In the last month I’ve been asked twice in a community setting to describe my vision of the world in the next 10 years to 20 years. More specifically, I was asked to imagine my role in helping avert the climate crisis, to describe my vision for the future, and to hear our team’s and community’s input on the same. The climate space can be mentally tough. Anyone working in this sector is acutely aware that we are on a countdown to avert disaster, where time to save ourselves is variable and the effort will require mass collaboration on a scale we have never seen before. These exercises were uniting. Although we all expressed things differently, our takeaways were the same — this is a world worth fighting to save. And with that, I can’t help but come back to this blessing from Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” It’s my sincerest wish for anyone reading this, especially after such a tumultuous year, that you carry this powerful blessing with you into the New Year and beyond.
Back in September, I wrote about my new role at Nextcorps helping co-create a new climate tech program with NYSERDA and Secondmuse. In that blog, I shared the biggest lesson I hoped to bring with me from my past mistakes, namely, that in order to tackle systemic issues, you have to view your “competitors” as “collaborators”. To implement this lesson, we kicked things off by reaching out to as many other cleantech/climate tech programs we could. We then held three weeks of open community design sessions, where people from a broad range of organizations and backgrounds came together to help inform how we could best build a program that serves founders and the greater ecosystem. I was moved that so many people — some of them I knew well and some I didn’t — showed up for us.
The takeaways from these sessions were amazing:
- The stage that our program serves is unique and important for de-risking climate tech. There is a gap in early-stage funding at angel and preseed levels for climate tech founders that our non-dilutive funding can help bridge.
- One of the most powerful ways we can support our founders is by helping them access and fund talent. As one of our incredible board members, Seth Levine, articulates in this thread, “the best founders don’t build companies, they build teams that build companies”.
- We need to build with, not for, our community if we want to build a movement around our mission and the founders we serve.
- We can be a gateway for global innovators by helping them bring their technology to the U.S.
- New York State (NYS) is the ideal ecosystem and market for climate tech founders because of the pro-climate policies that have been adopted here. I can’t speak more highly of the progressive climate tech community in NYS. NYSERDA has been instrumental in bringing this community to life, which is why we feel lucky to have a partner that gets what climate tech founders need!
- We are set up structurally for success by being able to work collaboratively with as many groups as possible. Since we are a non-profit, we can operate at an incredibly high level of transparency. Transparency begets trust, and I find it refreshing to be able to operate with everything out on the table.
So what have we been up to and what do we know now about our program?
First, we have a name! We are thrilled to announce that our program will be known as Venture For ClimateTech. Our global, virtual program connects innovators with the tools, training, talent, and the non-dilutive funding necessary to begin building a company around their impactful ClimateTech solution. We are part of a larger integrated innovation community known as For ClimateTech that helps us support founders in key phases of their journey.
Our community is growing! We are honored to have so many international climate tech leaders join our team and board! It’s always amazing and humbling to have the opportunity to surround myself with people smarter than me who share our passion for entrepreneurship, community, equity, and sustainability. We also welcomed two new team members, Chante Harris, a strong champion of innovation embedded in community and equity with hands-on experience helping climate tech founders go-to-market in NYS and Chris Carpenter who is bringing his talent from the Hill to help us elevate our ability to share the stories of our community and keep our community informed and engaged.
We are going to kick off recruiting in January. We will be selecting 10 companies, hardware or software based, that are helping solve the climate crisis and whose technology could help NYS reach its ambitious carbon goals. The program kicks off in April and we have a ton to do to get ready for our founders between now and then. If you are interested in getting involved, please fill out this form so we can keep you in the loop.
Going into the new year, we’re really excited to meet our future founders! We are pouring, individually and collectively, our hopes and dreams for our world into these founders. We are doing everything possible to make sure they are set up for success. If you’re one of those potential new founders and you’re reading this…We can’t wait to meet you. We believe you have the potential to help us save our world.
To keep up with our founders, impact, and general mischief you can check us out @ForClimateTech on instagram, twitter, and linkedin.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and to learn more about us. A full list of the people I want to thank for participating in our community design sessions and providing early support is below:
Ciara Imani May
Pierre Norman Rolin