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After two big exits, a string of startup successes and a CEO seat in San Francisco, Peakon founder Kasper Hulthin was ready to sit back. But it did not sit well. Instead, he created a fund working for a greener, brighter future for the next generation.

It was not long before itch was back.

Kasper Hulthin, together with his friends Jon Froda and Anders Pollas, had started the software platform Podio with the ambition to change the way people work together. In 2012, they sold the company to US giant Citrix for DKK 260 million and Hulthin traded in his basement office in Vesterbro for a CEO’s chair in San Francisco.

In 2015, Kasper Hulthin was on. Together with three partners, he founded Peakon, a SaaS platform for employee feedback and satisfaction. And when a second exit in 2021 became a reality, the price for US corporation Workday was a staggering 4.3 billion.

And he actually thought that was it. Now he was going to sit back and enjoy it all.

“I really thought I should retire and not do so much. And then I felt like I wanted to use my skills to pull the world in a better direction,” Kasper Hulthin smiles.

Today, he has started the Future Five fund, which both builds and invests in tech startups in the food, education and climate sectors. The ambition is to make the world a better place for the next generation.

“My great-grandfather invented a type of plough and then fearlessly called his company ‘the future’. I think that’s a great story, and I’m the fourth generation in that line. So the idea is that we are working for a better and brighter future for the fifth generation – hence Future5,” explains Hulthin.

Will technology save us?

This year, through man-made global warming alone, we have seen devastating droughts, wildfires and floods so severe that millions of people have lost their homes.

If we continue on our current emissions path, the world is set to warm by an average of 3-6 degrees – far above the 1.5 degrees most countries agreed to in the Paris Agreement in 2018. That development will have incalculable consequences and will most likely lead to a host of secondary ills such as natural disasters, climate refugees and extreme drought in many places, according to the OECD and the UN’s climate panel ICCP.

So is there even a greener future to leave the next generation?

“It will ultimately be an economic issue. The day it’s cheaper to buy stem-cell chicken nuggets than conventional ones, why wouldn’t you buy them? Ultimately, it’s about creating the best regulatory and market framework for development to go in the right direction,” says the serial entrepreneur.

Rather than political selection of favoured technologies and meat alternatives, it is much more about building a playing field where it only makes sense for market forces to play the world greener.

“People ask: What are we going to do? Everything! Instead of guessing what the solution will be, we need to develop and invest in a wide range of startups and solutions that together can make the difference,” Hulthin says:

“It also means that we must not look at these new technologies with the same glasses that we looked at the old ones. We have to keep in mind that especially the legislation for solutions we have never seen before can become a challenge.”

We must play to our strengths

The latest figures from Danske Bank Growth & Impact show that we are well on our way in the Nordic region. At least on the investment side, where about 25 percent of all investments go to impact startups. In 2021, total investments even reached around 39 billion (USD 5.5 billion) for the entire region.

However, Sweden and Norway are clearly in the lead.

“In Denmark, we need to rethink investment. When it comes to green investments in particular, there are different kinds of risks and a different time horizon involved. And we are not good enough at that. We need to be a lot braver and be willing to have the long light on,” explains Kasper Hulthin.

Still, it is not all bad. Because in the Nordic countries, and especially in Denmark, we are leaders in a number of areas that have enormous potential. Especially if we manage to scale up and internationalise the solutions and technologies that start-ups already have.

“The research and innovation funding actors should adapt instruments targeting 2030 so that they are concentrated on scaling up and deploying already known technologies,” reads the official recommendation of the Danish Research and Innovation Policy Council in order to reach the climate targets of 70% reduction by 2030.

“We have a huge advantage because we are far ahead of the rest of the world in many areas. The Danish companies that are in a good position today have a unique opportunity to create and shape solutions on a global level,” says Kasper Hulthin.

So what now?

“The negative is that we haven’t moved a muscle yet. The positive is that we have not yet seen the fruits of the investments we have made over the past ten years,” says the serial entrepreneur.