26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Phil Graves, Tin Shed Ventures

After launching originally as US-based clothing company Patagonia’s corporate impact venturing fund $20m and Change in 2013, Phil Graves, was promoted to senior director of corporate development in 2016 and changed the fund’s name to Tin Shed Ventures.

Regarding the name change, Graves explained in 2017: “We have far surpassed the original $20m Patagonia committed to spending on investments in outside businesses and so we changed the name to reflect Patagonia’s roots and founder Yvon Chouinard’s early days working out of a tin shed, which he still works out of from time to time today.”

Graves said Tin Shed Ventures’ team had grown last year with the addition of this year’s GCV Rising Star winner Liliana Bettolo: “Liliana has a background in chemical engineering and helps integrate our portfolio companies’ innovations into Patagonia products.” In addition, Alex Kremer, last year’s GCV Rising Star, was promoted to investment principal.

The fund was GCV’s Launch of the Year when it started, and it continues to enjoy success. Graves said: “Two of our portfolio companies received a third-party-led new round of financing at valuations several multiples above our carrying value.” Furthermore, he added that the unit had closed a new investment in a company based in New Zealand.

Patagonia was ranked the sixth most innovative company in the world by Fast Company in February last year, and Tin Shed Ventures was listed as a reason why: “Through Patagonia’s VC arm, Tin Shed Ventures, the company acquired a stake in a startup called Yerdle. Cofounded by Adam Werbach, the onetime head of the Sierra Club who had pushed Walmart toward more sustainable practices, Yerdle helped take Worn Wear online. Last April, Patagonia added Worn Wear to its own website, offering customers gift certificates for future purchases if they sent in used clothing.”

Concerning Yerdle, Graves told GCV in 2017: “Our portfolio company, Yerdle, teamed up with Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative to help launch a ‘recommerce’ platform, through which Patagonia will buy back used Patagonia garments and sell them on a new web platform.

“The garments that customers trade in will also be cleaned using another technology in which Tin Shed Ventures has invested. Tersus Solutions is a waterless textile processing company that cleans garments using liquid CO2 rather than water. The closed-loop nature of Tersus’s technology also allows microfibres to be captured within the system rather than flushing them into our waterways.”

Graves told Women’s Wear Daily in an interview in June last year: “Now that we are seeing the growth and the demand for Worn Wear, we are actually crafting a new business unit. Internally, we are very bullish on growing the program. We do not have to wrestle with the question of growth like we do with some new items.”

Rose Marcario, Patagonia’s chief executive and president, said: “Tin Shed Ventures gives Patagonia an edge in innovation and provides a new source of capital to startups that are in business to save our home planet.”

For 2017’s Powerlist award nomination, Marcario praised Graves saying: “He is an astute judge of responsible entrepreneurs with talent and experience who have a good shot at success. So far, all the fledgling businesses we have invested in are healthy and on their way to flying solo. As for Patagonia, we are making a decent return in all ways. We are a more patient capitalist. New ideas take time to germinate. We do not go in with an exit strategy or insist beforehand on what the investment business calls – you have to love the term – a ‘liquidity event’. We do not micromanage, nor do we seek a seat on the board of the businesses we invest in. We want these like-minded businesses to have the time and the freedom, as well as the wherewithal, to build in a healthy way – environmentally and socially as well as financially.”

By having an evergreen fund structure, Patagonia has no set hold period for portfolio companies, and, as a B Corp – a company certified to be pursuing a mission involving standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency – it encourages entrepreneurs to use the corporate structure as a way of combining financial and environmental goals in their mandate.

Graves concluded that Tin Shed Ventures would continue to explore avenues to employ Patagonia’s tax equity dollars to fund renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar power.