Ex-CalPERS exec launches Bay Bridge Ventures, the first pure institutional ESG and sustainability-focused VC firm
With many issues facing our world today, businesses and big corporations are no longer just focusing on short-term profit but also on their impacts on society and the world at large. Over the past few years, some of these companies are now adopting non-financial factors and a more stakeholder-centric approach to doing business using what is known as ESG.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. Investors and businesses alike are increasingly applying ESG as criteria for making decisions about their company’s operations, global impacts, and what they invest their money on. Now, many climate-conscious investors also prefer to invest in ESG and environmentally sustainable companies.
To meet the growing demands for transparent ESG and sustainable investment, that’s why former portfolio manager Andrew Karsh left the $500 billion pension scheme CalPERS to co-found Bay Bridge Ventures, a diverse-owned and managed institutional investment firm focused on scalable, profitable, and impactful technology investments in Climate Tech, Health Innovation, and Inclusive Capitalism.
Today, Bay Bridge Ventures and its strategic advisors announced the launch of the first purpose-built, institutional ESG and Sustainability focused venture capital firm. With a proprietary “ESG+ Methodology” investment strategy and an industry-leading ESG and Impact assessment framework, Bay Bridge Ventures will be investing in innovative entrepreneurs focused on Climate Tech, Health Innovation, and Inclusive Capitalism.
On a global basis, investor demand for transparent ESG and Sustainable investment strategies has been growing rapidly, as institutional investors increase their commitment to addressing serious environmental and societal risks through capital allocation. In an effort to meet this demand, many investment managers have tried to incorporate ESG and DEI considerations into their investment process midstream, which has proved challenging and difficult to measure.
Bay Bridge Ventures was founded in 2022 on the belief that solutions to the world’s hardest environmental and social problems will be accelerated by the advancement of foundational technologies, such as AI & Big Data, Advanced Computing, Sensors & IoT, High-Bandwidth Connectivity, Energy Storage, Robotics and Synthetic Biology. Using this core philosophy members of the founding team achieved six successful investment exits across Climate Tech and Health Innovation through public listing or acquisition in 2021.
Bay Bridge Ventures founders Andrew Karsh, Joe Blair, and Kim Kolt are accomplished investment professionals with a unique combination of backgrounds and institutional investment experience. They have shared equally in the development of Bay Bridge Ventures’ investment philosophy, impact assessment methodology, and operational strategy.
“Bay Bridge Ventures is created from the belief that the future’s most successful companies will be those that solve critical problems facing the environment and humanity,” said Mr. Karsh, a General Partner at Bay Bridge. “There is a heightened demand for opportunities to invest in companies committed to positive environmental and social change along with a growing awareness of the high costs of inaction. We’ve assembled a world-class team and tapped into our extensive network to fund disruptive technologies and ESG innovation, which support a lasting positive impact on the world around us.”
With 25 years of financial markets experience, Mr. Karsh served for the past 10 years as a Portfolio Manager for the Investment Office of CalPERS, a $500 billion public pension fund. While at CalPERS, he was responsible for managing direct investments while also serving as a member of the fund’s Absolute Return Strategies Advisory Board and advising the organization regarding private market investment opportunities. Mr. Karsh also represented CalPERS as part of the United Nations-sponsored Global Investors for Sustainable Development working group alongside 30 of the largest global financial institutions. Prior to CalPERS, he served as a Portfolio Manager at Credit Suisse Alternative Investments, directly managing more than $5 billion in assets for some of the world’s largest institutional investors.
Mr. Blair, a General Partner at Bay Bridge Ventures, has spent the last 15 years building and investing in mission-driven technology companies at notable venture firms, including Cota Capital, Obvious Ventures, and Chrysalix Venture Capital. He has invested in and worked closely with Seed through Series B startups spanning enterprise SaaS, verticalized A.I., electric mobility, robotics, fintech, and health. Prior to his venture career, Mr. Blair was both a founder and an operator, primarily focused on product and business development.
Ms. Kolt, a General Partner at Bay Bridge Ventures, was the Founder and President of For Good Ventures, established to make investments across technologies that improve key risks to climate change, health, education, and financial accessibility for underserved communities. Through this strategy, she successfully proved that scalable returns and impact can be created concurrently using venture capital, with ongoing potential to outperform other investment classes. Prior to that, she worked at Goldman Sachs in the firm’s Technology, Media, and Telecom Investment Banking Groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“Our goal is to create the first purpose-built, institutional ESG and Sustainability focused venture capital firm,” said Mr. Blair. “We believe diverse perspectives lead to stronger investment outcomes and that the time is long overdue to close the substantial race and gender gap in venture capital. We have committed to building a diverse, inclusive organization and moving the industry forward through values-driven leadership.”
“Our commitment to inclusivity starts at the top and is woven throughout Bay Bridge Ventures’ entire infrastructure and investment process,” said Ms. Kolt. “Engaged, responsible stewardship is imperative to our mission, as is the success of our investors and our portfolio companies. We are committed to taking on the difficult challenge of solving critical problems for humanity in a scalable and financially sound way.”
Bay Bridge Ventures is backed by a team of highly experienced operational and strategic advisors, including Wilson Chang, Founder of Sunlight Financial; Karine Dubner, CEO of Brochu Walker; Brian Finn, former President of Credit Suisse; Daniel Glenn, Chief of Staff for GoodLeap; David Lynn, Founder of Mission Driven Finance; and Barney Schauble, Chairman of Nephila Climate and Board Chair of Ceres.