A new breed of founders using data to help the planet (and their backers)
As a startup investor, I love learning about new spaces where problems can be solved through software.
Since these white spaces can be found in any industry, I deeply believe in a founder-first investment strategy; I think founders are much better than investors at identifying opportunities. All we can do is follow them and learn from those who spend more time than us spotting problems, getting smart about them, and coming up with compelling solutions.
More often than not, these talented founders travel in packs: from those individuals building software to reshape the Future of Work, to those working on Mental Health tech solutions, as well as those building Community Tools. The list goes on…
One of these spaces — in which I’m seeing an increasing number of remarkable people building meaningful companies — is Climate Tech Software, spurred by a couple of important trends:
- Increasing awareness around sustainability & climate change — both at the consumer and business level 🌏
- Regulatory and socio-political pressure towards transparency in reporting and reductions in carbon emissions (examples: 1, 2 and 3) ⚖️
- Increasing investor interest, with a bunch of awesome new funds raising hundreds of millions around the topic (See list below) 💸
I’ve spent some time crafting a list of 80 unique companies that caught my attention in the space, and a couple of investors who are mostly, or entirely focused on it.
My plan is to keep updating this post on a regular basis, so that it can become the go-to piece for the sector. If you’re building a company that you think should be included, let me know!
1. Climate Tech Software Startups
Note: This post’s definition of Climate Tech is limited to companies using software and data to fight Climate Change. In a future post, it could also include other areas like Sustainable Food & Agriculture, Green Energy etc. Many of the startups listed sit across multiple categories. I chose one for each, for simplicity. This is not an attempt at including every single company in these categories — many companies are missing — but rather a selection of the independent, private, and usually venture-backed ones I know and find interesting.
⚠️ If you’re more of a spreadsheet person than a «logo map» person, you can find the full list of 80 companies I looked at here. I included their backers / funding amounts and tried to personalise the description of each company to make it clear why it fits into its category️ ️️⚠️
1.1. Carbon Offsetting — Consumer
Individual climate engagement seems to have just hit an inflection point, with more and more consumers concerned about climate change. A lot of great companies have been popping up as a response in the last couple of years, to help consumers understand and reduce their carbon footprints. Notable examples:
➡ Instant Offset
- Klima, CHOOOSE, Project Wren, Pawprint, Giki, Ecologi: allowing anyone to calculate their carbon footprint via quick surveys and then neutralise their CO2 emissions in minutes.
- Nori: a marketplace for carbon removal, using blockchain technology to solve the double-counting problem in the carbon offset market.
➡ Real Time Tracking
- Aerial, Enfuce, CoGo, Minimum, Yayzy, Joro, Ecolytiq: building real-time carbon footprint tracking apps that link to users’ bank accounts to make tracking and offsetting seamless.
- Capture Club, offCents: Using GPS to automatically calculate anyone’s travel CO2 footprint and offering personal plans for offsetting it.
1.2. Carbon Offsetting — Business
An even larger number of companies came to life in the last few years to tackle the problem from a B2B perspective, which makes sense as (i) it’s the right thing to do (just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988), and (ii) businesses in the world are facing increasing scrutiny from consumers, employees, investors and regulators to take climate action and increase transparency around ESG (Environmental, social and corporate governance) reporting. Notable examples:
➡ Carbon Offsetting & ESG Reporting — B2B SaaS
- Measurabl, Nossa Data, Metrio: helping companies measure, manage, and disclose their ESG performance.
- Planetly, SINAI, Emitwise, Normative, CarbonChain, Watershed: building software platforms to analyse any company’s carbon footprint, reduce their carbon emissions and compensate for what cannot be avoided.
- Cervest: a real-time, climate forecasting platform to help decision makers manage risk and inform policy by predicting how changes in the climate will impact the future of entire countries, right down to individual landscapes anywhere in the world.
➡ Carbon Offsetting — B2B API / Marketplace
- Pachama, Puro: building marketplaces where companies can support carbon-offsetting projects through investment.
- Patch, Cloverly, Sylvera, Puro, Nori, Chooose: building APIs and integrations that connect with businesses to calculate their emissions and offset their carbon footprint by purchasing negative emissions from carbon removal projects.
➡ Carbon Offsetting — B2G
- ClimateView, Zellar: providing software platforms for cities, governments and businesses to become carbon neutral.
1.3. Sustainable Neobanks
Neobanks have been around for several years now, from mass market ones like Revolut & Monzo, to more nichey ones like Vybe, targeting teenagers. A new wave of them has been generating a lot of consumer traction in recent years; neobanks built with sustainability and climate awareness in mind from day 1. Notable examples:
- Aspiration, Good Money, Bunq, Tomorrow, Doconomy, Novus: Digital banking platforms that provide banking and financial services oriented towards helping the environment and society.
- Treecard: A free, wooden payment card that reforests the planet with users’ everyday spending.
