Do More Than No Harm: Resolutions for 2023

Amy Nauiokas
8 min readJan 31


For the first time in many years, Sean and I did not join the chorus of investors publishing their predictions for 2023.

When we look at venture capital today, we see an industry awash in theses but starving for purpose. At a time of economic, political, and ecological upheaval, so many of us are busy predicting what will happen next. Too few are working on what should happen next. Venture capital is the innovation function for private markets. Now more than ever, we have to take that role and its stakes seriously.

Anthemis was founded with a purpose that is inherently social but far from altruistic: cultivating change in the financial system. Our model works because investing in the financial system that humanity deserves — one that is more equitable, responsive, innovative, and diverse — is a winning proposition from an impact and investment perspective. We believe there are many opportunities, especially in early-stage venture capital, where substantial social and financial returns intertwine. Venture capital needs to reorient around scaling those propositions.

We’ll have (a lot) more to say about this in the coming months. For now, we want to share the first incarnation of a new annual Anthemis tradition. In addition to the kinds of market predictions and analysis we share with our ecosystem, we’ve also drafted some institutional “resolutions” for 2023. These are the emerging developments in our universe that should become major forces shaping markets this year. We hope that you’ll join us in putting our collective shoulders to the wheel.

To borrow from Alan Kay, an architect of our information universe, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” 2023 will be what we make of it. Here are the resolutions that will guide our work at Anthemis in this new year:

Translate 2022’s reckoning in private markets into enduring change in the structure and method of early-stage investing. With interest rates rising across western economies, the “search for yield” that has sustained an epoch of our business has officially come to a close. Add to that the steady drumbeat of ESG, the chaos of FTX, an ascendant labor movement, and the growing social and political marginalization of Silicon Valley — and you have the making of a major backlash against venture capital. Our industry is overdue for exactly the kind of disruption that it has claimed as a watchword for the past 15 years. when VC thinks marginally and behaves misanthropically, that has substantial long-run consequences for society. Who stands to transform the moment into (and profit from) enduring change in our industry? How will things be different? That remains to be seen. But the conversation starts with a clear and practical framework for a different future — and we plan to introduce just that early this year.

Drive Embedded Finance deep. Like any good trend, there are some spaces where embedded finance is starting to jump the shark. Just as the era of “[x] but online” needs to come to an end in venture capital, the “neobanks for everyone” stage of Embedded Finance is more than past its prime. We hope to see a continued trend toward narrower customer segmentation along the lines of geography, sector, demography, aspiration, more. We hope to see increased sophistication in authentically serving those segments, from innovative product propositions through to creative new user experiences. But firms that use embeddedness as little more than a customer acquisition tool do not excite us. You can’t build a useful or successful business around just any customer context. All of this also implies changes in the characteristics of successful founding teams. As segments and contexts become more complicated, and especially where they address enterprise, real — yes, deep — domain expertise becomes more important than ever before. We will continue to back diverse, experienced entrepreneurs who serve a meaningful customer segment with an empowering and responsive offering.

Diversify the toolkit for financing entrepreneurship. The tools we use to finance business formation and growth are beginning to expand. You could say this is embedded financing — structuring investment in a manner that is more responsive to specific business contexts. The configuration of available financing makes a massive difference in who creates businesses, what they do, and how they grow. In venture capital, we think venture debt is a terrific complement to traditional equity, and often more responsive to business objectives. A lender’s mindset is consonant with broader changes that are overdue in our industry, biasing investors and entrepreneurs alike toward propositions that are useful, realistic, and economical. Revenue-based financing continues to hold enormous promise as well. It’s well-known that access to capital is highly racialized and otherwise stratified — but so are risk preferences. Financing that is more sensitive to the risks and variability of starting and running a small business, for example, could transform the face of entrepreneurship. We want to deploy our own versions of new financing options and are on the lookout for investable actors doing the same in specific verticals.

Catalyze a new kind of “sharing economy” around broad distribution of equity ownership. Wealth inequality is the defining problem of our time, if not on its own than because of its nexus to many other political problems, like diminishing state capacity and increasing social unrest. And there are few greater drivers of inequality than the extreme concentration of equity ownership. We want to accelerate the groundswell of curiosity about new configurations of corporate ownership in 2023. The narrative and appetite are there — we think the operational and regulatory infrastructure that makes it simpler to distribute ownership and manage its implications will make the difference here. With equity grants for workers often valued at a year or more of salary in recent PE transactions, growth in this area creates compelling opportunities across wealth management and financial wellness as well. On the other end of the spectrum, we want to see more experiments with “microequity” as a form of customer reward and employee compensation. There are many promising points in between as well, among them the tools that power workplace democracy and digitization of ESOP valuation, conversion, and management. There’s some connection to be made between these structures that are more equitably structuring and sharing reward and those above that are more equitably structuring and sharing risk — at least in the sense that they present a major process challenge for incumbents, which is really a major opportunity for those willing to invest.

