Blog by our CFO and COO Tanja Van Dinteren about corporate governance structures and business growth

Startup governance: laying the foundations for successful growth

  • Our CFO/COO Tanja van Dinteren gives her perspective on why she believes introducing corporate governance at an early stage can help startups navigate the challenges of growing a business and lay the foundations for long-term success.

Entrepreneurs are known to be dedicated to their ideas and go all out to make their companies successful, but establishing basic corporate governance structures isn’t always at the top of their agenda. It can be perceived as premature, an administrative burden, or taking focus away from what they’re trying to achieve. 

However, building corporate governance is as essential for a startup as any large corporation. It indicates that the business is planning for the future and building the foundation to flourish financially and creatively. It also adds accountability and transparency, attracting partners, customers, and new employees. 

Defining corporate governance

Corporate governance is the domain of the Board of Directors (BOD) and refers to the system of rules, practices, and processes by which a company is directed and controlled. It helps to balance the company’s many stakeholders (shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, investors, and more) and is altogether different from the daily operational decisions and activities that are executed by its management. 

A healthy corporate governance function requires a clear and formal separation of duties between the BOD and management. It also requires a healthy working relationship between the Board and myself – in the hybrid role of CFO/COO.

Transparency and accountability

Corporate governance maintains transparency and accountability. Informed decision-making is only possible with systems in place that provide accurate and reliable information, and a company’s willingness to share that information regarding its performance. 

For example, as CFO/COO I ensure that our company follows best practices in financial reporting and internal controls. We maintain accurate and timely financial records, and we have implemented strict internal controls to ensure the integrity of our financial reporting. We also appoint an external auditor to ensure that our financial statements are accurate and comply with all relevant laws and regulations. We follow International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) – not because it makes sense for every startup, but because it makes sense for our trajectory. 

In fast-moving startup cultures driven by deadlines, it can be hard to prioritise transparency, and communication between startups and their stakeholders can break down. The BOD overseeing accountability and transparent communication is key to building trust.

Building an effective Board of Directors

Like all businesses, it is important that the corporate governance structures of a startup are fit for purpose. These structures should reflect the business’s model, size, complexity, and risk profile. As the startup grows, the structures mature. 

Our Series A funding came with greater attention to pulling together the elements of a functioning BOD. We follow a one-tier model, with executive directors and non-executive directors. Because a BOD that comes with an early-stage investment round is often determined by factors like capital allocation or representing the founding team, the challenge specific to startups is assembling a BOD that best addresses the technical, regulatory, and buyer issues of a specific market.

For example, Lars Topholm is our Chairperson and works as Head of Research at Carnegie Bank. We benefit from his extensive knowledge of the market and geopolitical trends. John Carolin, our Non-Executive Director, has a background working at BOC Linde, a leading global industrial gases and engineering company. He’s experienced in executive and non-executive roles and diligently focuses on corporate governance. Similarly, Johan Hueffer (Novo Holdings) and Rob Beudeker (DSM) help us benefit from institutional knowledge in both best practices and industrial biotech. 

Our BOD comprises individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise, and they provide valuable guidance and oversight to our management team. They also hold regular meetings to review our financial performance and decide on important business matters.

A strategic roadmap

Effective corporate governance requires collaboration between the BOD and management teams. To this end, our C-suite executives play a critical role. They develop strategic goals, provide the leadership to empower employees to achieve these goals, and help build the company’s brand among stakeholders. Where our BOD sets long-term goals and oversees the company, our executives create a roadmap providing a clear picture of how to achieve the goals. Business strategies most often fail because of poor execution – not because of bad ideas.

Deep Branch’s visionary ambition is to tackle the climate emergency by turning food-grade carbon dioxide into sustainable, high-value ingredients. That’s a big task. To tackle this, we have many milestones to hit on the way to this end goal, following a roadmap with essential steps. Having a C-suite in place to establish, monitor, and drive these smaller goals will help achieve success as the startup grows.

Not too fast

The motto “Move fast and break things” often used by startups underscores the approach of work and innovation with an emphasis on speed and experimentation. This motto insists it’s better to make mistakes and disrupt technologies along the way than to play it safe at a slow and steady pace. At Deep Branch, we want to strike a balance. We know the risk of sacrificing flexibility by implementing a corporate governance structure. In my hybrid role as CFO and COO, I see it as my job to protect this flexibility and preserve what makes us unique. 

I do this by continually asking questions. I question every policy we have to ensure it adds to rather than limits our growth. Moreover, I surround myself with similarly passionate and critical people who are ready to ask me the same questions. This approach helps improve performance, build a stable and productive culture, and unlock new opportunities.

Reaping the rewards of corporate governance

Almost five years down the road, we have secured significant investments, formed new partnerships, and grown our team. In no small part due to the presence of corporate governance. So, if you’re a startup founder, consider prioritising corporate governance – leaving your company better equipped to navigate the challenges of growing a business and setting you up for long-term success.


Deep Branch selected to join 13 leading edge companies focused on solving the world’s greatest challenges at Unreasonable Impact 2020

Barclays and Unreasonable Group continue commitment to scaling up entrepreneurial solutions helping employ thousands globally while solving some of the world’s most pressing environmental and societal challenges

Deep Branch has been selected to join 13 other ground breaking growth stage ventures at the 2020 Unreasonable Impact UK & Europe programme

With the global pandemic continuing to have an enormous impact on all aspects of life, including the global workforce, migration, and the environment, supporting entrepreneurial solutions addressing these challenges is critical. Unreasonable Impact, a unique partnership between Barclays and Unreasonable Group is focused on supporting and scaling up high-growth ventures within the green economy, ensuring that their impactful solutions reach new markets, transform even more lives and create thousands more jobs in the process.

