Impact Hustlers - Entrepreneurs with Social Impact

68: Fighting Climate Change Through Place-Based Innovation - Dawn Lippert of Elemental

February 25, 2021 Maiko Schaffrath Episode 68
Impact Hustlers - Entrepreneurs with Social Impact
68: Fighting Climate Change Through Place-Based Innovation - Dawn Lippert of Elemental
Show Notes Transcript

Dawn Lippert is the Founder & CEO of Elemental Excelerator, an initiative supporting ClimateTech startups. 

Elemental is currently open for applications, you can find out more on their website: 
https://elementalexcelerator.com/

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Maiko Schaffrath:

You are listening to Impact Hustlers and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems, and for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems, such as food waste, climate change, poverty and homelessness. My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one or by taking a small step, whatever that may be towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems.

Every now, and then I get to interview not only startup founders, but also those that are building the ecosystems that help impact driven entrepreneurs thrive. Dawn Lippert a founder and CEO of elemental accelerator is a truly outstanding leader that has created one of the most exciting programs and my mind to support startups that solve problems related to climate change. Elemental is backed by Emerson, collective and initiative by business. Woman and philanthropists. Lauren Paul jobs who you may be able to tell by the name happens also to be the widow and eras of Steve jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Elemental as approach goes beyond the usual startup accelerator. Instead of a mental focuses on helping startups implement demonstration projects, generating much needed validation. Of their solutions so far to have supported more than a hundred portfolio companies and implement it 70 projects with them. Don Chan some unique insights on the concept of place-based innovation and how her childhood and mountain school inspired her to launch elemental. If you're a founder of a climate tech startup, elemental is currently open for applications. Uh, you can find out more in the show notes and find the link to that website I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Maiko Schaffrath:

It's really great to have you undersold on. Thanks for joining me today.

Dawn Lippert:

Thanks so much for having me, Maiko.

Maiko Schaffrath:

Thank you. It's been really great to be connected to you. Usually I interview founders of startups that solve social and environmental problems, but also every now and then I look for ecosystem builders and people that support these founders. And in many ways, obviously you are a founder yourself. You are an entrepreneur. But you are an entrepreneur that has dedicated a lot of time of her life in the last few years on supporting other entrepreneurs and solving difficult problems with a specific focus on climate change and energy. So I'm really excited to talk about this your elemental you're based in how I, and hunted a little. And but you weren't always based there. So I would love to. Go actually a little bit back before we talk about the details of elemental and how it works. I've seen your Ted talk a few years ago, and you talked about the inspiration for some of the work that you're doing now with elemental. And you're talked about something called mountain school, and I'd love to hear from you. What is mountain school and how did it inspire you to start elemental?

Dawn Lippert:

sure. Yeah, I'd be happy to give a little bit of the backstory there. So I actually grew up in Seattle area. And I had the opportunity when I was a junior in high school to go to mountain school, which is a school in Vermont, just for juniors. And you grow most of what you eat and it's a really full place-based education. So one of the projects I actually did at mountain school was writing a history of a very small plot of land, about a quarter acre from the big bang to the present day. And it's like being a detective on the land and figuring out. Oh, if you have this kind of Stonewall, it probably means you had sheep. And if you have this kind of river, that's probably what happens here. And this kind of trees means this is probably when the forest was disturbed. And so really trying to understand at a pretty specific level, what happened on that piece of land and that model, that mountain school employed is called place-based education. And later on, when I went to college or grad school and ended up working in Washington, DC, On innovation and climate and energy policy globally. I had a sense as we started funding projects, this was in the early days of something called RPE, which was the energy equivalent of DARPA. And so the idea was how do you fund and find interesting technologies that can be really breakthrough in the same way that DARPA was at the beginning of the internet and solar GPS and many of these other innovations. And what would that look like for energy? So I was on the team in 2008, 2009. That was part of that sort of initial launch of RPE and Pam looking at that. And as we were looking at thousands of really interesting technologies from universities, from corporates, from startups, it became increasingly clear that in energy and climate, including water and transportation, these challenges, that technology space. Really are so local, right? So this is very different from, trying to launch a technology and put it out on the app store. A bunch of people are going to buy it when you're looking at climate technology, energy technology, things that make real difference in our food systems and transportation systems. They have to be deployed in places, in neighborhoods in communities next to people who may or may not want them. And so there's really. An opportunity to be very place-based in that transformation. And so that was where I took a lot of the lessons I learned at mountain school and on place-based education and said, what would it look like to apply this for place-based innovation? So we know we need innovation. We know we need to transform our places. We need to decarbonize our industries. What would it look like to do that in a place-based way? And by taking a place focused approach, could we actually go faster? And be more integrated and work across the system in a different way than if we were taking a national or international approach to it. So that was the essence and the seed of elemental accelerator. As you mentioned, we, you started incubated in Hawaii and this is around 2009 and have now grown across California and around the world in terms of the projects we support and the companies we fund.

