How it started / How it’s going

Checking in on the two greentech entrepreneurs who nudged me towards climate in 2018

How its started

I frequently share how my personal climate journey started in Princeton in the summer of 2018. The World Economic Forum and the Andlinger Center hosted an executive education course on climate and energy. I was climate curious and, having been selected to attend, it was free…

Two sessions during that program planted the seed for the work I now do at 2150.

The first was the stack graph that proves that we need to deploy a lot of different technologies in parallel and at scale to achieve net-zero. Driving my Tesla might make me feel better, millions of people driving a Tesla might have a minimal impact but this is going to require a massive deployment at scale.

Updated version of IEA stack graph on parallel actions required to achieve net-zero

I now always point people to to the MIT EN-ROADS simulator for them to come to the same realisation. No single lever (other than extremely high carbon tax) has any single meaningful impact on the temperature increase by 2100. We need to deploy… fast and at scale.

The second was a panel of “greentech” entrepreneurs sharing their technologies and startups. In any context, the people on stage would have been bonafide Valley rockstars. One was employee number 7 at Tesla (Gene Berdichevsky), another had been the CTO of FirstSolar (Dave Eaglesham).

I took this photo during Gene’s presentation of Silas Nano at Princeton

Both had raised Seed rounds and both expressed frustration at the challenges of raising further funding. In 2018 that was indeed going to be a challenge. These were both deeptech and greentech businesses with a long path to commercialization. The number of VC funds willing to back them could probably be counted in one hand especially after the greentech funding implosion.

And that was the “aha” moment for me. The realisation that in any other space founders with this operational pedigree and technical acumen applied to a very large TAM should not be having that much trouble raising funding. The realisation that there were probably dozens of other such entrepreneurs working on truly impactful technologies. Those days in Princeton led to a personal deep dive into deeptech and sustainability, and through meandering paths, meeting my Partners and launching 2150.

I was re-telling that story of my days at Princeton this week and wondered what had actually happened to those two founders and their impactful technologies.

How it’s going

Silas Nano (Tesla’s 7th employee’s company) seems to have overcome the challenges he mentioned. That same summer of 2018 he raised $70 million from Sutter Hill Ventures, then more from Daimler and CPPIB and in 2021 a mega $590m round Coatue.

Electric Hydrogen aka EH2 (First Solar CTO’s startup) took a bit longer but in 2021 it raised a $24m Series A from Climate Tech stalwarts Breakthrough Energy, Capricorn and Prelude.

And this trend applies to dozens of companies including some of those we have backed like CarbonCure and BioMason who spent years tampering with their technologies, funded by angels and grants until an inflection point hit. That inflection point has clearly accelerated in the past 4 years since Princeton!

Amazing to see these two founders who inspired me four years ago now scaling and deploying their impactful businesses. Thank you!

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Christian Hernandez

Partner at @2150-vc backing technologies that make our world more resilient and sustainable. Salvadoran-born Londoner. YGL of the @wef Father ^3