After a rigorous selection process involving hundreds of world-class companies, Pete Rowe, CEO at Deep Branch has been invited to join 13 other leading entrepreneurs from across the UK & Europe for the first ever virtual iteration of the Unreasonable Impact programme, which aims to accelerate the growth of their companies. 

Impacting the future of food, energy, sustainable living and supply chains, each entrepreneur is selected to participate based on their potential to address key social and environmental issues and to create at least 500 jobs within the next five years.

The programme connects the entrepreneurs to a global community of power-house mentors and industry specialists, including experts from across Barclays through tried and tested methodologies and approaches.  

Alisdair Gayne, Head of UK Investment Banking at Barclays, said, “We are excited to welcome the latest cohort of ventures onto the first virtual Unreasonable Impact programme.  As they point their talent and drive towards tackling today’s greatest challenges, we are committed in partnership with Unreasonable Group to create an extensive network of supporters that can support them on their journey to scale.”

Daniel Epstein, Founder and CEO of Unreasonable Group, added, “We are committed to the idea that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive and Unreasonable Impact’s success to date demonstrates the growing appetite for purpose and profit driven businesses. Our now highly curated virtual programmes provide a space to share wisdom, build a lasting community of support and deep dive into critical conversations, empowering our entrepreneurs towards transformative impact and growth. We are so excited to welcome Deep Branch into our global community and look forward to supporting Pete Rowe along with our partners Barclays, to scale and in the process accelerate the creation of thousands of new jobs.”

Cumulatively, the fifteen ventures have generated more than USD $56.24 million in revenue, raised USD $202.48 million in funding and are operating in 26 countries.

To date, the ventures that comprise the Unreasonable Impact community have positively impacted more than 220 million people, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 55 million tons, and generated more than 37,000 net new jobs. The companies have also raised more than USD $3 billion in funding. Deep Branch joins this notable global network in its shared effort to create thousands of jobs on the frontier of the green economy.

For more information, visit

The participating companies include:

All Plants: Creating and delivering delicious 100% hand-prepared, vegan and sustainable meals to doorsteps across the UK, so people and the planet thrive together

Biohm: Mimics biological processes to synthesize man-made products, combining ideologies of the circular economy and human-centered design with future-tech to revolutionize building technologies, materials and manufacturing methods

Connected Energy: Harnessing the circular economy to provide industrial scale energy storage, Connected Energy systems, which use second-life battery packs, maximise the value of already committed natural resources, and support the decarbonisation of the grid.

Deep Branch: Transforms carbon dioxide directly from industrial emission into a nutritious and sustainable single cell protein thereby reducing the carbon footprint of emitters and providing sustainable alternatives to soy and fishmeal for the feed industry

Eco Wave Power: Onshore wave energy technology company that developed a patented, smart and cost-efficient technology for turning ocean and sea waves into green electricity 

ECOncrete: Offers a suite of high performance environmentally sensitive concrete solutions to reduce the ecological footprint of ports, marinas, and working waterfronts enhancing biodiversity, productivity and structural performance

Ecoppia: Pioneering automation and robotics for large-scale solar panel cleaning, Ecoppia offers a cloud-based, connected platform and a suite of robotic solutions for smart management of solar plants 

Farmstand: Making and distributing sustainable-sourced bulk meals to offices and homes.

Kitro: Helping restaurants reduce their food costs and wastage by using hardware devices and deep learning software to better understand where operational inefficiencies lie  

Novihum Technologies: Using high-value organic matter to transform depleted soil into fertile land

Project Etopia: Combining energy, construction and intelligent technologies to create the eco cities of the future

Silicon Microgravity: Technology-based company focused on developing and applying innovative technology where gravity can be applied to create value

Tipa: Creating viable, fully compostable flexible packaging solutions to help nurture the soil for a plastic-free world

Worn Again Technologies: Developing circular recycling technology for textiles replacing virgin resources with recaptured raw materials


About Unreasonable Impact, created with Barclays

Unreasonable Impact is an innovative multi-year multi-geographic partnership between Barclays and Unreasonable Group to launch the world’s first global network focused on scaling up entrepreneurial solutions that will help employ thousands worldwide in the emerging green economy. To date, the more than 120 ventures that comprise the global cohort operate in more than 180 countries, have raised over $3bn USD in funding, have generated over $2.7bn USD in revenue, and have created more than 37,000 net new jobs since joining Unreasonable Impact. For more information, please visit

About Barclays

Barclays is a British universal bank. The company is diversified by business, by different types of customers and clients, and by geography. Barclays’ businesses include consumer banking and payments operations around the world, as well as a top-tier, full service, global corporate and investment bank, all of which are supported by their service company which provides technology, operations and functional services across the Group.

For further information about Barclays, please visit

About Unreasonable Group

Bringing together a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, creatives and business leaders, Unreasonable acts as a catalytic platform for entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges facing us today.  From designing highly curated immersive programmes, facilitating access to a global network of mentors to operating a private equity fund and providing advanced storytelling and media activities, Unreasonable operates at the highest intersection of business and impact.  It is uniquely positioned to support growth stage entrepreneurs solving key global environment and social challenges to scale up through the deployment of knowledge, networks and capital.

For more information about Unreasonable, please visit