New climate tech fund seeks to support entrepreneurs solving climate challenges

September 22, 2021
3 Min

By: Gretchen Fauske

Read the full article on Alaska Journal

Rob Roys (right), Launch Alaska’s Chief Innovation Officer, recently visited the Northwest Arctic Borough's solar and energy storage project in Shungnak. Launch Alaska portfolio companies Blue Planet Energy and Ageto energy provided the battery energy storage system and microgrid control system, respectively, that will enable Alaska Village Electric Cooperative's diesel-based power system to operate for hours at a time on 100 percent renewable energy. (Photo/Courtesy/Launch Alaska)

A new wave of climate technology venture capital funds emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, including one with ties to Alaska.

The recently-announced Earthshot Ventures is spinning out from Hawaii and California-based Elemental Accelerator to invest in entrepreneurs solving climate challenges around the world. The fund raised $60 million from entities like McKinley Alaska Private Investment, who is joined by well known organizations like Emerson Collective, Microsoft, Impact Engine, and others.

Similar funds were also launched over the last year and a half, including Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge venture fund, Microsoft’s $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund, and Unilever’s €1 billion climate fund. These funds are investing in startups developing technologies and services that will speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Locally, Anchorage-based Launch Alaska, a climate technology accelerator that focuses on deployment of that technology in Alaska, has partnered with Earthshot Ventures to provide dealflow and access to their customer networks.

This kind of partnership is a new, more integrated approach; Earthshot Ventures combines the best parts of the accelerator model and the fund model to create a supportive environment for scaling companies to fight climate change. 

Isaac Vanderburg, CEO of Launch Alaska, says it’s crucial for Alaska to be at the forefront of the energy transition, and participating in this fund will help to do just that.

“Our state has had several decades of miraculous economic progress thanks to oil and gas, but the writing is on the wall: it’s time for us to become a new kind of energy state,” Vanderburg said.

“Fortunately, Alaska is developing a reputation as a world class proving ground for some of the globe’s most exciting climate tech companies. And now, we can connect the companies we work with to Earthshot Ventures for funding.” 

Vanderburg said that although many of the companies that participate in Launch Alaska’s program are from outside Alaska, they spend money in the state as they work on their projects and some of them are opening satellite offices, hiring Alaskans, or buying homes.

As Launch Alaska continues to operate, he hopes more and more companies will invest in the state for the long term. Additionally, the fund may be a resource to Alaska startups working in climate tech. 

“Startups have the opportunity to change the trajectory of a state’s entire economy, and the companies we work with have both the ability and the aspiration to grow to thousands of jobs,” Vanderburg said. “If we can support these companies’ growth, they will offer a way for us to continue to be an energy state, just with a different kind of energy economy than we’ve grown accustomed to.”

Companies in Launch Alaska’s current portfolio include Ampaire Inc, a startup developing electric aircraft from short-haul cargo to passenger transport; DASH Systems, an airdrop delivery solution tailored for remote areas; 60Hertz, an Alaska-based maintenance software to manage and monitor grid-tied and off-grid assets; and Dynamhex, a technology platform for companies, municipalities, and utilities to meet climate targets with data-driven solutions.

Read the full article on Alaska Journal