Can deeptech venture capital solve climate change?

We explore the hard lessons of investing in climatetech with futurist Ramez Naam.

Can investors win by betting on early-stage innovations in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as energy, transportation, agriculture and heavy industry? 

The answer doesn’t matter only to venture capitalists. If you believe we need fundamental science and engineering innovation to climb our way out of the climate crisis, it’s an important question.

Plenty of reasonable observers say the answer is no. Case in point: The 2016 MIT report Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Clean Energy Innovation by Ben Gaddy and Varun Sivaram.

But things have changed since Cleantech 1.0,” the first wave of investment in the sector that resulted in a lot of bankruptcies — but also some big hits like Tesla, Sunrun and Nest.

Capital is flowing back into the sector at stunning rates, as venture investors all turn their attention to climatetech. So do the arguments against deeptech climate venture capital hold up today?

To explore this question, Shayle Kann turns to Ramez Naam, another veteran of Cleantech 1.0. Ramez and Kann go point by point, covering questions such as: Does climatetech take too much capital to scale? Is the time to commercialization too long? Is the exit landscape still relatively unattractive? Will this new climatetech boom lead to another bust?

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.

Listen and subscribe to Catalyst with Shayle Kann on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get podcasts! Follow us on Twitter at @CatalystPod.