8 women entrepreneurs facing the climate crisis
These eight women are the exception that proves the potential. The vast majority of venture capitalists (97%) are men and the lack of women in early stage startups and funding is glaring. “The start-up gender gap is real,” says Jeff Burke, whose recent newsletter pointed this out. “Only about 25% of companies are founded by women, and more than 90% of total funding goes to companies run by men.” But these entrepreneurs, identified by Jeff Burke with the help of investors Seth Bannon, Deena Shakir and Ann Bordetsky, were “some of the most skilled founders I have seen.”
Women are both less encouraged to be entrepreneurial, suggests Burke, and less likely to take the plunge without a lot of preparation — and credentials. “The women typically have years of research and experience – and doctorates to boot. They know exactly what needs to change and how. These women have done just that. The profiles below are an indication of what we can miss out by not proactively promoting more gender balance in innovation and entrepreneurship.
A focus on food
Magi Richani, Nobel Foods: Say “cheese. Think plants.
Nobel Foods designs plant-based dairy products. Rather than creating entirely new products, like oat milk, Richani invents new ways to reinvent our old favorites using genetically modified soy. Richani has engineered soybeans that turn into dairy products that look, smell and taste like… real cheese. Dairy products made human, scalable and environmentally friendly. Founded in 2016, Nobel raised a Series B round of $75 million in 2021.
Lisa Dyson PhD, air protein: Make meat from air
Protein production generates too many emissions and takes up too much land. Inspired by astronauts, Lisa Dyson and her Air Protein team have invented a way to make protein…from scratch. Their culture farm uses air fermentation to build proteins with common air elements using basic culinary practices (like those used in spice farming). Because it is “harvested” from the air via crops, it can scale vertically (think Jack and the Beanstalk). Air In a strip of land the size of DisneyWorld, Air Protein can produce the same amount of protein as a ranch the size of Texas. They raised a Series A of $32 million in January 2021.
Jasmine Hume PhD, Shiru: Cracking the protein code
Like Air Protein & Nobel, Shiru wants to crack the protein code – without the cattle. But Shiru focuses on the ingredients rather than the food, “like the pickaxe company in the gold rush”. As the pressure on food companies and their suppliers to be more environmentally friendly increases, Shiru offers them a technology-enabled alternative. He reverse-engineers key ingredients, develops an alternative, and then produces it for the supplier. Founded in 2019, Shiru raised a Series A last October.
Carbon Conflicts: Rethinking Soil, Cement and Chemicals
Tegan Notch, Organic lemon: Stabilization of soil carbon
While undesirable carbon levels in the atmosphere are increasing rapidly, desirable organic carbon levels in crop soils are rapidly decreasing. LoamBio harnesses plants to address both of these challenges. Their slogan? “Using the world’s smallest organizations to solve the world’s biggest problems. Product Manager & Co-Founder Tegan Notch and the team design a fungus that coats crop seeds and captures carbon. This is explained by both improved crop yields and increased stable carbon stores in the soil. Not only will this increase crop income, but farmers can further increase their income by selling carbon credits in commercial markets. LoamBio has raised AU$50m to date, including AU$40m in the latest Series A.
Lea Ellis, Sublime Systems : Inventing zero-emission cement
The cement industry is both the bedrock of the construction industry and the ultimate climate bad boy. The sector produces tons of CO2 – and 8% of global emissions. The double challenge: heating the oven and breaking down the lime. Lea Ellis, founded Sublime Systems to solve both problems. Along the way, she discovered that fixing the second solved the first. She found a way to break down lime at room temperature, then found that when lime breaks down at room temperature, CO2 emissions are cleaner and can be captured. Sublime Systems raised some $5.5 million in 2021.
Etosha Cave, Twelve: Turning carbon into chemicals
Twelve is developing a bolt-on device that takes CO2 emissions and turns the carbon into commonly used chemicals, like carbon monoxide. Instead of using fossil fuels, Twelve designed a closed-loop system that produces chemicals of similar quality without additional carbon release. With this solution, nearly 20 different carbon-based chemicals can be produced and treat nearly 10% of global emissions. Built on an industrial scale, their solution is like “37,000 trees in a suitcase”. The approach is already working – with partners like Mercedes-Benz, Procter & Gamble and NASA. Last summer, Etosha Cave and his team raised $57 million in Series A.
Mitigation and Adaptation – Fires and Pollution
Sonia Kastner, PanoAI: Fighting forest fires with AI
By some estimates, the 2021 wildfire season recorded more than $70 billion in damage. The non-financial impacts – environmental, ecological and emotional – are immeasurable. Sonia Kastner, founder and CEO of PanoAI, tries to tame the flames. One of the main determinants of the magnitude of a fire is the response time. Every second a fire builds without active resistance, it grows exponentially stronger. PanoAI has developed a centralized intelligence platform where firefighters can quickly detect, confirm and disseminate response data. Deep learning and computer vision models enable the system to identify fires early and alert professionals in real time.
Davida Herzl, Aclima, Inc.: Measure pollution, block by block
Air pollution has extremely adverse health effects, but affects communities unevenly – and invisibly. To fight it, you have to see it. Consider the carbon monoxide detector in your home. But how do we measure the air quality in our neighborhoods? Aclima builds a hyperlocal network that measures air quality block by block and identifies a wide range of pollutants (eg, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ethane). The measurements are transmitted to a platform which provides an image and global information. This allows users to track the air quality around their home and in their neighborhood. And gives municipalities a tool to prevent or address over-pollution in specific areas – or immediately detect natural gas leaks. There are many applications of the platform that Herzl builds with the mission “Clean Air for All”. Aclima raised $64 million.
It has often been said that men with daughters are more open to promoting women. But Jeff Burke is part of a younger generation of men. He grew up surrounded by a host of strong women – first his mother and sisters, then his wife and stepmother. This made him unusually sensitive to the gender balance in the stories he was writing about in a newsletter focused on startup founders. They leaned heavily towards men. He decided to do a conscious rebalancing.
Why talk about the man highlighting the women? Because we need two types of role models: female founders who are shaping an innovative future in climate technology. And men who can recognize their talents – and invest in their ideas.