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Founder in Five: Q&A with Cervest’s Iggy Bassi

Cervest founder Iggy Bassi

Iggy Bassi is the founder and CEO of Cervest, a climate intelligence platform that uses AI to model climate risks – such as flooding and forest fires – to physical assets.

Bassi founded Cervest in 2016 after his sustainable farming business in Ghana was destroyed by freak weather events.

The London-based startup has raised £26.6m to develop EarthScan, a platform that can give governments and enterprises 80-year forecasts on the climate risks facing a specific area or building.

In the first of a weekly UKTN series called Founder in Five, Bassi shares the most important early hire he made, explains why he’s excited about material sciences and reveals an unlikely rockstar he once chaperoned.

1) Who was the most important early hire you made?

Iggy Bassi: Dr Ben Calderhead – a huge brain, deeply pragmatic and a global expert in Bayesian and computational statistics. He helped create the scientific framework for assessing multivariate risks on many assets simultaneously.

He has since helped us hire brilliant talent, scale the pool of scientists and also joined the board. Early on, he approached climate as a “very big maths problem” and saw immediately how he could help.

2) Who’s a leader you admire in your industry?

IB: Christiana Figueres, former head of UNFCCC and writer, including her recent book The Future We Choose. Not only is she speaking out about the climate problem, but she’s also showing us that there is hope for a better future for our planet.

Her message that everyone can make a difference in the climate crisis is an important one. We can’t wait for governments to lead.

3) What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

IB: I built a sustainable farming business in Ghana with no prior experience in this sector. Together with my team, we transformed the agricultural practices and yields in the region and secured backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as other major funders.

We dealt with flooding and droughts, learned to buy huge combine harvesters, and ride motorbikes to get the job done. (I always wore my bike helmet on the farm, of course!). Every day, season and year there was an adventure.

I also convinced Karan Chopra (now COO at Cervest) to join the journey. Incidentally, this particular adventure and the challenges that we faced as the weather became more extreme, actually led to planting the most important innovation seed yet, which grew into Cervest today.

4) Excluding your own, what’s a sector that’s ripe for disruption?

IB: Material sciences — because there’s an incredible amount of waste in the world. Our planet went into “global overshoot” in the early 1970s. Earth Overshoot Day marks the day each year when our demand for ecological resources exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.

Over the last decades, this date has been moving up. It’s now in July. That means we’re living on borrowed resource time for a good part of every year and that is not sustainable. We need to rethink our relationship with waste because there are simply not enough materials for us to keep overconsuming, especially in the West.

I’m excited to see the progress being made in the circular economy space right now.

5) What’s a fact about yourself that people might find surprising?

IB: I once chaperoned Jon Bon Jovi for a weekend during a rock concert… don’t ask!

Founder in Five, a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative startups, scaleups, unicorns and tech companies, is published every Friday.