CEO at Cycle Central and VP Sustainability, Investor Relations, and Public Affairs at Cycle Capital
Catherine is the CEO of Cycle Central and Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Investor Relations and Public Affairs at Cycle Capital and Cycle Momentum. She handles public and government relations, she’s in charge of Cycle Capital’s impact investment practice and is a mentor for the Cycle Momentum accelerator. Catherine is also Vice-Chairt of Écotech Québec – Quebec cleantech cluster, sits on the Board of SWITCH Alliance, Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), Venture for Climate Tech and is a member of CVCA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee (Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association).
Catherine is the coordinator of the “Bioenergy” working group for the Québec Green Economy Plan and was part of the consultation committee for the Principle for Responsible Investment – Quebec Chapter.
Work and impact
How is sustainability/social impact integrated in your work?
It’s always been integrated. The “Cycle” in Cycle Capital stands for the whole life cycle analysis. At Cycle Capital, our mission is to empower entrepreneurs, investors, and companies to find innovative solutions to the major environmental challenges facing humanity.
How do you that? On Cycle Capital’s platform, there are 3 organizations: a family of impact funds, an accelerator, and an innovation zone.
When we’re investing, we’re always conducting due diligence that includes a carbon footprint and an assessment of the potential of the technologies to reduce GHGs. Are there good governance practices within the company? What’s the profile of the management team? There’s a list of ESG criteria that we’re measuring and monitoring over the detention period. Also, in order to make sure that we were doing the right things, we created an impact committee with a number of impact investors who are supporting us and making sure that we have a good process within the firm.
We have the same purpose with the accelerator that we have as a part of the platform [i.e., Cycle Momentum]. We are seeing a lot of investment opportunities and want to make sure that startups also have the support to scale, qualify, and receive funding. So the idea is to support them in that matter.
What are your past and current areas of focus in a few words?
I don’t have a typical beginning to my career. I studied journalism in school. At the time, what I wanted was to really have an impact. So, connecting my early career to now, that is the link. After a few years in journalism, I moved on to politics. What brought me to Cycle Capital was the environmental focus of the firm. Investing in technologies that have the potential to solve challenges related to climate change was what brought me here. Funding innovation is such a concrete way to have an impact. For instance, if you think of Enerkem, which is one of our portfolio companies, using a gasification process to transform urban waste into a variety of green chemicals, that’s pretty awesome! And working with entrepreneurs is very interesting.
What are you most excited about that has been happening in your industry/field for the past few years?
ESG and impact investing. That’s a revolution that’s already changing the way things used to be done in finance. Measuring the success of companies using different non-financial KPIs – and applying it to our asset class, it’s a challenge. And we’re literally building the plane as we fly. But it’s exciting to witness and be involved in the work being done in the field.
Are there any misconceptions about your profession or industry?
That VCs steal companies. It’s one of the biggest fears that an entrepreneur has when raising funds with VCs. They fear losing control and dilution. In reality, most VCs are mindful that you need great management teams to run a company. And in order to do so, what a company need is sufficient funding and incentive to create value for all.
Life and aspirations
What does a typical workday look like for you? What’s your work-life balance like?
I think what characterizes my day is that there is no typical day. Given that Cycle Capital is an innovative platform, I get to work with entrepreneurs, fellow investors, government representatives, researchers. So it’s really broad and diverse – it’s what makes it so interesting.
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
We now live in exciting times. There’s an increasing pressure to find solutions to the climate changes that are already hitting us hard and innovation is key in that matter. We’re never going to solve climate change without innovation. What’s challenging though is that things aren’t moving fast enough. We need much more incentives, much more investments, much more acquirers to adopt those solutions and reduce GHGs. The pace is just not fast enough. But there are a lot of innovators with great ideas and the pipeline is growing fast. So that’s a good start.
What’s next for you, what are your long-term goals (if you have any)?
You know, I never would have imagined working in finance when I was finishing school. And now I am. As stated, my goal has always been to have an impact. Also, I like to learn. Something that I have always wanted as a part of my job is to keep learning and sustainability, environment, and climate change have always been the field where I wanted to have an impact. I think that if we really want to solve climate change, finance is the number one tool. Nothing is going to happen if it’s not financially sustainable.
Advice for the next generations
What are 3 key skills required in your position?
I believe working in new fields exposes you to different systems. Politics is a system, finance is another system. So curiosity, wanting to learn how things work, it’s important. Being thorough and wanting to do what’s right, is also important to prevent all sorts of greenwashing. Being open-minded and creative helps find solutions.
Whether it’s from your own path or the ones from your colleagues and friends who have a similar profession, how important is it to have a specific degree to be able to work in your industry/profession?
There are a lot of T.V shows about the VC, big tech companies making a lot of money, that’s compelling and brings attention to that industry. So that’s a good start. If we’re talking about people wanting to join as analysts – which is the typical entry in a VC – given our cleantech focus, we’re often looking for people with engineering and finance backgrounds (e.g., bachelor’s/master’s degrees in engineering, Master’s in finance or CFA certification).
What are some personal characteristics that you value in someone you’re interviewing/working with?
In VC, you sometimes win, you sometimes lose. At Cycle Capital, when we’re winning, we’re winning as a group and the same goes for losing, so teamwork is very, very important. You can’t do anything without teamwork. From the accelerator’s perspective, what we’re also looking for is coachability. That doesn’t mean not having confidence in yourself, it means that you’re always open to learning from others including peer learning with other entrepreneurs.
From an investor perspective, the same teamwork applies. Venture capitalists invest in syndicates. We gather groups of like-minded co-investors to join the round in a company and work together to build a successful company. So it’s always teamwork everywhere you look around.
Knowing what you know now, would you have done something differently with respect to your career? If not, why and what is your best life or career advice for youth?
Very good question given my atypical background. I don’t have remorse. Journalism might not be the best fit for a career in VC, but given that I really was considering a career in journalism back then, I don’t have regrets. That’s who I am.
But I think going back, having a more formal education, whether in finance or law, opens up a lot of opportunities. But I don’t tend to regret the things I’ve done. I’ve learned from them. I’ve learned from working in politics. It’s interesting and important to have a diverse background. And by the way diversity doesn’t only apply to gender or ethnicity, it applies to the way you’re thinking, your background? What have you studied? Where do you come from? Where did you grow up? Diversity brings different ideas. That is what makes us more intelligent.