Triin Hertmann is one of the founders of Grünfin, a sustainable investment platform gaining lots of positive and future-looking momentum globally. She is also an active angel investor and was recently chosen as the Investor of the Year at the 2022 Startup Awards Gala in Estonia.
Although Triin has been involved with various internationally recognized and successful companies for decades, entrepreneurship was not something she dreamed of as a child. “It took me quite a long time to get into entrepreneurship. I’m definitely not the type of entrepreneur who sold colorful wire and cotton candy as a child. I think my first real exposure to entrepreneurship was when my pharmacist mother, along with partners, started multiple pharmacies. During my university years, I also dabbled in it a bit, but then it was put on hold for a long time, and I pursued and advanced my career in other, already established, companies,” she says, adding, “I have always admired entrepreneurs and long ago realized that often the successful ones are those who are persistent, systematic, and see opportunities, not necessarily the most proper and diligent ones.”
The best part of entrepreneurship is smart and awesome people
However, entrepreneurship comes with a dose of lessons along with the expected success. According to Triin who has previously been more involved with, and is currently building, startup companies, the startup industry is a particularly challenging and energy-demanding form of entrepreneurship. “The lesson for me has definitely been that no matter how closely you witness the process of building a company, it doesn’t really give you the idea of how complex and responsible the founder’s life is. As an employee, you are responsible for doing your own work well, but as an entrepreneur, you are ultimately responsible for the success of the entire idea, the well-being of the employees, sales, finding funding, and a hundred other topics.
The best part, however, is that you can influence who you work with and who you bring into your team. Smart and awesome people to work with, who can accomplish great things together, are always the best part of entrepreneurship,” she says.
One of Grünfin’s roles is to promote sustainability
Grünfin’s main mission is to enable everyone to invest their money easily and conveniently in the world’s leading impact-driven companies. “For us as a company, the most important thing is to direct that money where it creates the greatest benefit for our world.
At the same time, good returns, liquidity, and diversification are important to us. We definitely don’t have to compromise on profitability; sustainability actually has a positive impact on it. All the companies in our portfolio have committed to the Paris Climate Agreement, aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The social aspect is also important. Our customers are doing a lot for themselves – saving and building their financial security – and therefore, feel good and confident,” says Triin.
How well has the platform been received? “The feedback from customers has been very positive. Many appreciate that green investing has been made simple. If you’re already making sustainable choices in your life, then, where you keep your savings is of great importance and has a significant impact on your personal footprint. The majority of people don’t want to analyze and choose financial instruments themselves; they just want to be confident that their assets are in a good place, growing steadily, and making a positive impact on the world.”
Estonians’ financial literacy is growing rapidly
Grünfin’s client profile is diverse. “Our clients include individuals who are saving money for themselves or their children, small businesses that want to grow their money, and employers who use our investment plan to retain and motivate their employees,” explains Triin.
Green topics are particularly important to the younger generation. Among them, investing and building financial independence are highly significant. “We are very pleased that through us, both men and women invest almost equally, and our mission and simple product make it suitable for beginners as well.
Several of our new clients are employees and environmentally conscious companies who see great value in helping their people start saving and investing, as well as in reducing employee turnover and valuing their talents through the investment plan,” explains Triin.
Triin mentions that Estonians’ financial literacy has been growing rapidly every year. “Even accepting the concept that everyone is personally responsible for their financial security and future well-being does a lot of good in society.”
However, green investing is still perceived quite narrowly today. “It is assumed to only involve solar parks and wind energy, and there is a misconception that one has to compromise on returns. In reality, the shift towards sustainability is an irreversible and positive global trend, and companies that do not participate in it, will eventually find themselves at a disadvantage in the eyes of their customers, investors, and even employees. Therefore, following the green trend in consumption and investment is not just tree-hugging; it is a conscious and profitable way to stay on the winners side,” explains Triin.
Understanding the limits of the planet is crucial
Triin believes that many industries are making significant efforts and moving in the right direction, towards sustainability, but the problem lies in how fast they are doing it. “To improve the speed, we need more international agreements between countries, and strong sanctions for those who do not want to comply with the agreements. Looking at the big picture, large companies need to transform themselves quickly because their impact is the greatest. For example, Exxon Mobil’s carbon footprint is as large as that of the entire country of Estonia,” she says, adding, “I see that the most crucial role in taking fast and effective steps lies in cheap green energy and its widespread adoption in as many sectors as possible. For this, energy storage solutions also need to develop rapidly.”
Finally, I inquire about the most pressing environmental issue at the moment. “One can answer philosophically that the biggest problem for the environment is humanity itself, and without humans, things would improve fairly quickly. But developing that thought further, we can say that humans’ biggest problem is that they are comfortable and lazy and only act when it becomes very painful, or when there is a much more comfortable and cheaper solution elsewhere. Therefore, I hope that many of our current problems will be solved through more convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly alternatives or through painful regulatory penalties,” Triin reflects.
She adds that our planet can be saved if all of us – individuals, companies, and countries – do not consume more than the Earth can replenish itself. “The planet has limits, and if we can understand those limits, adhere to them, and keep all our activities within those boundaries, then we can live indefinitely on our planet.”
Interviewer: Kerttu Kongas