Do people who succeed in business naturally have a more adventurous spirit?
There are lots of examples of adventure-seeking business leaders, from Virgin Group founder and CEO Richard Branson, who famously kite-surfed across the English Channel, to Steve Fossett, who made his fortune in futures trading and became the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a hot air balloon (but later died when the plane he was flying crashed into the Sierra Nevada Mountains). With both pursuits, you need drive, determination and, yes, a little bit of insanity.
Alex Pomeroy, co-founder and partner at AGO Partners, a venture capital firm focused on socially conscious investment, comes from pioneering stock. His great-grandfather hitchhiked from Maine to Alaska, struck gold and then used his new fortune to start J.H. Pomeroy & Co., a contracting and structural engineering firm that built the Golden Gate Bridge.
Following World War II, Pomeroy’s grandfather followed in his father’s footsteps, taking the family’s construction company to the Middle East and becoming one of the first firms to enter this untapped market.
“I have always wanted to break boundaries,” Pomeroy said. “Maybe it’s genetic. For me, it isn’t enough to start a new business. I want to try things that no one ever has, to fundamentally change the world by making it a better place.”
In his 31 years, Pomeroy has already accomplished big things. He is an original investor in Aspiration, a neo-bank for values-driven, conscious consumers, and one of its largest shareholders. Pomeroy’s contribution to the success of Aspiration has been significant. He was involved in the early conversations for Aspiration’s opt-in, tree-planting program, where customers can round up their spare change and donate it to plant a tree. To date, Aspiration has planted more than 1 million trees and is helping to replenish depleted rainforests throughout Africa, Asia and Central America.
After the mortgage crisis, Pomeroy recognized that there was a fundamental disconnect between how people invest and the causes they care about. He helped to found Aspiration as one of the first financial institutions dedicated to socially responsible cash management and investment.
“I knew so many people who had no idea that the money they were putting into banks was then being farmed out to gun manufacturers and oil companies—businesses that were totally at odds with their beliefs,” Pomeroy said. “With Aspiration, we wanted to rethink the relationship people have with their banks, to give them an opportunity to merge their investments with their values.”
Though Aspiration was his first major investment, Pomeroy looks at it as a model. Moving forward, he is setting his sights on investing in at the nexus of technology and social good, not just funding startups, but proactively building companies from the ground up. He’s got the right partner in Joe Sanberg, a successful, progressive entrepreneur who founded Golden State Opportunity, a broad coalition designed to encourage low-income Californians to apply for state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits.
Like his great-grandfather, Pomeroy is also no stranger to adventure. When he was 11, his parents took on a trip to Africa to visit a game reserve. It left an indelible mark and, today, land and wildlife conservation are two of his top priorities as both a businessman and philanthropist.
“If I’m successful in business, I’d love to one day move to Africa to focus more on conservation,” Pomeroy said. “I feel fortunate to work in an industry where I can combine business interests with my passion for the environment.”