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Climate Innovation: Observations that need to be understood

Carbon13’s Venture Builder is designed to be a seedbed of scalable entrepreneurship. As we’ve travelled this road, through talking to hundreds of founders and investors, we’ve discovered that there are four observations that we don’t think are as widely understood as they need to be:
1. Corporate-driven innovation tends to be poor at disruption, cross-disciplinary innovation, innovation that front-runs regulatory change and to some extent behaviour-change-driving innovation. These are four flavours of innovation we must use to deal with the climate crisis, so this is where entrepreneurs should be playing.
2. The innovation potential arising from increased climate anxiety among (primarily) Northern European consumers is over-rated, whereas the innovation potential arising from Net Zero pledges/Science Based Targets from corporates somewhat under-rated. Ergo, enterprise or B2B2C plays are perhaps more interesting in our view than B2C, though Carbon13 entertains both.
3. Carbon offsets are “interesting for now” but as anyone who reads Ostrom [2] knows, the whole system is ultimately doomed as a way to govern a common resource. Business models founded on a revenue stream from offsets need to evolve past that quickly or represent a diminishing value stream (so, they need to look again at Observation 2 and the comment about Net Zero pledges.)
4. People (like Hank Paulson in launching the TPG Climate fund) are saying that climate change is like the internet in terms of scale of opportunity. We disagree – it’s like a world war. Society is waking up to the existential threat we face and is looking to the private sector to engage its capital and innovation capacity to “save us”. The investment profile of fast mobilisation and “moonshots” is different to the iterative and incremental profile of the rollout of the internet.
About Carbon13
Carbon13 is a talent-first venture builder. Our eight month programme supports technical, commercial and venture catalyst founders to form cofounding teams and develop ventures capable of reducing CO2e emissions by ten million tonnes. We then invest in qualifying ventures through our SEIS fund. Our first cohort begins 16 March with 60 amazing people with the demo day in November. Applications for cohort 2 open on 1 May (though talented people can pre-register by clicking Apply Now) and cohort 2 starts 21 September.

[1] Christiana Figueres & Tom Rivett-Carnac, The Future We Choose – Surviving the Climate Crisis, 2020

[2] Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Elinor Ostrom, 2015

[3] Henry Paulson Returns to Finance, to Run Climate-Focused Fund