🔋 Interview with Breakthrough Energy Ventures | Next 1,000 Climate Unicorns | Plant-based Batteries
Plus, the Buyer’s Guide to Financing Your Climate Venture, 12 tips for better sleep, Thanksgiving humor, and building a smokeless campfire pit.
Hello, my ZERO peeps,
If you take nothing else from this issue, then consider pondering your answer to the following question I ask climate CEO and investor guests at the end of each Climate Torch podcast. What would be your answer?
What’s one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for you — outside of your family?
⚡ Climate Torch Podcast — $2 Billion for Deep Tech Climate Venture Capital
I recently chatted with an old friend from Duke University, Dr. Eric Toone, on our Climate Torch podcast.
He co-leads Breakthrough Energy Ventures — a long-term VC investor that aims to build the new, cutting-edge companies that will lead the world to net-zero emissions. Anchored by Bill Gates, Ray Dalio, and other high net worth and mission-aligned peers with a 20-year investment horizon, BEV is making bets that few others can.
Here are some excerpts:
"There's been an extraordinary amount of money that has entered this space over the last couple of years, and valuations that have gone through the roof. Eight of our companies over the past six months raised between $250-800M, and we have a company that will likely raise over a billion dollars in its next round. Even at that level, it is still a drop in the bucket. Money in the whole sustainability space still accounts for single-digit percentages of all venture capital, and capital directed towards energy is less than 1%. It's gratifying to see the new capital in this space, but the investment is still way less than what's required.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures was created in a different way than any other venture firm. You don’t find someone like me running a venture fund. I'm a professor and a scientist. There was a deep conviction in our sphere that to be successful in this space, we needed that capability. In tech investing, you can give a company some time and a little bit of money and see what happens. That works fine because a little bit of time is six months to a year, and a little bit of money is $500,000. The problem in this space is that a little bit of time is five years, and a little bit of money is $30M, so you can’t just wait and see what happens.
At Breakthrough, we got very good at working with milestones. We start every project by setting quantitative milestones. When I show up to see how things are going, we sit and talk about the progress toward those milestones and reevaluate if necessary. If you look at our portfolio, we've tackled the biggest problems that are out there. We'll invest in technologies that we believe have entitlement to at least half a gigaton per year of emissions reduction. We’re bringing the very best entrepreneurs on the planet to the very biggest problems in cleantech, and we have a degree of technical rigor that I don't think has ever been matched in venture capital.”
💰 Primer on Climate Tech Finance — What Investors Really Want
If you’re newer to finance or you need to get smart on your funding options, then I’ve got the perfect turkey holiday reading for you:
I think you know why this matters, but let’s allow the authors to remind us:
“To avoid a climate catastrophe, we must invest an estimated $4T annually (just in infrastructure!) into the clean energy transition globally. This year, we invested $800b – and a mere $32b in venture capital.”
🌱 Climate Torch Podcast — Nature-inspired EV batteries at Sylvatex
On another episode of our Climate Torch podcast, I caught up with Virginia Klausmeier, CEO of Sylvatex — a climate tech company utilizing sustainable chemistry and materials science to accelerate the shift to the electrification of transportation.
Funded by Golden Seeds, Incite, Zygote Ventures, USDA, DOE, and NSF, they do this by massively increasing EV material production throughput while lowering the cost and carbon footprint of the biggest bottleneck in the lithium-ion battery, the cathode.
They are unique because:
All their chemistry is bio-based — Powered by plants.
Their solutions integrate into the current traditional processes to make immediate impacts and evolve with the industry.
Their focus is to have the lowest cost and most efficient process so that the economics (not just impact) drive adoption.
Here’s an excerpt:
"What are 1-2 tips you’d give yourself in order to be faster, more effective, and higher impact?
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
There is always another way.
Surround yourself with people who fill your bucket!
Listen to your gut.
🦄 The Next 1,000 Unicorns To Tackle Climate Solutions?
From Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $9.5T in aggregate.
“It is my belief that the next 1,000 unicorns — companies that have a market valuation over a billion dollars — won’t be a search engine, won’t be a media company, they’ll be businesses developing green hydrogen, green agriculture, green steel, and green cement.”
Oh, wait, in the same speech he said that BlackRock would not divest from hydrocarbon companies.
As it turns out, divestment from oil and gas companies may be more nuanced than we’d like to believe. To dive deeper, I recommend this case study that I recently covered in my ESG Investing course at Duke University — “Divesting Harvard's Endowment”.
😴 Go To Sleep, Man. Really.
Breaking news! It turns out that good sleep is important to our health.
I know, crazy, right?
If you need convincing, here’s what the science says — e.g., reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, and weight gain.
For me, it’s eight hours almost every night, usually 10:30 to 6:30, unless a morning hike, mediation, or three children are calling my name.
To get tactical, here are 12 steps to better sleep from the Huberman Lab, led by a Stanford professor who loves both punk rock, podcasting, and biohacking. (What a combo!)
In case you’re anxious about awkward holiday conversations next week — e.g., Is climate change real? Weren’t the January 6 rioters really true patriots? — then here’s a helpful video clip from Saturday Night Live. (It even elicited laughter from one of our teenage boys, so you know it’s good.)
That’s all, folks.
Make it a great week, because it’s usually a choice.
🔥 P.S. If you’re tired of being smoked out at your last campfire, then…
This YouTube video might be for you — How To Build a DIY Smokeless Fire Pit That Really Works! I’ve added it to my winter projects list.
Dr. Chris Wedding
Founder and Chief Catalyst, Entrepreneurs for Impact
The Only Private Executive Mastermind Community for CEOs, Founders, and Investors Fighting Climate Change