Maiko Schaffrath:

Amazing. I want to zoom in on a place-based innovation place-based education model and your approach, right? Because if you look at the kind of traditional Silicon Valley type hyper scaling blitz scaling model, it's pretty much kind of a standardized product grow as fast as you can. Obviously the Facebooks and Airbnbs and so on of the world. And I, when I talk to entrepreneurs that solve social and environmental problems, the question is always around. Okay. Should we adopt that model? Should we just do the same thing, but. Solve more social and environmental problems have something really scalable, like that needs to be serving the needs of loads and billions of people around the world. And then this model seems a bit different where it's very focused on specific places. How do you see those two models? And what's your take on it in terms of what, how entrepreneurs should think about this?

Dawn Lippert:

Yeah, it's a great question. We are absolutely in support of scale and the climate problem demands an enormous amount of scale in the next 10 years to solve it. And so we support companies that we think have the potential to really scale and make a dent in climate. Both themselves and by breaking open industries in really interesting and creative ways. So we absolutely think scale is super important, but because of the nature of so many of these technologies, you actually have to start in places and actually really learn what communities will accept, how customers want to interact with you. You have to learn that in a pretty deep way in order to set the right foundation for scale. And so that's what we do at elemental. And in a lot of ways we're very different from other accelerator programs. So we are a growth stage accelerator. First of all. So the average company coming into elemental has already raised, between five and $7 million in capital. So we're looking for companies that have a proven technology and are really looking to grow and commercialize that technology in partnership with customers in partnership with communities and really looking to breakthrough in their market expansion. So that tends to be where we focus. And because of that, we also fund projects as opposed to just funding companies. We are actually funding projects. Many times we bring the customers in for those projects. And I can give you a few examples of what that would look like. But we find that actually getting in the weeds, getting our hands dirty with companies on these projects is a really powerful way for us to learn. What's happening across the entire system. So I'll give you just one example, which is a few weeks ago we launched a project with amp bear, which is a company that has a hybrid electric airplane. And it turns out that Hawaii is a very interesting place for short haul aviation, because we have lots of short haul flights. And so we launched a route with an bear from Casa, Louie on Maui to Honda on Maui, a cargo route. Because basically the first commercial route being flown by hybrid electric air playing anywhere in the world. And we're trying to do is get the next level of certification, getting enough hours in the air for the airplane, but also learn what does it take in the ecosystem to make something like this happen? You need participation from the utility to actually create charging infrastructure. You need the airport to be a host for that charging infrastructure and be a true partner at the table. For how to deploy the first hybrid electric aircraft. We also need the airlines. So in this case, working with Mokulele and Southern on as airline partners to bring that together and then the pilots, and all the sort of ground crew and other folks that make it happen. So it's really a question of catalyzing all of these actors in the community around a specific project. And by doing that and being on the ground, we just get so much more learning as elemental than if we just wrote a check to a company. And by having that kind of learning, we can be much more impactful in the policy space with corporates, with communities, with all the other stakeholders that really need to align and move forward in order to achieve climate goals in the short amount of time we have left. So that's really our approach. It's working with growth stage companies to Fund and advance projects in a very different context and other share the w the reason we have the flexibility to do that is that we have some amazing funding partners with philanthropy and foundations that really see this as something we need to break through in order to achieve our goals on climate. We have terrific funding partners from the government, specifically from the Navy and also from corporates. And so we have a lot of room to experiment. And see what actually helps companies go faster and it brings communities along with it, as opposed to an afterthought.