1.4. Materials / Supply Chain Intelligence
Both regulatory and consumer demand is on the rise for sustainable materials and transparency around production / supply chains. This was accelerated in all industries by the current pandemic. With global travel halted, fairs around materials cancelled and employees forced to work remotely — brands, suppliers and manufacturers need solutions to source materials and manage relationships with suppliers in a completely digital environment. Notable examples:
- Ecovadis, Worldfavor, Circular IQ: Sustainability platforms to drive transparency and sustainability in every step of a company’s value chain.
- Material Exchanage, SupplyCompass, Halo, CarbonCloud, Contreeb: Helping brands (e.g. fashion, food, etc.) source or manage sustainable materials by facilitating the calculation and communication of the climate footprints of materials / products at scale.
- Everledger, Bext360, Minespider, Ripe.io, Provenance: Blockchain-based platforms / digital passports for companies to keep track of where their raw materials come from and how they were produced.
- alcemy: Software for predictive quality control, enabling costs and carbon savings in the production of cement and concrete.
- Tracks: Helping businesses optimise their fleet operations towards fuel efficiency and supply chain transparency.
1.5. Investment Platforms / Data Services
Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects, and the evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance. A couple of platforms were born in recent years to educate and assist investors around the topic. Notable examples:
- Clarity, OpenInvest, Util, YvesBlue: data services providing investors with comprehensive tools to understand and optimise the environmental impact of their investment portfolios.
- Abundance, Clim8 Invest, Yova, Tickr, Proof Of Impact: Offering consumers simple ways to invest in sustainable portfolios of carefully selected companies already making a positive impact on climate change.
- Matter: building a new standard for companies’ pension investments, ensuring their employees’ money is invested with high concern for people and the planet.
1.6. Growing Money on Trees
Finally, a bunch of innovative founders are offering consumers fun and engaging ways to plant trees around the world and contribute to carbon offsetting. Notable examples:
- Treedom, Treemendo, Mossy Earth: Online platforms where anyone can have someone plant a tree for them and then follow it online.
- Ecosia: A search engine (Chrome extension) with a twist: using profits to plant trees.
- TreeApp, Refoorest: Allowing consumers to plant trees for free, in exchange for interacting with their sponsors (e.g. reading websites, ads or answering mini-surveys).
2. Climate Tech Software Investors
If you’re a founder launching a company in the Climate Tech Software space in 2020/2021 and looking for funding, you’re in for a fun ride, as there is a large multitude of investors across the globe you could raise from:
2.1. Generalist VCs
Given the trends we described above, Climate Tech Software is becoming quite hot from an investor’s point of view. It is very likely that no ‘generalist’ VC fund will rule you out because ‘you’re tackling climate change’. This makes your startup compatible for a huge number of Pre-seed & Seed funds. If you need examples, check the ‘investors’ column in the spreadsheet above.
2.2. Impact VCs
Impact funds have been around for decades. Many of them look for companies ‘making money while saving the world’. All of the categories above fit the bill for this criterion, so Impact VCs could be a great addition to your cap table. There are many lists of these out there (examples here and here). Here’s a few that launched recently:
- Norrsken (€100M) — Niklas Adalberth (co-founder of Klarna)
- Future Positive Capital ($70M) — Sofia Hmich and Alexandre Terrien
- Social Impact Capital — Sarah Cone
- Giant Ventures — Tommy Stadlen and Cameron McLain
- Revent VC — Otto Birnbaum
- 2050 — Marie Ekeland
- €1B Pledge for ‘moonshot projects’ — Daniel Ek (founder of Spotify)
…And if VC funds are not enough, here’s a list of 50 high net worth individuals investing in ventures striving to have a positive social or environmental impact.
2.3. Climate Tech VCs
More and more great funds are being launched to focus mostly, or entirely on Climate Tech Software.
⚠️ Here is an incredible list of Climate Tech VC funds, published by the team at Climate Tech VC a few weeks ago. ⚠️
Here’s a few that launched recently:
- Climate Pledge Fund ($2B) — Amazon
- Pale Blue Dot (€53M) — Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall and Joel Larsson
- Lowercarbon Capital — Chris Sacca
- Pledge to focus on the business of the Earth — Josh Felser (co-founder of Freestyle and #Climate)
Regardless of whether you’re a founder or investor —and whether you’re actively looking at this space or not from a business standpoint — I’d recommend spending some time thinking about how your startup / fund could itself contribute to reversing the climate crisis, as this is one of the most critical projects humanity will have to face 🌲
Thank you Hampus Jakobsson, Sofia Hmich, Tom McGillycuddy, Dom Potter, Mauro Cozzi, Camilla Mazzolini, Lola Wajskop, Akash Bajwa, Natasha Jones, Hristian Nedyalkov and Will Dufton for your help!
Want to read more about the topic?
- Time to cool the planet — Creandum
- Closing the Climate Gap — Balderton
- Carbon Removal Technologies — YCombinator
- Accounting is the new green — Climate Tech VC
- USV and the Climate Crisis — Union Square Ventures