Campus and Community

Manuel Nina: An entrepreneur who is promoting the growth of sustainable investment

The Mechanical Engineering alumnus is the co-founder of GoParity, a Portuguese fintech that has tripled the amount invested in three years to create a positive social and environmental impact.

Manuel Nina has a strong link with Técnico. One of his childhood memories is being at Alameda campus, in the corridors of Mechanical Engineering building. He is the son of Mário Nina, a retired Técnico professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering (DEM). He is also the great-nephew of a Técnico electrical engineer, who were assistant of engineer Duarte Pacheco at Lisbon City Hall.

Although he had always been interested in Sciences, Manuel Nina is sure that his father’s path has influenced him. He knew that he wanted to study at Técnico, and he ended up choosing the Mechanical Engineering course.

“My academic life at Técnico was very exciting. Those experiences led to personal growth and to new friendships, and also to learn and to strengthen many soft skills”, says the alumnus. He was AEIST board member for 4 years, which made him “really happy”. “I felt for the first time that a group of people working together toward a shared goal was able to create something from nothing, using only the creativity and strength of their work. It was my first approach to entrepreneurship”, he says. “I became involved in the academic processes, I experienced the Bologna process transition period – I was member of the Board of Directors, together with professor Matos Ferreira, professor Cruz Serra, and member of the UTL [Universidade Técnica de Lisboa] Senate” he recalls. He also keeps good memories of classes and campus life.

He didn’t hesitate when the opportunity came to do an internship at the European Parliament. He put his course on hold and went to Brussels. “I returned to Portugal to work in the Portuguese Parliament while writing my master’s thesis. It was the conclusion of a life cycle, and a great success”, he recalls with emotion.

The unexpected entrepreneurial path

After completing the course, he remained working in the Parliament for a year and after that he did energy assessment for 6 months. “One day, I got a call from a friend and classmate who worked at a consulting firm for EU innovation projects, saying ‘I’m going to make you an indecent proposal’,” recalls Manuel Nina. “The proposal was to start working with him 4 days later, and then, in the following week I would take a flight to Lulea, in northern Sweden, to take over an energy efficiency project funded with €3M”, he adds. He accepted the challenge without hesitation.

“I ended up creating one of my companies – SNAP – with my partner Nuno Brito Jorge, which helped us to obtain more than €20M in EU funding for Portuguese R&I projects, many of which developed by startups created by Técnico alumni”, says the alumnus. The creation of this startup specialized in consulting, accelerating and funding the development of disruptive innovation at European and International scale, marked the beginning of his entrepreneurial path.

In 2017, Nuno Brito Jorge has the idea of creating GoParity. “The idea of democratizing access to‘bank’finance for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects was clearly an opportunity that traditional banking was neither prepared nor had the agility to follow the market,” explains Manuel Nina. “My first contribution was to obtain a non-refundable fund from the European Commission to scale the company’s impact, together with 5 of the most important energy agencies in Portugal, which has generated public and private investment on energy efficiency projects in Portugal”, stresses the alumnus.

According to Manuel Nina “the creation of GoParity was a leap of faith. Nuno already had a previous entrepreneurial experience, Luís Couto had a very strong background in banking, and we had the support of some other partners”. This perfect combination of skills and professional backgrounds made him feel like he was part of “a dream team that in one way or another would be successful”.

Go Parity: the investment platform that promotes sustainable projects and captivates investors from around the world

The idea behind Go Parity is simple: to prevent some good projects from being left in the drawer, or getting stuck due to lack of capital. On the other hand, fintech provides more than valid investment opportunities to citizens willing to participate in the energy transition, increasing their savings. Go Parity applies the crowdfunding model to sustainable projects such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, mobility, among others.

“Anyone can start investing their money in GoParity’s crowdlending, starting at € 5. You just have to choose the most appealing project, for example, solar panels for an SME or a nursing home, or the world’s first ocean aquaculture, which is located in the Algarve, or solar energy for a dairy cooperative in Uganda”, says the Técnico alumnus. “No hidden costs, no complications, just invest, as often as you like. You will realise that the money that you keep in the bank can be better invested, and have a real impact on our neighbourhood, on our country and on the world”, adds the entrepreneur.

“Any company or startup that wants to fund a project that contributes to the fulfillment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can speak to us”, highlights the Técnico alumnus. “We are faster than traditional banking, we develop tailored proposals to projects – namely with regard to guarantees – and we have a community of more than 10,000 investors, growing every week, who want to be part of the sustainable future of companies”.

Contrary to what one would expect, it was in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic year, that GoParity “took the biggest leap”. In the last three months of 2020, the amount invested in sustainable projects exceeded the total investment of 2019. “Even in pandemic times we noticed that people are realising that traditional banking is not the only solution to invest their savings: crowdlending and crowdfunding are examples of fintech models that are emerging all over the world”, says the alumnus.

Fintech has already allowed funding opportunities of “more than €4.6M” in projects ranging from health to the sea economy, including education, sustainable agriculture, factories in transition, ecological fashion, electric mobility, employment or renewable energy, in five different countries. More than €1.1M of this investment have already been returned to the investors community. In total, the GoParity projects prevent the emission of nearly 20 thousand tons of CO2 annually and produce more than seven megawatt-hours of clean energy.

According to the Go Parity co-founder, “there are a countless number of projects that need funding, that are sufficiently secure, and that have a huge impact on our society. The biggest challenge is to make the platform known to an increased number of investors – because there are a lot of projects that need investment”.

“I have no doubt that Técnico gave me the tools I needed to become the best at whatever I do”.

“What shocked me the most when I started to hold management positions was the time a manager has to “waste” doing things that are not central to the company’s operation – everything that has to do with accounting, taxation, the legal part, banks, it is extremely frustrating – a lot of time is spent doing things that do not generate value, especially in a startup”, says the alumnus. “Many sleepless nights thinking about the company’s financial situation”, was also mentioned by Manuel Nina.

The co-founder of Go Parity has no doubts that “Técnico gave me the tools I needed to become the best at whatever I do”. “Técnico helped me and my colleagues to develop problem solving skills and to improve teamwork skills, which has contributed to the success of my companies”.

Manuel Nina leaves a piece of advice for current Técnico students: believe in yourself. Taking his own example – and the lessons he learned – the alumnus stresses that no matter how big the setbacks may seem, “the final result was worth the whole journey”.