid investment themes that are more profitable and make more sense from every perspective,” she says. “I think clean energy is an area that is worth investing time into understanding better,” she adds.
“This is about super solid investment themes that are more profitable and make more sense from every perspective,” she says. “I think clean energy is an area that is worth investing time into understanding better”
The biotech innovations to watch
“Biotech has been an incredibly exciting ride,” Sollberger says. She started investing in the space several years ago, both in public markets and in early-stage markets.
One of her most successful returns as an angel investor has been from a UK biotech company called Synthace, which manufactures life-extension enzyme technologies. “It's one of the success stories of the UK biotech scene,” she highlights.