Member Profile: Shally Shanker

Shally Shanker, CFA, founder and managing partner of AiiM Partners

Shally Shanker, CFA, is the founder and managing partner of AiiM Partners, which invests in technology companies that address climate change. Shally has over 20 years of investment management experience working with global companies. She also mentors female founders and CEOs. More than half of AiiM’s portfolio companies are led by women and people of color.

Here, Shally shares how AiiM invests in companies driving real-world impact in the climate sectors while prioritizing equity and access. 

Why did you decide to establish AiiM in the Bay Area in 2018? 

We’re based in the Bay Area, but climate change is an issue that has to be addressed globally. In 2019, there were not a lot of investment funds focusing on climate. Even though it was risky to launch a firm focused on climate at that time, we saw an opportunity to drive impact and returns, and some days it feels like we were ahead of the curve.

How has this sector evolved over the past five years?

In the past five years, we have seen an influx of capital entering the climate space. However, companies still need hands-on support from investors with deep experience and networks to help their businesses scale. The team at AiiM, which includes investors, operators, scientists, and serial entrepreneurs, has been supporting climate-related companies for over a decade. We have come together so we can have a meaningful and measurable impact. 

What are you most excited about in your field currently?

I’m excited about the attention that climate change is finally getting and the capital finally moving to the sector. As a firm, we’re excited by the great work our companies are doing. They’re creating alternative materials and replacing scarce minerals, replacing plastics in our supply chain, reducing GHG emissions, and creating quality manufacturing jobs in LMI communities–driving real, quantifiable impact today. That’s really compelling for our investors.

Tell us about a couple of your investments

I’m happy to discuss a couple of our investments that are local to the Bay Area. 

One of those companies, Wildtype, is scaling the production of alternative seafood without microplastics and toxins while helping ocean health and biodiversity. There’s a need for alternative seafood products that meet customer expectations on nutrition, taste and texture. Wildtype’s first product, sushi-grade salmon, satisfies those needs while also being at cost parity. We recognized this market gap early on and invested in Wildtype in 2019, after which they raised a $100M Series B. 

Another company, Materials X, creates materials that address the growing use of rare earth minerals in batteries. For example, cobalt is a critical material in EV batteries. It is often mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is expected to face a supply shortage in the next couple of years. This could potentially hinder the transition toward EVs. Materials X has developed alternative battery materials and technology that performs better than current lithium-ion batteries on key metrics and does not require use of cobalt.   

How do you define sustainability, both from the perspective of being a founder in your space and as an individual?

It’s about reducing emissions in measurable and meaningful ways, but that’s just one aspect of the climate problem. It’s also about preserving resources and protecting biodiversity, particularly with regard to untapped resources such as oceans. We focus on technology solutions that are scalable, cost-effective and create lasting impact in these areas. 

What do you think are the most meaningful ways a company in any sector can minimize its footprint and do its part to counter climate change? 

Companies should start by first fully understanding their current carbon footprints, especially in their supply chain. This is often challenging, but then the next step is ensuring that any change they make to reduce their carbon footprint is both measurable and meaningful. To understand their carbon footprint, our portfolio companies work with their supply chain partners to understand and reduce their entire emissions footprint, or Scope 3 emissions. Since Scope 3 emissions, on average, account for 75 percent of a company’s total emissions, this could have a measurable impact.

How do you define success at AiiM Partners? 

Besides financial returns, we define success with two other important outcomes: environmental impact and social impact. With regard to environmental impact, we support companies that are using technology to lower emissions and support biodiversity, including ocean health, and have the attributes to scale as market leaders. Concerning social impact, we support companies that create quality jobs in our communities and look to steward 50 percent of our capital towards companies with women and people of color in senior leadership – a target we are proud to be meeting.

What are your goals for AiiM Partners over the next five or ten years?

While we had one successful exit last year amid economic turbulence, we hope that more companies in the sector will see scale-ups, exits and meet other metrics traditional investors need to see to stay in this sector. We will continue to grow the AiiM Partners strategy, funds, and team so that we can further our impact.

When did you join CANOPY, and what about this workspace appealed to you with respect to your professional and company needs? 

We moved to CANOPY Menlo Park in December 2022 and have a Private Office there. As we’re a climate tech fund, we want to ensure we measure and manage our own carbon footprint. Being in a shared space is therefore appealing to us. Having an in-person office space that is convenient and comfortable is a huge benefit for our team, our portfolio companies, and our partners. 

What are your favorite things to do in Menlo Park?

I love to go on walks and hikes with friends and family, especially when the Farmers Market is open! The Stanford area around the dish is a particularly beautiful place to walk during spring.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter your field? 

Don’t give up! Do reach out to climate entrepreneurs and investors, including us, if we can support you in any way on your journey.