Much of the VC industry is in retreat this year, but early-stage climate tech investors are charging ahead. In fact, seed deals in climate tech doubled year over year in the first half of 2022. Picking winners at this early stage is notoriously difficult and risky, however. So how do early-stage VCs identify, vet, and de-risk these capital-intensive ventures? What common challenges do founders face at this stage, and how can they be overcome?
The SOSV Climate Tech Summit from October 25-26 gathered a panel of early-stage climate tech VCs to tackle these questions. Check out their discussion below.
SOSV’s very own Duncan Turner, General Partner and Managing Director of HAX, drew from his experience working with over 200 “hard tech” startups. They include VoltStorage, a pioneer in stationary flow batteries for renewable energy, Neptune Robotics, which makes robots that clean giant ship hulls, and XFuel, which makes carbon neutral fuels out of biomass.
Sam Smith-Eppsteiner is Partner at Innovation Endeavors, the venture firm founded by former Alphabet Executive Chairman and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Sam led the firm’s investments in Plotlogic, a startup aiming to make mining more precise and sustainable, Machina Labs, a developer of AI and robotics for manufacturing, Fero Labs, a factory optimization platform that reduces costs and emissions, and FutureProof, an insurtech engine for managing climate risks.
Are early-stage VCs actually finding the startups that can prevent a climate change catastrophe? What can we all do to build this early-stage ecosystem and entice founders into the formidable climate-tech journey?
Duncan Turner is General Partner at SOSV and Managing Director of HAX, the world’s first and largest VC backed program for Hard Tech, which is based in Newark and Shenzhen. He is currently resident in Newark, NJ. Prior to joining HAX, Turner led design and consumer engagement strategy projects for Fortune 500 companies at global design and innovation firm IDEO.
Sam Smith-Eppsteiner is a partner at Innovation Endeavors. When it comes to investing, Sam gravitates toward ideas that leverage emerging technology, growing datasets and accelerating learning cycles to improve real-world infrastructure. She’s particularly interested in climate change mitigation; opportunities to bring automation, computation, flexibility, and sustainability to industrial sectors; and how the intersection of biology and technology will change the food we eat, materials we use, and more.
Cody Simms is a Partner at MCJ Collective where he is co-host of the My Climate Journey podcast and climate tech startup investor. He is also co-founder of Climate Changemakers, a 501(c)(4) climate-focused political action non-profit. Cody was previously Senior Vice President of Climate & Sustainability at Techstars. He is co-author of the Amazon-bestselling book: Levers: The Framework for Building Repeatability into Your Business (leversbook.com).