The Future of ClimateTech: An Interview with Tristan Pollock
What is ClimateTech?
ClimateTech is the renewal of the CleanTech movement that started with renewable energy (solar, wind, water) about a decade ago. At the time “clean technology” was more expensive than fossil fuels, but now renewable energy is cheaper since research and development has improved.
The world as a whole is also feeling the impending catastrophe of climate change and global warming coupled with a COVID pandemic that has lasted over a year. We have to move directly from solving one global problem to solving another.
The UN has explained the best path to limiting warming to an increase of 1.5 C by 2100 involves both cutting net human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 45% by 2030 and then cutting emissions further to net-zero by 2050.
What isn’t ClimateTech?
This is a gray area. Let’s take a couple of examples. Do Lyft and Uber reduce car ownership thus emissions with their ride-sharing options? What about scooter companies Lime and Bird? Do they allow transportation without gasoline in cities? Knowing that around 25% of carbon emissions are from transportation, then wouldn’t it be good to find ways to carpool and reduce car use? Well, yes, but it all depends. What about the charging network of cars required to pick up scooters and recharge them? Are more cars on the road because of Lyft and Uber? It starts to get tricky.
That’s why climate tech is and should be, a movement of effective altruism we need to take seriously by letting data lead. Effective altruism is about understanding the problem you want to fix and fixing it in the best way possible. It might make you feel good to use a metal straw instead of a plastic one, and is a good idea, but that alone won’t reach our climate goals. So, what combination of tactics do we need to do as consumers, businesses, and governments to effectively save the environment.
More on effective altruism and climate change here: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/articles/johannes-ackva-an-update-to-our-thinking-on-climate-change/
What VCs are making investments in this space?
VC investment in climate change is growing 5 times faster than the overall venture capital industry. That means Silicon Valley and tech communities around the world are taking note. From Elon Musk’s $100M carbon capture challenge to Amazon’s Climate Pledge to Chris Sacca’s and Robert Downey Jr’s ClimateTech funds, there is major backing heading in the direction of those working to save the planet.
A good ongoing list of ClimateTech VCs is here: https://climatetechvc.org/a-running-list-of-climate-tech-vcs/
What types of ClimateTech startups are you excited about?
Because of my background in community-driven movements, I’m most interested in climate companies that have both a B2B and B2C component, a strong community-first brand, and an inspiring vision. At the same time, they also need to be able to have fun and bring people into their journey without burning people out by only leaning on fear.
I’m also excited by the technology of blockchain and the hype of crypto combined with practical environmental initiatives. That could be carbon tracking for businesses, a more eco-friendly blockchain, or something totally new.
About Tristan Pollock
Tristan Pollock is a tech entrepreneur and movement builder who’s trying to leave the world in a better place than he found it. He’s built and sold two ImpactTech companies and invested $30M into Silicon Valley startups. You can read his musings at Entrepreneur.com, VentureBeat, and Medium.