Tesla graduates new climate mafia #65

+$10b go into climate via TPG’s Rise and Brookfield’s Global Transition funds

Happy Monday!

A few hours after we published last Monday morning’s snazzy graphic on new 2020 climate tech funds, it was outdated with more mega announcements from TPG and Brookfield. Since we started this newsletter in March of 2020, the landscape of players and scale of private investment capital in climate tech has become unrecognizable.

A squad of VCs are betting that y’all are thirsty for that good vegan cheese pull, after pumping up the Series B of Nobell Foods. Meanwhile the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill pushes forward in the Senate while wildfires on the West Coast outpace last year’s record-breaking season.

We’ve also got a host of deals and shiny product releases from companies whose founders all share one thing in common: punching the clock at Tesla or SpaceX. Which got us thinking - is Elon Musk a fountainhead of the new climate mafia?

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From PayPal to Tesla and beyond

15 years ago the PayPal Mafia represented the tech nadir of Silicon Valley. In the dot com days and beyond, 23 or so former PayPal employees and founders would graduate to start generation-defining technology companies like LinkedIn (Reid Hoffman), Palantir (Peter Thiel), YouTube (Jawed Karim), Yelp (Jeremy Stoppelman), Affirm (Max Levchin), and Tesla and SpaceX (Elon Musk).

As we know from any good mob movie, mafias beget mafias and Silicon Valley’s are no exception. At Tesla and SpaceX, Musk in many ways pioneered the model of success for a capital-intensive, moonshot climate tech company. Today, a new cadre of high-flying climate technology founders have all graduated from the school of Elon.

Hot off the funding press over just the last few weeks:

Thanks to the Twitterverse for helping us source more members of the Musk Climate Mafia:

Arch Rao, Span (smart electric panel)

Ryan Popple, Proterra (electric busses)

Peter Rawlinson, Lucid (EVs)

Ryan Cook, Arc (electric boats)

Ben Parker & Toby Kraus, Lightship (electric RVs)

Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy (long duration energy storage - using iron air!)

Dorian West, Electric Hydrogen (green hydrogen)

Josh Santos, Noya Labs (CO2 capture in cooling towers)

Peter Carlsson, Northvolt (Li-ion batteries)

Gene Berdichevsky & Alex Jacobs, Sila Nanotech (silicon anode batteries)

JB Straubel, Redwood Materials (battery recycling)

Eduard Castañeda & Enric Asunción, Wallbox (home EV chargers)

John Taggart, WeaveGrid (EV to grid software)

Shannon Miller, Mainspring (linear generator)

Anil Paryani, AMP (energy management solutions)

Doug Bernauer, Radiant Nuclear (portable nuclear)

Christophe Mille & Philippe Chain, Verkor (low-carbon batteries)

Kunal Girotra & Mark Holveck & Kevin Fine, Lunar Energy (all-electric homes)

Mark Schwager, Monarch Tractor (electric tractors)

Why do mafias occur?

  • 🚦 Signal: just like a degree from a fancy school, the stamp of approval from being selected to join Tesla and SpaceX opens doors to faster company building by attracting both investors (more fuel on the fire) and talent (more tools in the toolshed)
  • 🛠️ Capabilities: experiences building quickly at a high bar of excellence imparts novel talents and learnings to then apply to adjacent industries (or the same, in the case of Lucid)
  • 🤝 Network: like business school but better, the community of top echelon vehicle and space colleagues represent common values, character, and creativity required to stay pioneering

Other companies we’ve seen graduating strong concentrations of climate founders include Stripe, First Solar, and (not surprisingly) Google.

There’s only a few remaining successful cleantech 1.0 companies and only a handful of those that can boast a founder-led culture that attracts and cultivates future founders. As investor appetite for climate grows unabated and the ecosystem to nurture more earlier stage activity heats up, those that cut their teeth at the school of Elon now have a unique claim to make their own impact in climate.

Deals of the Week (7/26-8/1)

🚗 Rivian, an Irvine, CA-based EV startup, raised $2.5b in funding from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, D1 Capital Partners, Ford Motor, T. Rowe Price, Third Point, Fidelity, Dragoneer, and Coatue.

🔋 Redwood Materials, a Reno, NV-based battery recycling startup, raised $700m in Series C funding from T. Rowe Price, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Baillie Gifford, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity, Capricorn, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Valor Equity Partners, Emerson Collective, and Franklin Templeton.

🌱 NotCo, a New York, NY-based maker of plant-based foods, raised $235m in Series D funding from Tiger Global, DFJ Growth Fund, and ZOMA Lab.

🚗 Onto, a UK-based EV subscription startup, raised $175m in Series B funding from Alfvén & Didrikson and Pollen Street Capital.

🌱 Genomatica, San Diego, CA-based developer of sustainable chemicals raised $118m in Series C funding from Novo Holdings, Viking Global, and Casdin Capital.

🧀 Nobell Foods, a San Francisco, CA-based maker of plant-based cheeses, raised $75m in Series B funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, FootPrint Coalition Ventures, Unovis, Germin8 Ventures, Fifty Years, AgFunder, Pear VC, GL Ventures, Hillhouse Group, and Mission Bay Capital.