Shift the conversation in VC from playing catch-up on ESG to defining an impact agenda that is substantial and authentic to early-stage investing. We have always felt that VC should lead the way for private markets when it comes to ESG and impact. Early-stage investing is a more natural setting for impact investing than any other stage. Rather than weaving ESG into a company at scale — where it quickly runs up against entrenched business models– early-stage investors and founders can build impact into their work from the start. While VC is late to ESG and double-bottom line investing, we have a chance to imprint impact into companies’ operating and cultural DNA from inception. To realize that vision, we are committed to continuing and expanding our venture studios as a pipeline to a broader and more diverse array of founders and business models. We’re also actively exploring the creation and syndication of new investment structures that actively integrate impact (e.g., capped equity, patient funds). And we are continually refining and expanding our own proactive impact agenda that infuses throughout our investment process, not just after checks are written and companies are funded.

Make the generational transfer of wealth mean something for entrepreneurs, humanity, and the planet. It’s beyond a cliché to point out that we’re in the midst of a massive transfer of wealth from parents to children. With some thoughtful intervention, we think the ongoing generational transfer of wealth can be an important empowering factor in many consequential emerging forces. First, we need to cultivate and support the new generation’s greater aptitude for impact investing by developing the infrastructure for double-bottom line wealth management. Today’s financial advisors and wealth managers are not prepared for the sweeping implications of a new generation’s emerging emphasis on impact. From tech-forward donor-advised fund platforms to managers explicitly focused on the nexus of impact and capital preservation, we’re on the lookout for the new tools and talents that can meet novel needs here. Second, this new generation can be a major driver of the agenda around new configurations of corporate ownership. The (grand)kids might have respect and sentimental attachment to the family business, but it’s more likely than not that they have zero interest in running it. Who better to buy them out than their own workforce? Several financial institutions have recently bolstered their ESOP lending/finance divisions, and we hope to see more activity here in the year ahead (along with some innovation in the structure of these buy-outs).

Transform the B2SMB fintech opportunity into an economic renaissance for small business and local communities. One seismically exciting axis of Embedded Finance is SME financial services, a major focus of our investing for several years. Small business has been chronically underserved by the digital revolution in finance, which is both a moral tragedy and a missed opportunity. The SME market is a perfect setting for Embedded Finance. SMEs are 50% of global GDP, but only 15% in the US say that their bank provides them with the services they need. And while SMEs are not a monolith, there is actionable homogeneity across firm size and industry, among other things. We also know that the pandemic and its enduring effects have upturned our expectations of home, neighborhood, community, place. Couple this with market power as an ascendant topic in the public dialogue, the rise of the circular economy, the increasing ideological valence of “localization,” and you have a lot of forces pointing markets toward main streets across the country. This could go one of two ways — we know that private equity is eagerly snapping up small veterinary practices, regional restaurant chains, and the like. Multinational food and retail conglomerates are even reworking their packaging to make their products seem smaller-scale and local. Or this could mark the beginning of a major shift toward broad industry operating systems — where Embedded Finance products empower small businesses to synthesize previously inaccessible economies of scale, helping communities control their geographic destinies while breathing new economic life into the places we call home. We also think this represents, for example, a massive and meaningful opportunity for endowments to come off the sidelines of the impact investing movement in a way that is true to their unique missions and histories. We hope to build an ecosystem around this opportunity, matching ideas with entrepreneurs with institutions with capital.

We enter 2023 with a mix of constructive outrage and deep optimism. Many have written about all that has happened in 2022 and might happen in 2023. We wanted to take a stab — candidly, humbly, and in the spirit of non-zero sum thinking that animates all we do — at highlighting some of what we believe needs to happen next. More than anything, our resolutions are for us. We’ve shared them widely within our ecosystem. In sharing them publicly, we (truly) hope you’ll reach out, challenge our thinking, strengthen our perspective, and contribute ideas of your own.

Most of all, we hope you’ll join us in harnessing the upheaval of the last year toward progress in this new year.



Amy Nauiokas

Founder and CEO of Anthemis Group @Anthemis, Founder & Chair of @Archer_Gray