Maiko Schaffrath:

So you're quite an active supporter. You get your hands dirty and to implement projects with the companies that you work with first. All right. I can imagine the challenges these companies are facing. Although they're all trying to bring about solutions to climate change. Obviously they're very different company. Companies probably have very different challenges. How do you actually support them with a range of challenges that you may not be experts in? How do you connect them to the right people or how does it work?

Dawn Lippert:

Yeah. So we are fortunate to have an amazing team about 35 people on the elemental team who have deep experience in networks, in all different kinds of industries. So across our. Directors of innovation, for instance we have people that focus on agriculture, circular economy, mobility, water, energy. And so we have really broad and deep networks across the space. So many times we can help companies because we've now funded 117 portfolio companies. So it's very likely that we have someone in our portfolio that's, three or four weeks ahead of where you are or encountered that same problem three or four weeks ago. So we have really good real-time data about what's happening in the industry that people can share with each other and really help advance all of the work that we're doing together. And then we have an incredible network of folks that we've worked with. So hundreds of deployment partners that we've worked with to deploy technology who have incredible Intel in the market, and we've, co-invested with thousands, literally thousands of angels and venture funds across our portfolio. And so we have a really broad network of people to tap into their, to support folks. And then we also have what we call SWAT team or acupuncture team of people in house that are investors in residents, a COO and residents sales and growth coach and residents who have seen the trajectory of many different companies, and really get in the weeds with companies as they're encountering specific challenge. So what we've found to be really impactful over the years and our model has evolved and changed constantly as the market's changed, but we've found to be really impactful over the years is. Bringing the right person on at the right time in a pretty deep and strategic way can leap frog companies ahead six months, 12 months, even 18 months. So what we've tried to do is surround ourselves with those kinds of people and then bring them in at exactly the right time to help a company scale and then take the learnings from what we have from that company and apply it to our broader portfolio and many companies beyond that as well. So it doesn't just live with them. One company in terms of impact, but it informs what we're doing across the whole ecosystem to break open climate technology.

Maiko Schaffrath:

Great all about building partnerships and ecosystems in terms of your impact, I think you've helped about 120 different companies. You implemented more than 70 projects and you'll fund it. Those companies actually, and autos projects with a modern 40 million us dollars. In terms of your impact on sustainable energy and on combating climate change how are you quantifying that? And how far along your journey are you worth making it, making a dent there?

Dawn Lippert:

Yeah. It's a great question. As we think about making impact on climate, it's partly about what the companies themselves directly do. So we measure that we measure, direct emissions and potential emissions from different companies, as well as, water saved and waste and things like that. So we're also thinking about what these companies do in terms of changing systems. Our other. Sustainable aviation company. We've a couple of other simulation companies just since I talked about amp, bear me as I'll mention the other ones that are zero Abio, which is hydrogen fuel cell approach to clean a aviation, which could be longer longer haul flights. And we also have signal, which is a company actually based in your neck of the woods in London that is making flying much more efficient through pilot behavior and positive sort of reward systems and reinforcements for pilot behavior. As we're thinking about these companies, it's partly about the particular impact that they're making, but also about what they're enabling in terms of changing and evolving whole industries. So we think about it in terms of both of those ways direct impact as well as what does it mean for the system? We're very interested in finding places in the system where there are barriers, funding, companies and technologies to help overcome those, or provide positive proof points. And then using those to really break open the rest of the system. I would also say the other thing that we're really interested in is beyond sort of the macro impacts of the change we're making on climate is what does it mean, particularly for frontline communities and communities that need it most? So we think about that in a number of different facets. One is the companies that we actually bring into the accelerator. How do we ensure that we're bringing in. Women founders of color, others that might not be as plugged into these networks and helping support those companies and accelerate them on their journey. So in our 2020 cohort, for example, half of our companies are led by women and nearly half of a founder who identifies as a person of color. And a third is founded by someone who identifies as black or indigenous. So I think part of creating impact and climate. Is ensuring that people from all different kinds of backgrounds and talent have access to capital, have access to the networks that will help them scale companies that are impactful and climate, again, not just from a macro scale, but specifically in communities we care about. And then the other half of that for us is our work on their equity and access track, which is once we've found companies that. Are really focused on serving frontline communities. How do we actually help them get there and serve communities that are underserved in a way that is equitable, that creates mutual benefits with the community. And that really is a good partner coming into frontline communities. So through equity and access track, we actually fund projects in frontline communities and we bring in community partners and others. To serve as anchors of those kinds of projects. So just one example on that front to give you a sense of what I'm, what I need is a project that we funded with remix. Remix is a transportation planning software they're in use in hundreds of cities around the world. And where transportation planners used to have used paper and pencil to plan what a city would look like. They can now use remix to do it in real time and collaborate with planners to see. Lots of different options in the city and what they would mean now, when we started funding remix, it said to us that their city partners were really interested in, various scenarios of what impact they would have on equity. So if you build a highway over here, how will that impact equity and frontline communities versus building a highway over here or by bike path or different kinds of city infrastructure changes. But there wasn't really a way to quantify that. We funded an equity and access project with remix. And we brought in a community partner transform to actually be their co-designer in developing metrics for equity, so that there was really trusted and credible community voice as part of that development. And it wasn't just a startup saying, this is what we think would be equitable for you designing a city. So it was really in that co-design process that we funded and helped facilitate. And then now that remix is able to roll out to many different cities and say, when you're doing your transportation planning, you can also add in this layer of equity assessment, what will be the more equitable decision and how will it impact different demographics and different populations? So it's really thinking that way across not only what are the companies doing in terms of who they're founded by what we call equity in within the company, but how did those impact. Many different kinds of communities in frontline communities, which we call equity out.

