Roll up your sleeves and get those gardening gloves on because we’re about to dish the dirt on what’s been happening in the Cleantech space. 🍀
Our headlines have been dominated by lip service to climate action, the outcomes of COP26 (or the lack thereof), accusations of greenwashing and more.
It’s really not pretty.
Our most recent Earlywork Community Masterclass featured Kiya Taylor (Head of Platform & Community at EVP) and Nick Zeltzer (Associate Director, Clean Energy Innovation Fund @ CEFC), and from that conversation, it was clear that there’s a whole heap to be hopeful about as well when it comes to cleantech.
💸 Following the money in cleantech
Rewind a couple of years and cleantech investing often fell into the “too hard” bucket - it’s hardware-heavy (making a lot of VCs cringe), feedback loops are much slower than SaaS software and it’s simply hard from a scientific point of view too.
However, the narrative is shifting:
- Tesla (yep, it’s a cleantech company) is now valued at over a trillion dollars
- Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes announced that they are committing $1.5 billion of their personal wealth towards reversing climate change
- Aussie Agritech Loam Bio raises a $40 million series A just last month (October 2021)
- Zero Co raises $5 million from crowdfunding
And it’s just the beginning.
What was once an asset class just to “tick the boxes” is now a growing area that not only makes sense for the planet but also rakes in financial returns as well.
ESG funds have quadrupled over 2019-2020 and VC’s are “fighting” to have a seat at the clean-tech table. And although one startup or one VC alone probably can’t reverse the effects of climate change overnight, those in the startup ecosystem can become leading players towards our planet’s most urgent problems.
Here’s Nick’s take on the current climate of cleantech investing:
“The quality of entrepreneurs in the sector that are now targeting solutions in the space means the velocity of new ideas has increased exponentially and with that, we’re seeing generalist VCs also playing a role in the space as opposed to just specialist VCs and government”.
🦘 Cleantech in Australia
“Cleantech is now so many things. There was a point in time where cleantech was very much synonymous with energy-tech. Now it’s evolved beyond that.” - Kiya
Cleantech is no longer just solar panels or wind turbines.
It’s everything from utility-scale energy generation, energy storage & transportation, alternative proteins, energy retailing and gadgets we use in our homes.
🤔 So, what does all this mean for early careers?
The cleantech space is, by no means, the easiest sector to be building or operating in. However, the challenges are met with equally large opportunities.
- Regulation. There’s a lot of innovation that cannot happen unless there are changes in regulation. Changes in the market will open many doors for entrepreneurs and investors.
- Political. There is a lot of politics surrounding the sector. Find ways to cut through the noise and defend the people.
- Complexity. Cleantech is inherently complex. In terms of science, it’s hard. Unfortunately, trying to read your energy bill and understanding the tariffs and charges is also very hard. The opportunity here is to simplify UX and focus on the end customer experience.
- Diversity. Previously the sector has been dominated by a few particular skillsets - engineering and economics to be exact. Bringing in talent from diverse backgrounds will accelerate creativity & innovation in cleantech.
Both Nick and Kiya are great examples of people who started their careers in very different fields.
Kiya, ironically, started in the mining sector, developing an appreciation for energy generation and the complexity of that process.
Nick started off in investment banking and later “followed [his] heart and brain to see that there are plenty of problems worth solving”.
“If you want to be in the cleantech space, you can...it makes sense, both for the planet, but also commercially now which has been the main change that we’ve seen over the years”.