May 31, 2022

Going Beyond Known with Maarten de Jong: Co-founder and Managing Director of Oneplanetcrowd

In this new series, we sit down with the founders in our network that embody the Unknown spirit of Going Beyond Known, diving deeper into what makes them tick, why they get out of bed every morning and how their ventures are making a positive impact on the world. This time, we speak with Maarten de Jong, Co-Founder of Oneplanetcrowd, Europe’s largest sustainable crowdfunding platform. 


What does Oneplanetcrowd do – and why do you do it?

At Oneplanetcrowd, we have created a platform to directly match investors to sustainable entrepreneurs and renewable energy projects. We believe that this way, investors can make double impact with their money, both financially and in society. 

The world needs passionate entrepreneurs and innovative technology to oppose problems like climate change and to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable economy. Through our platform, investors can directly support these entrepreneurs and make a change. 


How does Oneplanetcrowd facilitate crowdfunding?

On the Oneplanetcrowd platform, we enable people to invest directly in innovative entrepreneurs and renewable energy projects. We thoroughly assess entrepreneurs, sit down with them and look at their financials, their needs, in order to find the best suitable solution for them. This way, we can offer investors a diverse range of intriguing investment propositions in which risk and return are balanced. 


When you speak with your investors, what is their opinion about the best part of Oneplanetcrowd?

Our investors have often expressed their satisfaction with the way we manage their investments and how hard we work to make sure that the money comes back to them. At the same time, I believe our investors resonate with our selection procedure; which projects we put online and which ones we don’t. In other words: we offer high-quality investment propositions and, if they decide to invest, they can be sure the management of their portfolio is safe with us.


Why do you believe in the power of entrepreneurs to solve the challenges that we are facing today?

I think that the combination of science and entrepreneurship is needed to realize innovation in this world. Entrepreneurs are typically ambitious, goal-oriented, optimistic, energetic, and, most importantly, persistent in the pursuit of their goals. This inspires me! 


What gives Oneplanetcrowd the expertise to assess large impact-driven deals?

Oneplanetcrowd operates under the umbrella of our ‘mother company’ StartGreen Capital one of largest Dutch impact financing fund managers. They have over 450 million euros in assets under its management. We have a close collaboration with them, so our investors get the chance to invest in a deal flow of the same quality as the other funds of StartGreen Capital. 


Why should investors use Oneplanetcrowd to build a sustainable portfolio in addition to more traditional investments? 

A lot of institutional capital is bound by strict rules on what to invest in and what not to. Of course, we want to present our investors with fair risk-return policies and risk-return ratio propositions, but we can be flexible in how we look at an entrepreneur and what type of investment or financing mechanism we are using. We then present our proposition to our investors so they can make their own consideration: do I invest or not? They can decide to let it pass, but they can also think: This is an interesting one. This is new, this is innovative. I want to be part of this. Via Oneplanetcrowd, investors also get a chance to acquire shares in an early-stage company that would normally only be available to wealthy angel investors.


What responsibility does Oneplanetcrowd as a company have in the energy domain?

We see it as our role to support the energy transition. We have a very effective tool in our platform to offer retail investors direct financial participation in renewable energy projects in the Netherlands and also abroad. In the Netherlands, at least 50% of renewable energy generation projects are owned by the communities in which they are located. So, if you have a windmill or wind turbine in your region and you see it every day because you pass by it, then you should also be offered the opportunity to benefit from it in a financial way. Of course, there is a lot of resistance, unfortunately, against renewable energy generation. It’s like the “not in my backyard syndrome,” and this I can understand. 

On the other hand, our platform and our tools offer a very positive way to directly benefit financially from the local renewable energy project in your village or city. We support the goal of local participation by offering our platform. Banks finance the vast majority of renewable energy projects, accounting for 70- 90% of total funding. Banks love financing renewable energy projects because it’s a steady income and predictable. In addition to the bank, Oneplanetcrowd can make a loan to the part and even become shareholders. In the next couple of years, we will be hosting many solar, wind, and bio-energy projects on our platform. 


What is your favorite project that Oneplanetcrowd hosted?

That would be VanMoof: an inspiring case of entrepreneurs that were super persistent and were already in the e-bike business for almost 10 years, convinced that e-bikes were going to be the future of mobility. This was well before the explosion of the e-bike trend. 

We’re proud to have hosted and raised more than the founders envisioned with our crowdfunding project for VanMoof: all of it from word of mouth with our crowd. With this funding, VanMoof was able to launch their new smart e-bike models and roll out to leading cities in the US and Europe. Ever since then, VanMoof have gone to raise fresh capital. Because our crowd of investors did not exit, their shares are now worth more than 4X their initial investment.


Is there an interesting proposition live at the moment on the Oneplanetcrowd platform?

Most definitely! Our investors currently have the chance to invest in and eventually become shareholder in the fast-growing company De Kleine Aarde (Little Earth). Our planet is dealing with several crises that are occurring simultaneously. The climate crisis is accompanied by urgent problems that have a negative impact on biodiversity, our landscape and the environment. One solution is to reduce nitrogen and CO2 emissions. What helps here is to take better care of our soil. A vital soil contributes to a better climate, more biodiversity, an attractive landscape, a healthier environment and the regionalization of our food system. De Kleine Aarde contributes to this, by realizing 700,000 hectares of sustainable soil management. Investors become a member of Cooperative De Kleine Aarde. In addition to a return on investment of 5% from 2023 onwards, they are also welcome to actively participate in and think about the development of De Kleine Aarde. For participants with an investment of € 25,000 or more, the return is 6%. Have a look at the proposition (in Dutch) here.


I would also like to invite everyone who is interested in investing in sustainable propositions with double returns – financial and societal – to sign up for our e-mail alerts:


Dive Deeper:

Maarten de Jong’s Co-Founder, Coenraad de Vries on the Unknown Stories podcast:

Oneplanetcrowd’s Venture Page

Investment Announcement: Oneplanetcrowd Raises Funding from Unknown Group (May 2021)