Maiko Schaffrath:

Got it. Amazing. Let's talk a bit about your journey and how you're actually ended up building this amazing ecosystem of both influential people supporting this entrepreneurs on the ground, implementing and coming up with solutions and also tying it in, as you just said in two. The social impact for the people living in the places that you work in. And going back, obviously from the days of mountain school, I think I've looked at your profile a little bit. You, your afterwards you spend a few years later, you spend some time doing sea turtle research later on. You did some time working as a consultant for a few years, And eventually, I think you actually worked with Emerson collective for a while, and I can imagine that's actually a crucial moment just for context for the listeners. Amazon collective as a social change initiative, that's been founded by Lauren Powell jobs who is obviously a well-known person in the space, that's funding some amazing initiative. And that's also. Then partner with you now on making elemental happen. So you've really built this amazing ecosystem around you as a person, but obviously around elemental, that's supporting us. How did you first go about that when you had less connections when you didn't know that many people in the space. When you didn't know influential billionaires that could fund your initiatives. How did it go about building those alliances?

Dawn Lippert:

Yeah, I think it's a great question. I think the first thing is just having impact and mission as a North star. So we've been really fortunate to be able to do this work as a nonprofit, which enables us to look not as to what the startups are doing, but again, what's happening across the system. And how can we impact that? So I think, from my perspective, that's always been my personal mission in life and that's been our North star, so we've tried to be really creative, really. Open-handed really collaborative in how we pursue that. And we've been able to bring in some pretty amazing partners, as you said along the way. So I think in the beginning, I there were a couple things that sort of stick out to me. One is that when I was a consultant, as you mentioned, One of my projects was working RPE on the technology side. As I mentioned, another one that I spent a lot of time on was this Hawaii clean energy initiative. And it was the idea that with the department I was working in department of energy and the idea was with the department of energy, instead of sprinkling resources, around many different kinds of States and various clean energy initiatives. What if you could really centralize some of those resources and some of that political will and attention on one place. And really flip it from dirty to clean. So this was in 2007, 2008, and it became why clean energy initiative, this really thoughtful and integrated approach to whole economic transformation to clean energy. And so it was really fortunate to spend a lot of time in Hawaii from BC flying back and forth once a month, got a lot of frequent flyer miles through that. But really getting to know the community in Hawaii and what it would take to Brainstorm stakeholders along and design a clean energy economy here. And through that, I met a mentor, his name's Maurice Kaia, and he and I were working together on this transformation initiative. And when I came to Hawaii, he was the one that I moved here to work with. He was an incredible leader, incredibly well-respected across Hawaii, had done some really difficult things like building some of the first renewable energy plans to thermal plants in Hawaii was very well-respected across. So the entire stakeholder community and business community. So I wanted to learn from him. And one of the things that he said to folks when I got here was anything you can say to me, you can say to Don. And so he really took me under his wing and mentored me and brought me into community here and built, help, build that community trust. With me, he's now a director of Meredith for elemental, and he's still an amazing part of our ecosystem. But it was really through that mentorship that a lot of these initial relationships were born. And then I think, the combination of having those kinds of people around us and having the North star of our mission has attracted a lot of people to elemental over time and given us the opportunity to work with some incredible thought leaders and incredible leaders throughout the year. So there's many more than I can even name here, but I think it's really been. Twofold. If some people diving in really deep believing in it and really putting sort of their shoulder to it, to make it work and bringing in others and networks. And then it's a much larger group of people who are around the edges that are really bringing value and networks and making things work. So I consider it in those kind of two tiers. But I think it's related about people and about mission.

