Discover AENU | With Fabian Heilemann

Fund Fact Sheet

Size and horizon: Ten Year Fund Life with 140m EUR target fund size


  • Energy efficiency in existing buildings

  • Decarbonising of heavy industry

  • Battery software: analytics and applications

  • Energy management for SMBs

Geography: Primarily Europe, opportunistically US

Maturity/stage: Seed and Series A

Ticket size: 1-4m EUR

Potential lead: At early-stage (seed & Series A) we aim at (co-)leading investments with market standard terms. We are however open to invest as followers if we see fit.

Follow on: We reserve 45% for follow-on investments 

Previous Investments: ZeroAvia, Tesvolt, Heirloom, Charm, Monta and Voltfang.

How would you describe your VC and your investment thesis/guiding principles in one sentence?

AENU drives systemic transformation in venture capital towards impact, accessibility and stakeholder-alignment, with long-term investment for tech-entrepreneurs who solve the climate crisis and advance social equality. We believe that some of the major challenges for humanity in the 21st century bear some of the largest opportunities for entrepreneurial and investment value creation.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, the key partners/experts in the team?

I’m an entrepreneur at heart, experienced VC investor and committed impact activist. My vision is to establish #ImpactCapitalism as the sustainable operating system for our society. My previous investment track record includes >60 early stage investments since 2012 in Enterprise and Consumer. During my time as General Partner at Earlybird (2016-2022), we scaled assets under management from €600M to >€2B and took the portfolio from one to seven unicorns. I started my first business with my brother Ferry, who is also Founder and Partner at AENU, as a teenager in the 2000s and have since co-founded five more companies. This included the B2C couponing-platform DailyDeal (sold to Google Inc. in 2011 at >$100M, funded by Insight) and in 2016 the B2B logistics-tech company Forto, where Ferry was previously CEO before joining at AENU (valued $2B, funded by Softbank).

Ferry and I started targeting the climate crisis and social justice in 2016, realizing we wanted to use our assets/skills to make a contribution towards addressing some of the major challenges humanity faces in the 21st century. In 2019 we co-founded non-profit LFCA (Leaders for Climate Action). We are both also pledgers and ambassadors at Founders Pledge, which enables accomplished entrepreneurs to effectively donate financially to high-impact charities.

Alongside Ferry, Siobhan Brewster is another Partner at AENU. Siobhan has been in early stage investing since 2016 when she cut her first angel check. Before joining AENU’s leadership team as Partner, Siobhan was a former Partner at Amplifier in Berlin and EiR with Cometa in Mexico City. Her recent investments include Bliq, Hier and Trucksters. Siobhan also co-founded the sustainable travel company Atlas Unbound and worked for five years with Macquarie and ING across the US and Latin America in Infrastructure and Energy.

Can you tell us about the fund’s history?

The fund’s history can be traced back to 2020 when we initially started investing from the private balance sheet of our family office. However, recognizing the pressing need for a transformed capitalist system that prioritizes environmental and social wellbeing, we made the strategic decision to transition into establishing an institutional impact tech fund in accordance with Article 9 of SFDR. Our motivation behind this shift is rooted in the goal to catalyze positive change, foster innovation, and contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future.

As AENU, we are deeply committed to promoting equity, transparency, and innovation within the venture capital landscape. To date, we have successfully made 28 investments across our core science driven investment clusters: carbon removal, energy, food & agriculture, enterprise, and education.

Why do you think now is the right moment to launch this fund?

Humanity is at a turning point when it comes to financing the technology that is needed to contain the climate crisis, avoid biodiversity loss and level the playing field when it comes to access to opportunity and education. It is time to bring Art. 9 impact tech investing further towards the mainstream of the private capital markets and mobilize more capital. That being said, we saw strong investor interest in our first year at AENU: Our first closing of the fund has been 60% oversubscribed.

What is your unfair advantage? What do you bring besides money?

