Decarbon8-US debuts: New philanthropic impact fund to democratize, spark cleantech investment

May 11, 2020 |

There’s a new way to invest in decarbonizing transportation. This week, the Seattle-based angel investor community known as E8 launched Decarbon8-US, that could break down several barriers holding back the scale-up of cleantech, especially barriers faced by bioeconomy startups just emerging into revenues and facing the valley of death.

Decarbon8-US accepts philanthropic donations that will be directly channeled into cleantech startups. Philanthropic interest in climate change is huge, but there are few way to leverage that interest in boosting the actual tech investments we need to solve the greatest global challenge. That changes with Decarbon8-US.

Yes, we need resilient systems, supply chains, the option to make more stuff, closer to home where possible. If you’d tried to find online groceries or paper supplies during the COVID-19 crisis, you know what I mean right away when I say, “more resiliency, please.” And lots of people (though usually those who would receive, more than those who would pay) are chatting about making a recovery a Green Recovery.

However, investment in cleantech has lagged behind other sectors despite the growing interest in addressing the climate change challenge, and participation in startup funding opportunities is too often limited to those that qualify as accredited investors by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The fund details

The new fund, managed by E8 advisors, will make equity and debt investments in cleantech startups that can address specific decarbonization pathways that have already been identified in regional and global climate policies. Like many maturing companies in E8’s existing portfolio, companies selected by Decarbon8-US will be early stage startups with proven products and services that are ready to scale.

The decarbonization pathways targeted for Decarbon8-US investments are linked to established climate change goals.

Who are the stakeholders?

The coalition supporting the fund includes the Stolte Family Foundation, the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, Washington State University, CleanTech Alliance, Craft3, Climate Solutions, Realize Impact, and North Coast.

Examples of the type

One such company in E8’s portfolio, Nori, has started a blockchain marketplace offering individuals and businesses an easy way to purchase carbon removals. Another is LevelTen, an efficient, cost-effective two-sided market for renewable energy producers and commercial customers.

Open for business, now

The fund is set to open its first request for proposals (RFP) from cleantech startups on May 12. The first wave of investments will target high potential companies working in decarbonization in general, with following RFP themes focusing on electrifying transportation, the built environment, agriculture, carbon removal and more.

Where do the gains go?

Returns generated by Decarbon8-US will be reinvested back into the fund to further amplify advanced technology development. Larger contributors can also share their returns in the form of recoverable grants, and the Fund will also leverage co-investment from angel investors and others.

Reaction from stakeholders

“The Decarbon8-US fund presents a new option for consumers, philanthropic donors and investors who are driven to take action on climate change,” said Charles Curtis, Co-Chair of E8. “This is how we can democratize cleantech investing and give everyone with a passion for action a chance to have a hand in building a cleaner, more prosperous future.”

“Even as the COVID-19 crisis response takes shape, we cannot afford to slow down on the crisis of climate change,” said Ramez Naam, E8 member, cleantech investor and futurist. “This is just the time to accelerate our efforts, and the Decarbon8-US fund from E8 has the potential to bring new leverage to clean technology investment.”

In addition to E8, the Decarbon8-US fund’s operation is supported by a diverse coalition of climate leaders and advisors, including University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, Washington State University, CleanTech Alliance, Craft3, Climate Solutions, Realize Impact, North Coast, VertueLab, Dharma 350 Fund and the Stolte Family Foundation.

“We all hope that the COVID-19 crisis can be resolved relatively quickly, but the only way out of the climate crisis is a multi-decade sprint of technology innovation and change,” said E8 Member KD Hallman. “No single actor will save us–we all have to be part of the solution. Let’s get started.”

And, to get started

Decarbon8-US is currently accepting contributions at https://www.e8angels.com/decarbon8-us-fund.

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