Maiko Schaffrath:

And that journey over the years, what since you started at a mental. What do you think was one of the biggest challenges that you had to overcome more, a big lesson that you had to learn? I'm sure. Towards the beginning, it's always much, much harder obviously to get things off the ground. So can you remember anything that kind of defined you in terms of challenges you had to overcome?

Dawn Lippert:

So many challenges building an organization, and building something new. When we started elemental, we were the first climate tech accelerator, anywhere. The first people applying this idea of an accelerator to. Hardware and climate and clean energy and that sort of space. And so there were a lot of people who said that really can't be done. It's not a good idea. The accelerator model is really built for software and it shouldn't be applied to climate and clean energy. So there, there was a lot of that when we first started. So I think, it was a mix of really listening to people and what had worked and hadn't worked. But also having conviction and saying we think it can work if we do X, Y, Z. So in those early days, there was a lot of, like scratch on the back of a napkin and trying to experiment with different ways. We might do that things, for example, most tech accelerators at that time, and still now are three months and many require companies, or at least pre COVID required companies and founders to move to a specific place and be in house for three months to build a business and get specific week over week traction and then do a demo day. And we realized by talking to a lot of people and also by working with entrepreneurs early on, that wasn't really a model that would work for the energy. So many of these companies have been doing research and really building the technology based for years with government funding or other kinds of support. And so what we needed was a much more distributed approach where we could bring in the best talent from around the world. They don't need to move to Hawaii or move to California for three months. But we need to bring them into community with each other in a really meaningful way. So we first designed that as basically a kickoff week where they would come together and get to know each other, really get to know each other's businesses, meet us in our team and some of our sort of core people who could help them and then head back to run their companies and bring them back periodically for specific intensive weeks where they could get much more than a week's worth ahead on their business. So that's like the key thing for. For our work, right? It's figuring out how each hour or each day an entrepreneur spends with us, saves them more than an hour or a day on the backend. And so figuring out that formula has been a really exciting journey for us. But that's how we originally started the accelerator. No one else was really doing that at the time, saying, okay, we're going to have this longterm relationship with you. It's probably going to be one to three years, at least. And now with our entrepreneurs, we work with them. Until they exit and then beyond, cause then they come back to our CEO summit after they've exited and continue adding knowledge to the ecosystem. But it was thinking about how would we adapt all the things that work well in tech accelerators, but adapt them to this very different space. That's hardware that requires a very different kind of, sort of commitment and long-term dedication and partnership.

Maiko Schaffrath:

So for climate tech, startups that listening to this and are like, Oh, this is actually sounds like me. I should be part of this. Do you require the UN beyond the week that they spent with you? Do you require the projects to be implemented in Hawaii or do you have multiple locations now? How does work for them to actually not lose focus, but obviously be able to to implement this pilot project

Dawn Lippert:

