We hope your gravy boat was bountiful and turkeys plump (but not too plump). We’re grateful for you making space in your inbox for CTVC this year.
Here’s a special issue to share our gratitude, inspired by our reflections of how much the ecosystem has boomed this past wacky year - this is a rundown of investors across the climate tech space, as well as some overview of what we’ve seen.
Thanks for being a part of this and supporting us with your time and consideration. Let us know what you think (and most importantly, what we’ve missed!). We’ll be back next week with a full issue.
The cleantech boom and bust of the late 2000s sent many entrepreneurs and investors packing for the relative safety of enterprise SaaS venturing. A decade plus later, with $16b invested in the space in 2019 alone, investors clearly have renewed interest in ‘climate tech’ - encapsulating not only energy (i.e. storage, biofuels, and renewables) but also agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing which have the potential to reduce emissions.
A few things are different this time. All of which are bolstered by waves of highly qualified talent lending their experience from other industries and functions to the climate challenge as they seek to align their values with their paycheck.
Investors (staffed to diligence technical risk, structured for longer development timelines)
Corporates (public support, willingness to fund First Of A Kind projects)
Consumers (broad recognition of the climate crisis, sustainable behavioral change)
Technology (renewables becoming mature and cost-competitive, science and research costs mostly covered by government)
The word is out. At the start of 2020 (and what a year it has been since), Sequoia Capital, infamous for investments such as Apple, Google, and LinkedIn, put out a public call for climate and sustainability investments. Chamath Palihapitiya, of Social Capital and recent SPAC fanatic, predicted that “the world’s first trillionaire will be somebody in climate change”, and promised to invest “a few $B into [decarbonization, sustainability, and climate change” - and asked the world to help him. Meanwhile Tesla’s stock has skyrocketed over 550% since January, Bezos has started gifting the $100b from his Earth Fund, the Biden Administration counts climate amongst its top priorities, and America’s tech giants havealmostallannounced carbon neutrality.
Every sector of the global economy needs to transform to be climate neutral over just two business cycles. Accordingly, investment in climate tech has outpaced the overall venture market 5 to 1, and attracted a diverse set of investors to the green rush. We’ve been tracking deals, interviewing investors and entrepreneurs, and reporting on hot verticals. Over that time, we’ve seen 5 major categories of (private, non-strategic, venture stage) climate tech investors:
Climate-general: Investing in climate change as the primary thesis
Climate-vertical specific: Investing in a specific vertical (e.g., agriculture, energy) within the broader climate tech ecosystem
Impact: Investing for impact with a focus on sustainability
Deeptech: Investing in frontier, hard science technologies to address climate
Generalist: Investing mostly in enterprise / consumer software, with some opportunistic climate investments
The list below has been edited for length, so be sure to check out our website for the complete list.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures: Coalition of investors including Bill Gates investing in technologies with the potential to reduce at least half a gigaton of GHG emissions (Portco Form Energy is developing long duration energy storage systems)
Buoyant Ventures: Investing in digital solutions for climate risk (Portco Raptor Maps builds drone software to digitize and monitor solar assets)
Congruent Ventures: Creating companies that will positively impact how we move, create, eat, and live (Portco Camus Energy builds software for grid operators)
Lowercarbon Capital: Investment fund founded by Chris Sacca (Lowercase Capital) for Planet-healing technologies and research (Portco Pachama verifies carbon offsetting projects such as forest reforestation through drones)
Prelude Ventures: Investing in the low-carbon economy (Portco Trove powers retail resale for brands such as Patagonia)
Emergence Industries: Coalition backing technology companies aligned with the UN SDGs (Portco Terracycle recycles non-recyclable waste into various consumer products)
Obvious Ventures: Supporting purpose-driven entrepreneurs across three investment pillars: Sustainable Systems, Healthy Living, and People Power (Portco Beyond Meat is a global leader in developing plant proteins)
SJF Ventures: Investing in high-growth companies creating a healthier, smarter, and cleaner future (Portco Voltaiq offers a battery intelligence analytics platform)
Activate Capital:Invest in transformative technologies to build a more intelligent, efficient, and sustainable industrial future (Portco Stem combines big data, predictive analytics, and energy storage to reduce electrical costs)
Data Collective VC: Backing brilliant Deep Tech teams solving the world’s hardest problems (Portco Planet collects information about our changing planet via a fleet of Earth-imaging satellites)
The Engine:MIT-launched fund investing in Tough Tech companies (Portco Via Separations develops a separation membrane which generates industrial energy savings)
Fifty Years: Backing founders using technology to solve the world’s biggest problems (Portco Memphis Meats develops meat produced from animal stem cells)
Lux Capital: Investing in people inventing the future (Portco Shiru leverages computational design to create enhanced proteins that feed the world sustainably)
Pangaea Ventures: Investing in entrepreneurs solving the world’s most fundamental problems with advanced materials (Portco CarbonCure recycles CO2 into concrete)
500 Startups: One of the most active early stage investors in the world (Portco OhmConnect provides an energy efficiency platform)
Khosla Ventures: The investment firm founded by Vinod Khosla has placed bets in Food, Efficiency, Power, and Energy Storage sectors (Portco Lanzatech recycles carbon from industrial off-gases and municipal solid waste)
We’ll continue to update this list (add new players and ones that we missed, remove those who deprioritize climate, and expand to further segments like corporate VCs and asset classes like project finance) as the market continues to evolve. If you have a suggestion, feel free to let us know.