The first thing that makes us different is that we actually have start-up experience. We founded, scaled and exited several companies in the past 20 years, including unicorn Forto. As Sifted pointed out in an article last year, although there are many “founder friendly” funds,  the vast majority of them have still never actually run a startup or even worked in one. We are proud to be part of the 1.8% who have. The second thing is that when it comes to impact funds, what sets us apart is that we have a scientific in-house impact team and are committed climate activists, having co-founded Leaders for Climate action, which has evolved into the largest entrepreneurial community combating climate change in the EU with 2,000 company pledges. Finally, we are experienced institutional VC investors having invested  €400M as VCs with top quartile return.

What do you look for in entrepreneurs?

We have a rigorous impact screening process. We only invest in intentional, inclusive and ambitious founders who are building impact technologies that have the potential to reduce 100Mt CO2e at scale or to significantly improve the wellbeing of millions of people around the world. The size of the impact-opportunity must be interlocked with the company addressing a EUR-bn commercial market opportunity.

Can you give a few examples of startups you previously invested in and why?

We have invested in a range of deep tech companies including ZeroAvia, Tesvolt, Heirloom, Charm, XFuel, Running tide and Voltfang. There is simply no net zero without hardware and especially without carbon removal, therefore investing in innovation in carbon capture and storage is fundamental. Whether that’s Heirloom with their carbon mineralization process, Running Tide with their kelp forests or Charm Industrial with their bio-oil pyrolysis. We also know alternative fuels will play a major role in tackling climate change which is why we invested in XFuel and ZeroAvia. Tesvolt and Voltfang are doing really cool things in energy storage and with energy being front and centre of conversations these days, technologies like these will be crucial, even for those not invested in tackling the climate crisis.

What is the best way for founders to approach you and what will convince you to have a first meeting?

We actually recently wrote a blog on our screening process which can be found here. When a startup first approaches us, first and foremost it is important they meet our impact thresholds of having the potential to reduce 100Mt CO2e at scale or to significantly improve the wellbeing of millions of people around the world. Then, they must meet our six impact guidelines of Intentionality, Impact logic, Interlock, Depth, Breadth & Duration, Additionality, Impact Measurement & Management. If your comp any meets these criteria, try to get a warm introduction to someone on our team from someone we trust or at least know. Otherwise reach out via our website form or LinkedIn.

What is one advice you would give deep tech founders?

Always underline your measurable and net-positive impact as tangible as possible, i.e. with theory of change, potentially a LCA (life-cycle assessment) and specific data. Having the right and complementary people on your team is crucial, take time to define and fill in the roles that are key to the future success of the company and make sure everyone on the team is aligned towards the mission you pursue.

Who are your LPs and how did you convince them to invest their money in deep tech?

In 2022, investors have so far been limited to the family and friends of the AENU team on an invitation-only basis. They include for example the single family office E.R. Capital as the first cornerstone-LP and Unicorn-CEOs such as Lawrence Leuschner (TIER), Michael Wax (Forto) and Niklas Zenstrom (Skype / Atomico), as well as a number of German family offices. The fund  gradually opens up to the broader market in 2023. We have seen the strong interest of our investors as a confirmation of our fund’s mission. Now is exactly the right time for us to take impact investing to the next level.

What do you think will be the next big thing in deep tech?

We believe that the energy transition will create many more high-impact high-value opportunities and are currently excited about areas such as energy storage, energy efficiency in building and grid & demand response.

What current trend(s) are you seeing in the deep tech investment landscape?

Climate tech is holding strong throughout the downturn and has been almost flat year-over-year when it comes to invested capital, whereas the broad VC market was down by almost 40 %. While we do see some slowdown, it is not comparable to the deterioration of the general market environment. ClimateTech is bolstered by substantial amounts of dry powder in the market, the long-term demand for the solutions that are being developed, and major policy breakthroughs such as the IRA and the EU green new deal.

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