Yeah, it's a great question. So the, what we're actually opening for applications in Q1. So you know, just a little ways here and we're really excited to see. For what's out there. We tend to get a few hundred applications a year and just get to see a really amazing slice of what's happening across the innovation ecosystem. So the projects don't have to be implemented just in Hawaii. We have terrific sort of customer relationships and experienced in Hawaii. We also implement projects in California and around the world. So we're looking for companies that have really good ideas, have really fantastic teams and a huge amount of virtualization potential. And we can work with them anywhere that they might be. In addition to specifically working with the companies that are in our portfolio, we also have a way, a number of ways that we open up our network to other kinds of companies. So even if companies don't feel like they're an exact fit for funding, for our projects, with things that we're doing at our station, they can still apply to elemental and. Become part of our network that we connect with corporate partners that we connect with investors. And we actually had a really robust platform where we connect many more startups to the kinds of players that can help them scale. We focus a lot on our portfolio, but we also are really interested in helping many more hundred startups than we can directly support on their path to scale. So we encourage people to. To apply whether or not they think their exact fit for our program. So they can be in the system and get access to that network in those services.

Maiko Schaffrath:

great. You've worked with more than a hundred startups. And I actually have a bit of a history working with startups and obviously this way off the podcast, but before that also working in an accelerator, and I think after a while, you're always start to see. Certain patterns or both positive and negative, right? Like the mistakes that are commonly made or some of the things that commonly leads to success. What's your advice be for founders, especially with a focus on climate tech and terms of mistakes to avoid and things to do to be successful. I know it's a very broad question, but do you see any patterns that you have identified in your and your startups you work with?

Dawn Lippert:

yes, so many patterns. I think one of the really important things that I have grown to appreciate is the importance of an abundance mindset in founders. And particularly when it comes to this space, no, none of the climate tech companies that we work with or that I've seen be successful can do it on their own. It requires an enormous amount of partnership and collaboration with customers with other industry players. In some cases with people who might otherwise be seen as competitors. And so having an abundance mindset has been really critical to the success of the companies that we've seen win. At the same time, it's a really competitive landscape. So understanding who your competitors are and who your collaborators are, is really important. I would say another ingredient we've seen for entrepreneurs in this space is the right mix of patients and inpatients. Many of these technologies in water and mobility and energy, they can take longer to come to market. So founders have to be in it for the long haul and patient. You re recently interviewed Brendan Milstein. Who's the founder of carbon lighthouse, and we've worked with in fact funded covenant house years ago. And he's been building that company for over 10 years and it's been incredibly impactful. Now been able to avoid the emissions from multiple power plants and are just growing really well in the energy efficiency space with a really unique model. But it's taken long-term patients and short-term inpatients to make that happen. So I think finding that right balance is really important. Climate is the problem that is fighting the clock, right? We've many other social problems, but climate is the one where every day, every week, every month really matters in terms of how quickly we're bending that curve down. So when we find founders who are willing to be patient and building relationships are willing to be in it for the long haul. But have the right amount of inpatients to get things done and get into the market. It's a really winning combination. And that also one other example of that is for example, our company, our portfolio company servo. So they're a geothermal company really fascinating to breakthrough geothermal technology. Geothermal's a really interesting technology because it can be a baseload technology. So rather than solar, which you can create solar power and the sun shining and then use batteries for overnight. Geothermal's a 24 hour power source from the heat from the earth. So we don't have geothermal heat everywhere, but in the place where we have it, it can be really impactful. So they're a great example where a lot of their work really depends on how fast other geothermal plants can go, so they can insert their technology into some of these existing geothermal plants. It depends on how fast government can permit. Their projects and what that looks like. And there's a degree of impatience on the entrepreneur side to make sure you're evolving the technology and the team's hitting milestones, but then in degree of patients to make sure some of these larger pieces like permitting and some, these larger partnerships can fall into place and that you're in it for the long haul. So just one example.

Maiko Schaffrath:

for entrepreneurs starting out and exploring the space. And I meet a lot of people that have a lot of entrepreneur experience, but that maybe they started a software company and they loved it. But now. I really want to focus on a social or environmental issue, close to the heart. And climate change, maybe one of those centers, certainly one of the biggest ones Do you have any advice for them in terms of specific problems to be solved in that space that seem to be underserved or markets that are not really served or you don't see a lot of solutions in certain spaces, any advice on navigating that big space and discovering new problems to be solved?

