Interview with Shai Albaranes, VP of Innovation and Ventures, Orbia

Shai Albaranes is VP of Innovation and Ventures at Orbia. He shared with me his optimism about how the pandemic is stimulating investment in innovative climate technologies.

‘The pandemic has created a huge tectonic shift’

There are some irreversible changes taking place.

Covid has shown us that people can change and adapt their behaviour very quickly. The work environment has seen some of the biggest changes.

The pandemic has created a huge tectonic shift, affecting everything from education to real estate and healthcare. All these things have completely changed in the last two years.

There are specific industries that have benefited, while overall digitalization has intensified in every industry.

My work-life balance now is much more in sync with my overall values than it was two years ago. It has to do with an ability to quickly switch between mental states. I can do my sports and meditation in the morning. Then three minutes later be super-focused on a work meeting.

‘The creative process requires human interaction’

A lot of the less creative work has changed enormously.

In the past, it was clear that in order to make a sale, you needed to be physically with the client. This is no longer required. Things have become much more efficient. You don’t need to travel – you can do 10 client calls a day, not wasting a single minute travelling.

Even traditional companies like law firms don’t travel anymore. They have Zoom calls with clients. And some litigation is done over Zoom now.

But creative processes require human interaction. People still aspire to spend time together.

In order to generate breakthrough innovations you need physical proximity. It’s very difficult to create the same type of environment online.

Particularly for early-stage start-ups – whilst large organizations are different. Companies like Google and Microsoft have been working well remotely for the last two years.

‘There’s no way to solve it without global cooperation’

The pandemic has been a wake-up call about the climate crisis.

The fundamentals have become questionable – with the realization of the fragility of things that we thought were constant.

We’ve been reminded throughout the pandemic that humanity is causing huge damage to planet earth. People and corporations are now much more willing to make the changes and investments required to address them.

Climate change creates an inherent tension between local and global. But there’s no way to solve it without international cooperation.

‘A huge increase in interest for climate tech’

Different VC funds have emerged with a focus on climate change. Companies like BlackRock, for example. are saying ‘if you don’t do X, Y and Z terms of your impact on the environment, we will not invest in your company’.

In the last two years we’ve seen a huge increase in interest for climate tech – to help the world achieve its carbon reduction goals.

There are five areas that contribute to human carbon emissions: energy production, agriculture, transportation, the built environment and industry. Climate tech can address all of these areas.

The necessary innovation within large organizations has been expedited by the pandemic. It’s increasingly becoming part of corporate structure.

‘Evaluating how we produce things with much less impact’

What has shifted at Orbia in the last two years is the sustainability dimension. We are evaluating how we produce things with much less impact on the environment.

My responsibility is corporate innovation management. This includes many internal and external programmes, such as internal innovation, circular economy, new ventures, and start-up partnerships. I invest the majority of my time in Orbia Ventures, our corporate venture capital fund.

Our focus as a company has not changed – but it has been reaffirmed. As a group, our interest in climate tech has increased in the last two years. We are broadening our scope to explore relevant technologies.

This is really benefiting us. From our investments to the companies that we look for as partners.

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