Dimple Patel, the new chief executive officer at nature intelligence tech company NatureMetrics, is facing one of her biggest challenges yet: scaling up the company to crack the fledgling $154bn market for nature-based solutions.
- November 2023: CEO of NatureMetrics
- July 2023: The BAE HQ, advisor for organisation supporting British Asian entrepreneurs through resources, events and mentorship
- 2018-23: Trouva, rising from director of operations to chief operating officer and eventually CEO
- 2010-18: Co-founder and co-CEO, independent coffee chain Love Koffee
- 2008-10: Goldman Sachs, fixed income trader
- 2007-08: Yale University, Master’s degree, international and development economics
- 2004-07: University of Cambridge, Master of Arts, economics
When NatureMetrics, the world’s first nature performance monitoring service, was looking for the right person to help take the business to the next level, it turned to a woman who knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.
Dimple Patel, its new chief executive officer, grew up on a rundown council estate in northern England, before studying economics at the University of Cambridge and becoming a fixed income trader at Goldman Sachs in London at the start of the Global Financial Crisis.
“It was an extremely deprived area, we were surrounded by poverty, and there was so much racism,” Patel tells Impact Investor. “We’re talking the late 80s, early 90s in an ex-coal mining estate, people were not holding back. But I ultimately had a very happy childhood. My parents worked incredibly hard. They instilled that in us very, very early on.”
Failing coffee chain
At the age of 23 and disillusioned by making money for Goldman off the Greek debt crisis, Patel decided to buy a failing coffee chain. Working two jobs, seven days a week, she turned it round and sold it after the business had grown to 37 stores. Patel then joined Trouva, an online marketplace for independent boutiques, and was part of a multi-million-pound fundraising.
Having led Trouva through the Covid-19 pandemic, Patel successfully negotiated a sale to Made.com, only for that company to collapse soon after. But Patel convinced the administrators at Made.com to let her take Trouva out of the administration process, arguing it was a profitable business. Soon after, she managed to sell Trouva once more.
Joining NatureMetrics as it is looking to scale up its business “felt like an opportunity to take all of those experiences across my other roles, and bring them together in an area where you know that you’re going to deliver some real impact, and it’s going to be lasting impact as well”, Patel says. “So that was the opportunity that got me really, really interested.”
The science of the business is “fascinating”, she says. “It’s time for businesses to start thinking more sustainably, the focus has been on profits and share prices for so long, that when you look at the impact that we’ve had on the environment, it’s actually quite frightening. So this is the opportunity to push back and challenge convention, and do what we can to change the way that businesses think and operate.”
Founded in 2014 by Dr Kat Bruce, a tropical ecologist, NatureMetrics provides biodiversity insights and solutions to around 500 clients in over 100 countries. The Guildford, England-based start-up does this by detecting tiny traces of DNA in water and soil samples, which are analysed to identify every type of organism in an entire regional ecosystem.
NatureMetrics recently became the first company in the world to launch a Nature Intelligence subscription service powered by its environmental DNA (eDNA) technology. This new product promises to bring scalable solutions to biodiversity monitoring for companies.
Clients include Nestle, Unilever, Tesco and Anglo American. Patel will spearhead the company’s global growth and digital expansion amid strong demand for nature monitoring, following new nature reporting obligations such as the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).
The United Nations’ recent State of Finance for Nature report estimated the current size of the nature-based solutions market to be around $154bn a year.
- NatureMetrics is currently working with the Universty of Sussex on a multi-year rewilding project, using its eDNA service to monitor biodiversity recovery just off the British coast.
- A project with the Forest Development Authority in Liberia, using eDNA, led to the discovery of 166 species, including the endangered pygmy hippo. This was based on just 20 water samples taken from two rivers in southeast Liberia, making it a quick and cost-effective way to support conservation efforts compared to more traditional methods.
“We’re in a critical growth phase at NatureMetrics as corporates wake up to the urgent need to protect and restore nature,” Bruce said in a company press release. “Dimple couldn’t be joining at a more important moment as we scale to meet the new global demand for meaningful biodiversity solutions. Dimple has an impressive track record of creating high-performance businesses while empowering successful teams.”
“Dimple brings deep experience across digital and global commercial development to guide NatureMetrics through next important growth phase, with particular focus on Canada and the United States,” NatureMetrics said.
From science-based to digital
NatureMetrics “has a product that is grounded in science, using high integrity eDNA technology…but we’ve structured it now in a way that is accessible to large organisations,” says Patel. “And it’s taking that science and making it accessible and translatable for people that are sitting on boards, that don’t necessarily need to understand the complexities of how DNA analysis works, but need to understand how to implement it to measure their business’ environmental impact and sustainability efforts,” she adds.
“We move beyond being a science-based services business to being a digital offering that can support businesses on their entire journey through building out their nature strategy to changing the way they operate,” Patel says. “We’ve had that headstart, it’s about how [do] we accelerate it from here?
Scaling up NatureMetrics may be a big task, but it is one that Patel is relishing.
While at Goldman, Patel was often the lone female on the trading desk. “That came with its own challenges. There were male salespeople who would refuse to take a price from me, because they didn’t believe that I knew how to price something up.”
While building her Love Koffee chain, she combined “17 to 18-hour” days at Goldman with working weekends “making coffees and serving customers.” Patel said some of her university friends were stunned, but she persevered, and eventually, succeeded.
When asked what the secret is to her success, Patel says “resilience.”
“I’ve definitely taken a lot of knocks over my career, and I’ve had some amazing wins and successes, as well,” she says. “But particularly when you are building companies and you’re working in entrepreneurship, you have to be resilient, you have to be agile, you have to be open to learning and growing.
“And I think a huge part of that comes from how you connect with people and really understanding how to work with them, how to empower them, and how to collaborate closely with them. And fundamentally, if you have good people around you, when things do go sideways, you know that you’re going to pull each other out the other side.”