Tech entrepreneurs have long claimed to be “making the world a better place.” This time, they are really doing it. New and accomplished founders and technologists alike are moving into climate technology. Layoffs in tech, back-to-office mandates, a seemingly endless string of climate-related natural disasters are also motivating talented people to pursue careers at climate startups.
So, which green collar roles are in high demand? And for those who want to transition into the field, where should they begin? To find out, we featured organizations that are leading the “talent transition” for a successful energy transition at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual).
In climate tech, talent seems to be scarce. Light Cast, a provider of labor market analytics, finds that the number of green job roles grew 50% between 2019 and 2022 in a basket of advanced economies. However, according to LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills Report, demand for workers with “green” skills will surpass supply by 2026. Good thing then that many tech workers are seeking greater purpose in what they do.
As Project Drawdown founder and climate leader Paul Hawken said in a 2009 commencement address, “…the Earth Is Hiring.” Climate tech startups cannot find enough engineers, scientists, and product specialists. Nor can they find enough salespeople, marketers, accountants, and HR folks. And there are not nearly enough technicians trained to install, maintain, and operate systems ranging from solar arrays and wind farms to cell-cultured meat plants and AI scrap metal sorters.
The three organizations that joined us at the Summit provide educational programs, skills training, networking, and job boards to help people make the shift to climate work.
Terra.do is a global professional network of climate experts with a mission of getting 100 million people into climate-related jobs by 2030. The Stanford, CA-based company claims to have over 30,000 global climate jobs and over 1,500 employers listed on its platform and hosts online job fairs regularly. Terra.do also provides climate job seekers with educational programming including its flagship, 12-week bootcamp. Founded in 2020, Terra.do has raised over $8M from investors including Avaana Capital (featured in our Global South panel), SIG, the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good, Precursor Ventures, BEENEXT, City Light, Hummingbird Firm, and Avesta Fund. Terra.do founder Anshuman Bapna joined the panel.
Work On Climate (WoCl) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and online community building a workforce to solve climate change, “…equitably and justly.” Founded in 2020 by two former Google machine learning engineers and an accomplished product designer, Berkeley, CA-based WoCl has over 24,000 members in its Slack channel and has helped more than 1,900 people land climate jobs (as of April 2023). The organization has also facilitated over 2,400 mentorship sessions and 120 community events. Eugene Kirpichov, Co-Founder and Executive Director at WoCl, spoke on the panel.
Project Drawdown is one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change solutions. Its relatively new program Drawdown Labs is a “…private sector testing ground for accelerating the adoption of climate solutions quickly, safely, and equitably.” It mobilizes employees, corporate leaders, investors, and philanthropic funds to take effective climate action. The Drawdown Labs Business Consortium includes companies ranging from tech giants like Google and LinkedIn to food companies like General Mills and Sodexo. Jamie Beck Alexander, Founding Director of Drawdown Labs, joined the discussion.
Matt Myers, Founder and General Partner at Climate Tech Circle, moderated this panel.
What will it take to draw more people into climate tech?
Anshuman Bapna is the founder of Terra.do, the global platform for working in the climate economy. Anshuman is a serial entrepreneur. He co-founded and sold his first startup (RightHalf.com) while in undergrad at IIT Bombay, seeing it through the first boom & bust on the internet. After his MBA at Stanford, he spent some time selling solar lights in Vietnam and started a non-profit that helped Indian Members of Parliament develop their constituencies. All this while working with Deloitte, then Google in New York. He moved to Bangalore in 2009 to start Mygola.com, a travel planning app that was acquired by MakeMyTrip in 2015, where he was their Chief Product Officer until 2019 when a classic midlife crisis sent him in search for what was truly worth working on.
Eugene Kirpichov is the co-founder and Executive Director of Work On Climate, a non-profit focused on building the workforce needed to solve climate change. Eugene started this non-profit after quitting his 15-year software career (most recently at Google, working on large-scale data processing and AI systems) to focus on climate, and meeting hundreds of other professionals in the same boat when his goodbye note went viral. Eugene’s story and his work have been featured by FastCompany, CNBC, The Weather Channel, New York Times, EDF, and other venues. Eugene dedicates his free time to rock climbing, enjoying art and music, and hanging out with his two cats, This One and That One.
Jamie Beck Alexander
Jamie Beck Alexander is a climate activist, mom, and founding director of Drawdown Labs. She developed and launched Drawdown Labs in early 2020 and has led the program to push the boundaries of private sector climate action. Her popular TEDx talk helped usher in a new wave of employee climate activism inside the world’s most influential companies. Jamie joined Project Drawdown from Ceres, working with companies to set ambitious emission reduction targets and leveraging their influence in support of strong climate and clean energy policies. She has also served as a civil and foreign service officer with USAID, for the nonprofit The Cultural Conservancy, and the UN Office of the Secretary-General.
Climate Tech Circle Founder + General Partner Matt Myers is a serial climate tech innovation platform creator, investor, community builder and content creator. The Climate Tech Circle umbrella consists of an early-stage fund, founder-focused media, and the Climate Tech Cocktails event series. Previously, Matt was Founder and Director of E-Capital Summit, a climate tech investment summit, and EarthxHack, the world’s largest climate tech innovation competition. He advised the DOE’s first Chief Commercialization Officer and the Director of ARPA-E on commercialization strategy for climate tech startups. He holds a M.A. in Public Administration in International Development from Tsinghua University and is fluent in Mandarin.