Dawn Lippert:

Yeah. So we're always looking for entrepreneurs that bring a unique insight based on their own backgrounds. I think that's what I would also encourage founders to do is look into your own background and figure out what are the insights that you have based on your life experience and your networks that other people don't have, or other people don't know. And look there first the couple areas that we're really excited about technology-wise and would like to see more companies in, I can share a couple. One is in general sort of carbon technology, so carbon to value. And we have a couple of companies that are doing really interesting things here. One is from your native country of Germany. It's called made of air and takes carbon and creates essentially alternatives to plastic and other kinds of materials. So you're sequestering carbon, and also not using new materials to make that plastic or make those materials. So really interesting company using carbon as a building material and alternative to plastic. Another company in that vein would be our company planet forward, founded by Julia Collins, the Bay area, and that company similarly as looking at carbon, but in a very different way. So they're saying. What is the carbon footprint of all the different ingredients that go into our food? How can we assess that, understand it, and make them much more carbon positive and align that with what a large corporates in manufacturers want to sell to consumers. So very different platform focus heavy software and consumer focused for that technology, but to two companies that are really addressing carbon. And then a third, this addressing from a hard tech perspective is our company called carbon care which takes carbon dioxide and sequesters it into concrete forever. And the concrete is stronger and not more expensive. So we did a project with them on a wahoo here, and then have been able to scale that they've been able to scale it around the world, hundreds of concrete plants now. So these are just a couple of different ways that people are thinking about. Taking carbon and turning it into value or taking sort of the carbon emissions problem and turning it into a really interesting business opportunity. So that's definitely one place I would consider. I would encourage people to look. There's a lot investment going into that area right now as well. And then two others that are really interesting for us now. Is local mobility and sort of understanding of the problems with local mobility and then going global with those. So an example where companies, where's my transport, that maps all the informal transportation networks in countries. So if you've ever spent time, in Mexico city or other places like that, that much of the transportation is actually informal transportation. And so you can't pull it up on Google maps or other sort of at based ways. Until now, and where's my transport to makes that surfaces, that data in a really organic and live and real-time way. And it shows that people can use public transport to get around so major carbon story, but also a huge impact for access and for people's access to transportation and mobility. So that's one example there. And then the last one I would say is, folks have. Been a little bit hot and cold. No pun intended on water and we've started to see some really interesting water companies that are some of them that the water energy nexus or taking learnings from the energy sector and applying them to water. So we have companies like transcend, who is essentially automating the engineering process for water plants. The real breakthrough there is what it does is instead of building the same water plants with the same old technology now engineering firms and customers can very quickly see what it would look like to integrate new water technologies into their design. And that just hasn't been possible before, unless it was hundreds of thousands of dollars of engineering. So it was a huge barrier to getting new technologies into the water space. So just some really creative companies across water. That we're seeing Cambridge innovation out of Boston in our portfolio is another example, taking wastewater and turning it into clean water and energy. So I think that people are interested in climate should also really take a look at water and where some of those gaps are. It's going to be an really important frontier and it's a huge market.

Maiko Schaffrath:

What do you see as the biggest risk for the startups that you're working with is that often a technology risk the risk of actually making the technology work. Or is it around getting the right investors is to have enough money in, into space, or what is the kind of factor that you think is the riskiest that needs to be fixed in order for us to see hopefully many climate change impact unicorns in a few years,

Dawn Lippert:

