climate change ventures

Ecosystem

New Startup Accelerator Seeking Climate Change Ventures

Anne Field | February 23, 2017

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A new accelerator is looking for entrepreneurs fighting climate change.

Called Climate Ventures 2.0, it’s run by GoodCompany Ventures, a Philadelphia-based social enterprise accelerator, and will accept 10 startups aimed specifically at addressing climate-related threats to agriculture and the resilience of water systems.

Private initiatives have become even more important in recent weeks. As balmy February temperatures swept the country— temperatures neared 100 degrees in Oklahoma, the home state of the new EPA chief—the federal government set about dismantling regulations aimed at countering global warming.

Climate change ventures
Garrett Melby (Photo credit: GoodCompany Ventures)

Each of the entrepreneurs accepted into the three-month Climate Ventures program will get a $25,000 grant, thanks
to substantial funding from the William Penn Foundation. Another $75,000 from the foundation will fund pilots for startups that are too early and innovative to attract much investor capital. In the case of such new and cutting edge ventures, “a substantial pilot is a critical path to getting access to private capital support,” says Garrett Melby, co-founder and executive director of GoodCompany Ventures.

GoodCompany Ventures, a nonprofit, doesn’t take an equity stake in the companies.

Next month, with design firm IDEO, the foundation will fund a global innovation challenge—a virtual hackathon for working on ways to address climate change related threats to agriculture and water systems. Melby expects as many as 200 ventures to participate, two of which will be accepted into the accelerator.

Startups should be early stage or, as Melby says, “at some degree of proof of concept where the leaders have quit their day jobs.” They need to be tech-related in some way, but that can include anything from sensing systems used to predict rain to precision agriculture tools for reducing fertilizer in the watershed in the case of an extreme weather event.

“We’re looking for innovations that make these systems more stable and quicker to heal,” says Melby.

The accelerator is part of a multi-step process. It was preceded by a two-year project through which GoodCompany, along with Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities and Wharton Social Impact Initiative, worked with the White House Office of Science and Technology’s Climate Data Initiative. That program focused on teaming with private sector partners to develop ways to make communities threatened by climate change impacts more resilient.

The project produced a report about climate threats, with an emphasis on water issues, particularly the impact of storm water systems on water sheds.  “We saw that the threats from flooding are different from drought, since flooding comes suddenly and lack of preparation is a greater concern,” says Melby.

That process — in-depth research aimed at creating an overall framework, followed by the introduction of a startup accelerator for social entrepreneurs addressing issues identified by the study — was modeled on a previous accelerator run by GoodCompany Ventures. Called FastFWD, it was developed in 2014 in response to a nationwide Mayoral Challenge seeking new ways to address pressing urban problems. Working with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and the City of Philadelphia, FastFWD ended up receiving a $1 million award from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The deadline for applications to Climate Ventures 2.0  is March 15.

Anne Field is a New York-based journalist who writes about social enterprise and impact investing. A version of this article originally appeared on her Not Only For Profit blog on Forbes.com.

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