Charging Up: A chat with Kavita Patel, principal at MUUS Climate Partners

Plus, climatetech career moves at Citi, TD Securities, Plus Power, Ørsted, Oracle, Energize Ventures, Origis Services, U.S. DOT and National Grid.

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Kavita Patel, principal at MUUS climate partners

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Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about their career path. Part two features updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to [email protected]​canarymedia.​com. Canary thanks FischTank PR for its support of the column.

Kavita Patel: An impact investor who finds strength in authenticity

Kavita Patel is principal at MUUS Climate Partners, a climatetech venture capital fund investing in climate solutions and high-tech applications. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

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I’m the child of immigrants from South and Southeast Asia and was interested in sustainable development from a young age. I completed some work experience in Thailand and in China that informed my worldview, and I learned the importance of the financial system in fueling growth for these economies. I also knew that climate change was changing integral systems in energy and transportation that are needed for economies to flourish. I joined BlackRock to better understand financial markets and understand how large investors think and make decisions. I was in the Financial Institutions Group when Hurricane Harvey hit, and I also [worked there] through some of the California wildfires. My insurance clients started asking me how to build climate considerations into their portfolios, so I started analyzing and pitching [environmental, social and governance] and impact investing opportunities for this client base — and I loved it. That eventually led me to MIT for an MBA, where I focused on sustainability, which allowed me to really dive into impact investing, specifically climatetech and entrepreneurship. Luckily, that led to MUUS Climate Partners. I’m really fortunate to now spend all my time thinking about how companies can scale fast enough to decarbonize the economy by 2050.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

To be authentic. Early on in my career, I thought I needed to be serious in order to be taken seriously, but I’ve since learned that being genuine is actually a lot more powerful. Reshma Saujani has TED Talk that discusses the need to be brave, not perfect. And that really resonates with me. It was partly that realization that inspired me to take more risks and to pitch my ideas on sustainable investing strategies for the financial institutions that I was advising, and later on to pursue a career in climatetech venture capital. I’m continually inspired by the authenticity of the women that I see in climatetech who are pushing forward decarbonization and who embody the passion and the risk-taking and the bravery that I’m hoping to exhibit throughout my career too.

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What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it? 

I was seriously ill before I started my MBA. It’s hard to say if I overcame it or if my doctor overcame it. I definitely couldn’t have gotten through it without my husband, my family and my friends.

At first, I had this idea that having been sick was this inconvenient vulnerability that I should not be sharing with people. Initially, my classmates all presented themselves as perfect or as if nothing was wrong. But then we had this storytelling club, and one by one, everyone started sharing their true challenges. I realized we were all going through something and that this was the kind of environment I wanted to live in and perpetuate. It gave me the courage to tell my own story. Now I feel very strongly about leading with authenticity and vulnerability in everything that I do, which coincidentally is a very powerful way of inspiring and empowering and engaging others.

What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech? 

There are so many opportunities right now for chemical and metallurgical engineers and also supply-chain professionals. Historically, the focus within climatetech venture capital and VC in general has been on software-related skills, but there’s increasing recognition and capital flows toward hard-to-decarbonize sectors. And now with the Inflation Reduction Act, we’ve explicitly recognized as a country that national security and energy independence depend on domesticating the supply chains that are critical to the energy transition, particularly in metals and mining. Those are the areas we get asked about most by our portfolio companies when they’re looking to do recruiting.

What is your superpower? 

Flexibility of mind. In today’s world, it feels like we are encouraged to take a side or pick a team and be loyal to that view at all costs. I make a concerted effort to constantly be seeking out new information and adapting my views accordingly and to try to uncover and adjust for my biases, recognizing that we all have some. I find that being able to articulate my thinking and that journey really helps to build consensus, both in making investment decisions and also more generally in the world of climatetech VC, where so many stakeholders are needed to drive things forward.

Career moves in renewable energy and cleantech venture capital 

Emily Fritze was promoted to partner at The Westly Group, a venture investor focused on climatetech.

Meredith Breach has joined venture investor Energize Ventures as a senior investment associate, where she will support the firm’s growth equity platform. Energize Ventures recently led the $22 million Series A investment in Sinai Technologies, a decarbonization intelligence platform. Energize principal Eileen Waris joined Sinai’s board as a director, and Lauren Densham, Energize’s head of impact and environmental, social and governance, joined as a board observer.

Julie Blunden is moving from a member of the board of advisors to chief operating officer at Plus Power, a developer of battery energy storage systems. Blunden currently sits on the boards of New Energy Nexus, American Battery Technology Company and ZincFive. Blunden previously held executive positions at EVgo, SunEdison, SunPower and Green Mountain Power after spending nearly a decade at AES

Kelly Helfrich, previously with General Motors, has joined Resource Innovations, a women-led clean energy solutions company, as VP of its electric vehicle practice. 

Jacqueline Piero, former VP of policy at Nuvve, has joined The Mobility House as the company’s U.S. policy and regulatory lead. The Mobility House builds smart-charging and energy-management systems for electric vehicles.

Caroline Trowbridge has joined Ørsted, the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power, as a senior financial analyst. Trowbridge was previously with Leeward Renewable Energy. She is also a board member at Women in Cleantech and Sustainability.

Tamera M. Christensen is now business development manager for asset management and operations and maintenance at Origis Services. Christensen was previously with Borrego.

Colette Lamontagne was promoted to director of clean energy development at utility National Grid.

Becca Ellison is now a climate policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ellison was previously with Evergreen Action.

Samantha Hall was promoted to electrochemical engineer at Captura, a firm that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via direct ocean capture.

Career moves in sustainability and environmental, social and governance

Emily Chasan, previously with Generate, has joined Citi as senior VP for ESG and sustainability communications. A long-time financial journalist, Chasan was the first sustainable-finance editor at Bloomberg News. 

Bridget Realmuto LaPerla, previously at State Street Associates, has joined Canada’s TD Securities as director of its ESG Solutions group. 

Jennifer Ruch, formerly senior director of sustainability with Equinix, is now director of sustainability at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

Desirée Squires has joined Nokia as sustainability and circularity specialist. Squires was previously CEO of Sunset Renewable Asset Management.

Fernanda Piña Lizárraga was promoted to ESG supervisor at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Recommended reading

Check out this roundup of 10 women-founded sustainable-mobility startups. 

Over the past decade, FischTank PR has established itself as one of the leading cleantech / renewable energy / sustainability PR firms in the country. We are known for our ability to get results, be creative and serve as an extension of our client’s communications program. FischTank has extensive experience working with brands across solar, energy storage, battery technology, EVs, hydrogen, grid edge technologies, software, utilities, developers, financiers and more. For more information about our cleantech / sustainability practice, please visit our website or follow us on LinkedIn to see our client work.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial and research associate at Canary Media.

Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.