Actual, which renders company ESG data in a SimCity-like platform, raises $5M seed

Trying to deal with the huge amount of data associated with how companies are going to transition to a “net zero” economy is an uphill task. The interface of numbers would tax even the geekiest of CEOs. What if it could all be rendered visually, but also accurately?

That’s the germ of the idea behind Actual, a SimCity-like platform designed to render all this data in a manageable interface, but still accurately.

It’s now raised $5 million in seed funding from Buckley Ventures, Hyper, Wndrco, Sequoia Scout, Signalfire Scout, and Craft Scout. It also says it has companies like Allbirds, Giga and VF Corp (a global apparel and footwear co.), New Zealand Merino and ZQRX using it to figure out their ESG mandates.

Founded by LinkedIn and Airbus alums, the San Francisco-based platform says it combines urban planning, game design, data visualization, and scientific planning to model and execute on their environmental, social and governance plans.

“We are at a point where companies who do not mobilize their pledges of corporate and social responsibility are falling behind,” Actual co-founder and President Karthik Balakrishnan said in a statement. “Investors are already favoring companies with higher ESG scores, leaving ‘less clean’ companies with limited access to capital. Actual is designed to help enterprises rapidly model and implement the various ESG scenarios that will update their existing operations to meet regulations, without delay.”

Actual is co-founded by ex-CEO of Heighten (acquired by Microsoft/LinkedIn), Rajesh Chandran; former co-founder of Coin (acquired by Fitbit) and Altiscope (now known as Airbus UTM) Karthik Balakrishnan, Ph.D.; and former LinkedIn software engineer and Rhodes Scholar, Derek Lyons, Ph.D.

Speaking to me over a call, CTO Derek Lyons told me: “If you look at the space of ESG tools that exist today, a lot of them are very what we would call ‘data first’. So they’re really focused on gathering a lot of data, populating things like carbon API’s and using all of that information to try and give organizations a very precise picture of where they are today, in terms of their ESG footprint.”

He said Actual takes a different approach: “Our approach is what we call ‘model first’. And we’re very focused on building models that allow customers to take the data that they have today, even if it’s really low resolution, even if it’s just estimates, and plug that into actual models that strap that together with business logic, with the underlying science and engineering that’s important for many of these transformations. And then use that to be able to model out into the future, likely to change scenario.”