⚡ Bright Power, a New York, NY-based energy and water management platform, raised $24.5m in Series B funding from BMO Impact Investment Fund and Generate Capital.

⚡ H2U Technologies, a Pasadena, CA-based hydrogen catalyst discovery platform, raised $7m in Series A funding from Jericho Energy Ventures, Motus Ventures, Hess Corporation, and Dolby Family Ventures.

⛏️ Novamera, a Ontario-based sustainable mining company, raised $5m in Series A funding from BDC Capital and Chrysalix Venture Capital.

☀️ MyJouleBox, a France-based solar distributor and operator for countries in Africa, raised $3.6m in Series A funding from GAIA Impact Fund and Electrification Financing Initiative.

💨 Tepeo, a UK-based developer of a low carbon boiler, raised $3.5m in funding from the Clean Growth Fund.

🚙 Lightship RV, a San Francisco, CA-based maker of electric RVs, raised an undisclosed amount in funding from Obvious Ventures.

Exits & New Funds:

Brookfield Asset Management announced its initial $7b close with a hard cap of $12.5b to invest in accelerating the global transition to a net-zero carbon economy.

TPG announced a $5.4b first close of the TPG Rise Climate Fund.

Galway Sustainable Capital closed $265m in new funding from Oaktree Capital Management.

Energy Impact Partners announced its Elevate Future Fund, which aims to raise $120m to create a more diverse founder community and inclusive venture capital ecosystem within the broader energy transition. [See our well-received interview from Friday with Anthony Oni and Vida Asiegbu.]

Vehicle charging network Allegro agreed to go public at a pro forma equity value of $3.1b via SPAC Spartan Acquisition Corp III.

Vista Equity Partners acquired renewable energy management software maker Power Factors, with no disclosure of financial terms.

In the News

In this week’s infrastructure bill news: voting to pay, and more changes to investment priorities. Far short of the previous $2.6T proposal, this now $500b deal marks the first time that the US Govt earmarked part of the budget for hydrogen and DAC hubs and deployment. However, R&D spending and technology tax credits fell through after negotiations, triggering a separate legislation to re-ignite talks to pass key investment tax credits for clean energy technologies.

In Oregon, the Bootleg fire now burns at a rate of four square miles a day, ravaging forests set aside for carbon offsets. Even with one-fifth of those forests burned, carbon offset buyers from these forests still hold those credits.

AgFunder’s 2021 Farm Tech Investment Report reveals that investors pumped $7.9b into “Farm Tech” in 2020, which grew 37% faster since 2019 than global VC’s year-over-year increase. Most of the growth was led by ag biotech and novel farming systems (like insect and indoor farming).

For the first time ever, Tesla’s solar and battery pack sales are finally in the black. 200% growth in demand coupled with cheaper solar and battery components drove the flip, though the majority of Tesla’s revenue still comes from EV sales.

Nikola continues to crash and burn. The electric truck startup’s Ex-CEO, Trevor Milton, is being charged with multiple counts of fraud after misleading investors on the truck’s ability to drive. If convicted, Milton could face up to 25 years in prison.

BCG and BCG Digital Ventures announce Green Ventures, a new sustainability consulting and business-building division. The dedicated team will partner with corporates to build, scale and invest in sustainable businesses and climate innovation.


Play the Road to 10 Gigatons and try your hand at GHG drawdown with six carbon removal solutions (forests, soil, direct air capture, BECCS, blue carbon, and enhanced weathering). The challenge? Managing the scale up consequences and tradeoffs. Let us know if you win!

As the climate changes, so does inflation. Extreme weather events are slashing crop yields around the globe, surging food prices everywhere.

How hot is too hot? Check out WaPo’s interactive graphics of the human body’s attempt to handle temperature and humidity.

Analysis by Media Matters found that the NBC, ABC, and CBS morning shows devoted roughly the same time to covering Bezos’ space jaunt as they spent on media about climate change all of last year.

SpaceX alum at Arc are making a splash with their $300k all-electric boat, to be released by the end of the year - just in time for Christmas!

Opportunities & Events:

💡 Climate Tech Action Network: Interested in Climate Machine Learning? Join CTAN for a 4 week peer mentorship program to network within your field, in conjunction with Work on Climate.

💡 CalSEED: New Energy Nexus is opening CalSEED’s 5th cohort, providing grants to existing clean energy innovation across California. Applications open on August 23rd and close on September 5th.

💡 AgLaunch: Calling all AgTech startups that accelerate the adoption of farmer-centric, sustainable production practices for row crop agriculture. Applications to the Row Crop Challenge close on September 6th.


Sale Lead @Upstream Tech

Principal @The Westly Group

Soil Scientist @Kula Bio

Formulation Scientist @Kula Bio

Mechanic @Remora

Sr Software Earth Imaging Engineer @Near Space Labs

Sr Product Manager @Flux

CTO @Deep Science Ventures

Climate Finance Director @Action Center on Race and the Economy

Sr Manager of Marketing & Events @Greentown Labs

Full Stack Engineer @Stripe Climate

Feel free to send us new ideas, recent fundings, or general curiosities. Have a great week ahead!

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