First Checks for Big Ideas: A Conversation on Early-Stage Climate Tech Funding with SOSV, At One Ventures, E²JDJ, and Material Impact

Each year at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual), we invite leading VCs to join our classic panel on early-stage climate tech investing. And we ask all the questions. Who are they writing checks to and why? Which climate technologies are underrated, which are overrated, and which are just emerging?  

After years of strong  growth in climate tech investing, 2023 is already turning out to be a tough one. Total investment in 1H 2023 is down 40% year-on-year,  according to CTVC,  but seed investments over the same period grew 23%, which tells the familiar story that later stage is where there’s a lot of pain.

Luckily for them, our four panelists are writing those pre-seed and seed checks,  and they have to be wondering how their young startups will fare in this new investing climate, so to speak. Here are the four firms and partners that participated: 

SOSV is a deep tech fund focused on planetary and human health with over 100 investments in climate technology (see the SOSV Climate Tech 100). Its portfolio includes alt-protein unicorns Upside Foods, Perfect Day, and NotCo, all of which graduated from SOSV’s IndieBio startup program. Dr. Pae Wu, General Partner at SOSV and CTO at IndieBio, joined the panel. 

E²JDJ, based in New Orleans, backs startups that transform the computation, biology, physics, and chemistry of food production. The firm has invested in NovoNutrients (an IndieBio graduate), which uses microbe bioreactors to convert CO2 into food and animal feed, and Perfeggt, an innovator of plant-based eggs based in Berlin. Founding Partner Stephanie Dorsey represented E²JDJ on the panel.

Boston-based Material Impact builds deep tech companies powered by material science. Its investments include SOURCE, which purifies drinking water using only sunlight and air, and Maglev Aero, developer of an all-electric vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for passengers and cargo. Corinna Chen, Partner at Material Impact, joined the panel.

At One Ventures, based in San Francisco, is a climate specialist focused on food and agriculture, built environment, energy and transportation, and ecosystem restoration. It has invested in Finless Foods (another IndieBio grad), developer of plant-based and cell-cultured seafood, as well as Dendra Systems, which uses drones to plant trees and restore habitats. Laurie Menoud, Founding Partner at At One Ventures, discussed the firm’s approach to first checks. 

Who’s writing first checks for what, and why? 

Learn more about the Summit.

The Speakers

Pae Wu photo

Dr. Pae Wu

Dr. Pae Wu is a General Partner at SOSV and CTO at IndieBio, where she is responsible for portfolio management and technical oversight. Prior to joining IndieBio, Pae served as the Scientific Director of Telefónica’s moonshot factory, Alpha (in Barcelona). She was Science Director at the US Office of Naval Research – Global (out of Singapore), and technical consultant at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Her whole career, Pae has been investing in high risk solutions to intractable problems for national defense, humanity, and the planet. Pae earned her PhD at Duke in Electrical Engineering and her BSE from Princeton.

Stephanie Dorsey photo

Stephanie Dorsey

Stephanie Dorsey is Founding Partner at E²JDJ, an early stage venture capital firm investing globally in AgriFood technology and science. The fund invests in talented founders who are creating cutting edge technological or scientific solutions across the food value chain that improve the efficiency, quality, resilience and sustainability of the food system, and ultimately human and planetary health. Stephanie is a thought leader in the sustainable food space and serves on numerous advisory boards of food, sustainability and entrepreneurial organizations. Prior to founding E²JDJ, Stephanie was a lawyer at the corporate law firm of Davis, Polk & Wardwell.

Corinna X. Chen photo

Corinna Chen

As a Partner at Material Impact, Corinna Chen is focused on applying fundamental technologies across sectors to meet new needs and solve emerging real-world problems. Her areas of interest include synthetic biology, bio-based materials, advanced electronic materials, next gen computing and climate tech. She has a successful record of transactions, totaling over $1.25B across eight products and several geographies. She began her career as a rocket scientist at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, designing instrumentation and building spacecrafts for NASA’s THEMIS mission to examine space storms. Corinna received her MBA from Duke University and her BS in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.

Laurie Menoud photo

Laurie Menoud

Laurie Menoud holds a Master’s degree in biotechnology from the École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs de Luminy in France, where she studied genetic engineering, biochemistry, and microbiology. Today, Laurie is a Partner at At One Ventures, where she is responsible for finding, funding, and growing teams that catalyze planet-positive industries. She led a dozen investments for the firm and holds board of director and observer positions in 4 portfolio companies. Prior to joining At One Ventures, Menoud was Investment Manager at BASF Venture Capital, where she focused on deep technologies transforming the chemical industry, such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and robotics.