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P | P | P – Our chat with Geotree

We caught up with Jon Pierre, CEO of Geotree as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Geotree are an environmental monitoring company, using cutting-edge space monitoring technology to revolutionise the way that nature-based carbon projects are monitored. A spin-out of Mantle Labs, Geotree are able to unlock climate finance at-scale whilst ensuring natural ecosystems are restored internationally through various conservation projects.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Imogen @ ADLIB: Hi Jon, nice to meet you. Please could you introduce yourself, what Geotree do, the stage you are at currently, and what makes Geotree’ s offering unique?

Jon:  I am Jon Pierre, and I am the CEO of Geotree. Geotree uses remote sensing and other digital technology to provide monitoring reports and verification tools for nature-based carbon projects. This really spans everything from forestry to agroforestry to agriculture and getting into blue carbon as well. We do this at a global scale to facilitate companies getting to net-zero but also supports project developers that want to provide nature-based solutions for the voluntary carbon market.

In terms of the stage, we are a pre-Series A company, so we have a growing team and are a spin-out of Mantle Labs, which is itself a successful remote sensing company. We are seeded by Hartree Partners who are a large commodities merchant and are themselves quite active in the voluntary carbon market. We think we are uniquely placed to scale very quickly and to provide that monitoring layer to the voluntary carbon market.

Imogen @ ADLIB: That’s great! Could you share a little bit of the origin story of Geotree and how you ended up spinning out of Mantle Labs?

Jon:  Everyone is aware that we need to scale climate solutions and the carbon finance market looks like a great facilitator for that. To do this, we need to have a lot more confidence in the solutions when it comes to natural capital, whether it’s forestry, agriculture, or the like. We need to add that monitoring layer that is scalable and not cost prohibitive for developers. This is why remote sensing has been identified as one of the leading candidates to provide that kind of solution at a global scale.

Geotree was really the coming together of Hartree, who are leaders in the carbon market and Mantle Labs, who has great expertise when it comes to remote sensing. This includes leading academics, such as Dr Clement Atzberger who is Head of Research. Geotree represents a combination of both deep carbon finance and remote sensing expertise. The need for collaboration is a theme in the fight against climate change, with different stakeholders who typically would not be at the same table coming up with solutions.

We identified that a key pain point in scaling voluntary carbon markets– the monitoring the reporting and the verification side.

We saw that Mantle Labs clearly had the expertise to build and scale remote sensing solutions, so that is why we formed this new entity, focused on nature-based solutions, as Mantle Labs is focused on agriculture more specifically. Geotree has the technology and the network and is poised to provide much-needed remote sensing solutions attain product market fit and scale globally. We launched at COP-26 and have gained tremendous traction since.

Imogen @ ADLIB: I have some experience myself in GIS and the mapping of agricultural crops. For example, during my MSc we studied the flow rate of the Niger delta, the impact of different dams, and how this would affect rice paddy production downstream.

Jon:  That is very interesting. Geotree is able to tackle all of these nature-based solutions, which is really amazing. Even this morning, for example, I was talking with our team on rice projects as rice contributes up to 12% of global methane emissions. We know the practices that could reduce the emissions, so we can monitor remotely, connect that to carbon finance and then you have the triple impact of being able to provide a mitigating solution against rice methane, conserve water resources and also improving the livelihoods of farmers in many developing countries and boost food security. Hopefully, Geotree can lead to win-win-win situations by acting as that connector between the financial markets, the farmers and project developers on the ground.

Imogen @ ADLIB: Yes, the applications for remote sensing are so numerous, the potential for scale is insane! Speaking of people, could you share some challenges that you may have faced, are currently facing, or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team. Do you have any top tips for companies you think will experience similar issues?

Jon:  As a company looking to grow fairly quickly, we have recently faced challenges as we are a deep-tech company and are very R&D focused. Getting out there and finding the correct talent was a challenge at the beginning but fortunately, we are able to look globally. We have a global workforce. It is not only attracting talent that can pose a challenge but also the culture, how we attract on a global scale, and also working as a remote company. All these things we don’t have the answer to and are trying to work through. However, it is also exciting at the same time because we are able to tap into a truly global talent pool. Given the nature of our business, we are working on projects internationally, so it helps being able to tap into the local knowledge base in different countries such as Brazil and India. In areas such as data science, trying to attract people from top universities means you face tough competition, especially for more generalist skillsets. This is why we have good relationships with top universities in the UK and Austria. We are able to leverage those networks to bring in good talent which has helped us, as it is difficult for us to compete as a start-up with the big tech companies of the world. Hopefully, we can also continue to attract people with our cause; being an integral part of the fight against climate change is hopefully very appealing to generation Z.

Imogen @ ADLIB: Yes, it is not just about whether you are the right fit for them, it is also about whether they are the right fit for you.

Jon:  Yeah, definitely.

Imogen @ ADLIB: Moving to product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit and sales cycles?

Jon:  This is a key thing, as we don’t want to be developing a tool that never sees the light of day, that no one wants and isn’t fit for purpose. Everything we do we have very close interactions with people we see as our potential users. We are very fortunate as one of our investors is very active in our client side so that helps us condense our development cycle to iterate quickly, improve our product, and make sure we have product market fit. As our potential customer base is fairly concentrated, hopefully once we have really established our product market fit, we can scale rapidly. We are R&D focused and also laser-focused on customer needs, including identifying where the pay points are; this influences every decision we make and every product we want to develop. You have to really balance R&D and product market fit, as unfortunately it is not necessarily the company with the best product that wins.

Imogen @ ADLIB: For potential, could you share some challenges or barriers you have faced when developing your product and having an international team?

Jon:  With regards to having an international team, we experience the typical issues such as language, and different time zones. We can also have a mismatch in terms of customer and employee locations leading to difficulty in arranging meetings etc. To be honest, with the technology that is available, there are so many tools that enable us to be international. It is a great time to be a remote-orientated start-up and tap into the global talent and customer pool, because equally we don’t have to be focused on one country. The potential when working internationally far counteracts any friction or barriers we face, especially as a tech company focused on a software proposition instead of a physical product.

Imogen @ ADLIB: Regarding investment, do you have any advice around seeking investment and when to avoid investment?

Jon:  Whether or not to seek investment is really dependant on the nature of the business, the needs, the timescale, the product, the size of the team etc. From our experience, it is always good to focus on investors who can add something to the business, such as their network of contacts, as a customer or expertise. Having a strategic investor who offers far more than just capital could be very important for early-stage businesses. This is something we like to leverage when we go to the market. As we are working in a space that attracts the interest of a lot of investors, we are lucky that we can choose how we want to focus our investor pitches.

Thank you for your time, Jon!