there, there a number of risks across the spectrum. I think one of the things that. I've noticed that entrepreneurs, people think, Oh, entrepreneurs, they love risks. They're so risky, but actually really good entrepreneurs are just really good at managing risks and understanding what their risks are and knocking them down one by one. So the best offers that we work with are not wild risk takers. It's really, there are people who really understand the risks of building, in each stage of their business and are knocking them down really systematically. The risks that we spend the most time working on and thinking about our commercial risks. We've seen a lot of investment in technology, both from government university other kinds of sort of partners. There's some amazing sort of technical breakthroughs that are coming through. We've seen a huge amount of increase in the amount of invested investor dollars in this space. People who just realized that climate is the. The biggest market opportunity of the next decade or two, and that want to somehow be involved in that. So we've seen a lot of investor dollars come in. Of course we can always use more and smarter investors. But we really have seen a lot of capital come into the space. But I think the third that we're really focused on is this commercial risk is how do you price the solution? How do you sell it? What are those channel partners look like? Many of the companies that we're working with are selling technologies into really established incumbent industries who have really clear and calcified ways of buying things and defying things. And we need them to change and decarbonize. And so that's where we spend a lot of time thinking about how do we work with the largest corporates, how do we work with utilities and get their incentives? How do we work with some of these other kinds of engineering firms or channel partners or folks that could be gatekeepers to decarbonize technology? So we really think a lot about commercial risk and how people can overcome that. One of the key tools that we really like when thinking about commercial risks, Is to understand what are accompanies first markets, and then what are their growth markets? And they're almost always different. When we first started funding companies in this space, we tended to see early stage companies going after their growth market as a first market. And it usually didn't work because usually the growth market players are not as fast or not as nimble. And they're not as willing to take a bet on innovation. So one thing we've spent a lot of time with our companies is helping research and dissect. What are the, what's the first market, what's the growth market. So what's the market that can get them to the right amount of scale. Bringing in financing partners that have the right depth and can finance, units five to 25. So you need a first market to really get you there and power the way through early commercialization. And then with those proof points and that behind you then move into a gross market. That would, is probably going to look quite different. So that's one thing we spent a lot of time thinking through with our companies and then testing those hypotheses to see how quickly we can get companies into a really powerful momentum driven first market.

Maiko Schaffrath:

I've got one more question for you and that's about the future. Let's think about the next 10 years. How do you think the world will look like in 10 years time? If elemental accelerator continues to succeed with Wirth, demission at your yarn.

Dawn Lippert:

I think it has to come back to including people in the transition and giving people a voice in this transition. One thing that we are really excited about is bringing our tools that we've developed over the last four years on equity and access, both equity into companies and equity out to many more companies and founders. One of the things I think is possible when you do that and that we've seen even at elemental, is it once you have, once you make certain decisions internally at an organization around equity and how you want to treat that. It closes the door to other less equitable options because you now have an array of viewpoints within your team. You have senior leadership who is thinking about equity in these ways. And it actually really changes who you are, who we are as an organization and the decisions you make and how you show up in the world. It's always a journey we're still on our journey. Absolutely. On equity, inclusion and access. But I really see that as in 10 years the standard, and I really hope to see that as a standard across these companies, because we can build capability and language and knowledge thoroughly into companies, into their DNA. Then as these companies grow that's already, it's already done. It's already taken care of. It's already part of how the company will grow. And things will certainly evolve and change, but I think there are certain pathways that, less equitable pathways that become really difficult as you grow. If you already have this built into your DNA early, so that's one thing sort of thinking about the other one is how to catalyze many more kinds of capital across the space so that we ensure that companies are powered by the right kind of capital at the right time. One of the things that we've see across industries whether it's computers or phones or others, is that financing options come into the space and really accelerate the maturity of a market. So we're starting to see that in climate, right? Like you don't want to use venture dollars to fund hardware and grow your business that way. A great example in our portfolio is a company called STEM. Which has, distributed energy storage hardware but they use venture capital dollars to grow the corporate side of the business and then used, project finance or other kinds of similar instruments that look more like debt to actually finance the batteries themselves for their customers. So the customers could still get, no money down service and and batteries. But they're financed, not by venture capital dollars, finance, not on the balance sheet of the company. So those kinds of tools are what really will supercharge our network to reach scale much quicker. So we're really focused on those two. So equity and access. How do you build this into companies from the beginning with their DNA? And then how do you build a really like powerful and aligned financing ecosystem? So that as companies grow, they can access the right kind of financing at the right time. And that will really fuel a company's growth.

Maiko Schaffrath:

amazing. I wish you all the best on that journey. It's been great to talk to you today and really inspiring to see your personal journey, but also the impact that at a mental and more importantly the companies that you're working with making. So thank you very much for joining today.

Dawn Lippert:

Thank you so much for all you're doing to. Lift up and highlight impact to across the ecosystem. We need so many more people thinking like you and making this work. So thanks so much.

Maiko Schaffrath:

Yeah. So if you're listening to this, take some action. If you're running a company in this space do apply and thank you very much for joining.