Amasia’s Investment in Joro (now Commons!)
Note: since this blog post was published, Joro has rebranded as Commons.
Earlier this year Amasia invested in Joro’s seed round. CEO Sanchali Pal has written eloquently about the investment; interviews with her can be found here (TechCrunch) and here (FastCompany). The company is also hiring, if you want to participate in the great battle (and opportunity) of our times.
The earth’s climate has oscillated naturally for billions of years. The Industrial Revolution, starting just 250 years ago, triggered planetary change. The idea that human activity might affect entire natural systems, let alone the planet, was laughable at one time. But the facts are now incontrovertible.
Extraordinary population growth, increased per capita consumption, land use transformations, interconnected global systems of all sorts -- all these and more have led to a dramatic and unnatural shift in our climate. Congratulations, humanity: we’ve managed to change the *climate*!
This planet is all we’ve got. We need to preserve and nourish it.
Amasia’s journey began with a better understanding of the climate crisis. Our research helped us realize this, from first principles: changing human behavior is the key. The climate crisis is upon us because of behaviors of a certain kind. We will get out of the abyss, to a safer and more sustainable planet, with behaviors of another kind. To use our favorite phrase: “billions of people making trillions of decisions differently.”
This is our investment thesis as a VC firm: “Amasia invests in companies that help catalyze behavior change to build a safer and more sustainable planet.”
At the level of an individual, a single human being trying to figure out what to do, that thesis statement IS Joro. If we were asked to come up with a single company that encapsulates what we are trying to do, it would be: Joro.
Behavior change is really hard. And there is a reasonably widespread belief that it isn’t just hard, it is impossible — and so the onus shifts to governments and corporations. But what are governments and corporations but collections of individuals?
Early on we concluded that it was individual behavior change — either as consumers, or as decision makers in governments and corporations — that was going to drive fighting the climate crisis and getting to a more sustainable planet.
Technology can help. The hugely positive effect of learning apps, fitness apps, and productivity apps shows that anyone can benefit from something in the palm of their hand that can help change behavior and achieve goals.
That is why we like the Joro approach.
One of the main barriers to behavior change is the “bottom of the mountain looking up” phenomenon -- feeling something is so immense that one is completely paralyzed. Another is the complexity of the task -- the knowledge that there is no silver bullet solution even at the individual level. Yet another is a feeling of loneliness in thinking about the problem. Joro tackles each one of these obstacles:
Joro makes us better informed by giving us data. You can connect your credit card to track the carbon footprint of your purchases if you are up for doing that (and many are). You also self-report on your own activities at various times. Joro crunches that information and gives you direction on where to focus your efforts.
This focus on data is central to how we think about Joro. In our internal categorization of companies (nothing like VCs to find a way to pigeonhole everything…) we place Joro in the environmental data sector.
Joro envisions each of us building, inside the app, a series of climate action practices. This takes what might seem like an enormous endeavor and breaks it down into simple steps that result in change. Joro knows that it isn’t “just one thing” -- it is many things.
Over time the app will provide ways to change existing behavior or create new behaviors that will have a multi-pronged effect. This includes helping you take a class, read articles, buy a carbon offset, and much more.
Joro is building a like-minded community. The Internet, as we are all sadly aware, can be a cesspool; my hope is that apps like Joro spawn new communities that are about positive change and upliftment. You don’t have to spend your day in a rage.
One more thing: the Joro product is inherently global, which links to Amasia’s foundation as a firm that tackles global opportunities and issues. Climate and sustainability are truly global problems that require people around the world acting in concert to drive change.
In my Twitter header is this quote: “The things which seem most evident to us are always formed in the confluence of encounters and changes, during the course of a precarious and fragile history.”
That quote can be pointed in many directions; here I point it in the direction of behavior change to fight the climate crisis. There is nothing pre-ordained about the path that humanity is on. We can choose to behave differently and get to a different place, and I am very hopeful that Joro will help get us there.