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‘Iron Man’ Downey Jr. launches funds in environmental fight

As inventor Tony Stark, Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr. transformed into superhero Iron Man. Now the Oscar nominee is taking action against environmental threats to the planet.

Like Stark used robotics, Downey Jr. is looking to use sustainable technology to address issues like deforestation and microplastics.

The “Iron Man” and “Avengers” star announced on Wednesday he was launching rolling venture capital funds, aiming to “accelerate groundbreaking technologies that are addressing the world’s largest environmental challenges”.

Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition, founded in 2019 and made up of “investors, donors and storytellers committed to scaling technologies to restore our planet”, has already invested in companies like Ynsect, which breeds mealworms, and Cloud Paper, which makes bamboo toilet paper, among others.

Now he says he wants to “quickly mobilize more people and catalyze more capital”.

“There’s groundbreaking technologies we’re going to vet and…keep doing what we’re doing, finding the best in class and accelerate scaling them up,” Downey Jr. told Reuters.

“We feel (the funds) is a move towards just a little bit of democratisation in this usually very exclusive space.”

FootPrint Coalition Ventures will have an early- and late-stage fund, with a $5,000 quarterly subscription fee and minimum one-year subscription.

It says it wants to invest in food and agriculture technology, sustainability-focused consumer products and services, energy and transportation, materials and industrial tech, education and media and advanced environmental solutions, and has teamed up with AngelList, a website for start-ups and investors.

“Rather than raising money infrequently from very large anonymous institutions, which is what virtually every venture fund does, we do the opposite,” Jonathan Schulhof, who will co-lead FootPrint Coalition Ventures, told Reuters.

“We raise money constantly because it’s constantly an opportunity to tell the story and activate and mobilise the audience. And we do that with high frequency, with people who are not anonymous, they are the audience themselves.”

Downey Jr, who also took part in a high-level panel about the Arctic at the virtual World Economic Forum on Wednesday, narrates short snappy videos made by his creative team on the coalition’s site, talking about topics like aquaculture and deforestation and the companies it has invested in.

“I always feel that if you have great content and the community feels that, the audience grows, that helps us with our access to deals and then we get better outcomes,” Downey Jr said. “As far as the messaging of it, the idea that it is a create your own adventure within this existential threat to me feels like it gets me out of just that miasma of complacency.”

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