Hester Robertson, Founder of CloudForest

Hester Robertson, Founder of CloudForest

Innovation Showcase: CloudForest

Hester Robertson is the founder of CloudForest, a company that will crowdfund forestry projects as an investment. She caught up with BQ ahead of exhibiting at this year's Innovation Showcase at Venturefest Scotland.

Describe your business in no more than 100 words

Founded in 2017, CloudForest is a company that will crowd-fund equity in productive forestry projects so that investors can access a tangible, sustainable investment that they can visit and enjoy through cabins and wildlife.

For us, crowd-funding is more than just raising money, we believe that by empowering the crowd we will be able to build a more innovative and sustainable business that will capture the wide range of things people value over and above financial returns, as well as creating a robust future for UK forests and wildlife. Who doesn’t want a cabin in the wood to retreat to on a weekend?

What prompted you to enter the Innovation Showcase competition? Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with.        

We’ll be bringing our soon-to-be famously fun forestry investment game and look to explore people’s thoughts on things like the meaning of wealth, and their hopes for the future... the simple stuff!

In June we started a six month Innovate UK-funded project with Cambridge University’s Centre for Industrial Sustainability, during which we will develop different business models for crowd-funded forestry. Venturefest is a great opportunity to tap into the wisdom of a group of innovative people and capture their thoughts on investing and forestry.

How would you describe that to a novice?

Monopoly but for sustainable forestry management

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Being my own IT department!

What are your biggest professional achievements to date?

It was a huge boost for CloudForest to be awarded a grant through the Innovate UK Design Foundations Competition. This is enabling us to really benefit from the expertise and experience of Cambridge University’s business model design research.

I’m also really pleased to have been accepted into the Climate-Kic accelerator run by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

How do you feel about exhibiting to potentially hundreds of people at Venturefest Scotland?

Excited, Venturefest is a great opportunity to tap into the wisdom of a group of innovative people and capture their thoughts on investing and forestry.

Where do you see your company in five years’ time?

With a portfolio of different forestry projects where we can demonstrate measurable financial and environmental benefits to investors alongside those that are just not possible or desirable to quantify.

What advice would you give to aspiring innovators?

You’re not alone, there is a great network of support organisations who can help you access funding and develop your idea. In the short time that CloudForest has been around it has already received tremendous support from the Knowledge Transfer Network and Innovate UK, Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise, Entrepreneurial Spark, and the Climate-Kic accelerator run by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. Not to mention friends, family & visiting interns from Italy.