Governments and corporations continue to increase investments in ESG, creating global competition for climate technologies and workforce.
Meanwhile entrepreneurs develop solutions for systemic challenges, requiring collective effort and complex customer relationships.
So how do we best support entrepreneurs solving complex problems? What are the challenges we need to overcome, and what’s needed to support policy and system change?
Too slow to move, too new to measure
According to GEC2023 speaker and founder of Climate Salad, Mick Liubinskas, 2023 is a landmark year for climate technology to break through from niche to legitimate industry. The challenge? Urgency, and measurement.
“It was interesting to see data this year that said there’s a high level of interest in climate tech but there are low levels of investment. So that’s like investors are exploring and they’ll get there soon. The big reality is [the global climate crisis is] a lot worse than they say,” said Liubinskas.
“The challenge is the technology addressing climate is really quite new. We don’t even fully know how to measure a lot of these things. It’s important to elevate the conversation from clean tech to climate tech because if we just think about energy we’re missing the bigger problems.”
Investing for impact means redefining value
The complexity of climate solutions means there is a greater need for intersectional thinking and global problem-solving. But this complexity is an evolution for many startup ecosystems, from entrepreneurs to investors.
“Climate tech needs to connect with something tangible on the ground, in our soils, in the air, in the water. Inherently you are working with the virtual, digital and physical, and that’s hard. I think the ecosystem hasn’t caught up yet with being able to look at these types of projects in terms of how we invest in them,” said Philippe Ceulen from Mandalay Venture Partners.
Companies don’t move fast when they’re building technology that requires complexities like contracts with landowners across geographies. In turn this makes them less attractive to venture capitalists primed to invest in fast growth.
“The one thing that is constantly going through my mind is how do we shift that mentality from being able to invest in a single growing business to how do we invest in systems? Value needs to be redefined,” Ceulen said.
Utilising the strength of shared language
A significant structural change needed to allow the venture capital system to better invest in climate is a stronger ecosystem of support and shared language.
According to Olympia Yarger: CEO, Gotera, a key challenge is how to tell the story of a business that exists for a world that doesn’t exist… Yet.
“For a lot of the companies that I mentor in early stages, everyone thinks the idea is good, but they don’t think there’ll be customers, because they have to actually create belief that [this future] is true. And because there’s no historical evidence that that might play out that way, how can they get there,” Yarger said.
For businesses not responding to more obvious trends, commercialisation pathways can look obscure or complex. There is a need to mature the way we talk about climate tech along with associated tailwinds and policies.
“If you look at other sub-industries like agtech, cell tech, they’ve been able to collectively use the same language and create media that starts using that language. I think that’s where collectively we can do better for each other,” said Yarger.
This discussion was part of a series of ‘Road to GEC’ virtual events. Want to help shape the conversation in your sector? Register now, and transform your world.