Exploring the Future of Clean Tech & Sustainability: Insights from WCS’s Reverse Pitch Event
Many of us are familiar with the concept of a pitch, especially from the perspective of a startup looking to obtain support and funding through grant programs, non-dilutive funds, or directly from venture capital. It can be a daunting task, with the amount of capital spread across numerous firms and programs worldwide, including resources such as mentorship programs, a robust network of partners, accelerator programs, and educational advancement, among others. The resources available for today’s startup landscape can be overwhelming and, at times, challenging to locate. Events like “Reverse Pitch” are essential, highlighting institutions and firms looking for aspiring companies and solutions to support.
Recently, WCS hosted their second “Reverse Pitch” virtual event, moderated by Tricia Clemens, a WCS volunteer on the Entrepreneurship Committee, on October 19, 2023. The event included 11 presenters, ranging from non-dilutive firms powered by Federal funding programs, traditional VCs, and incubator labs to equity and debt funds. Most of these firms, if not all, were primarily interested in Pre-Seed – Series A stage companies. And all of them seemed energized by the idea of working with entrepreneurs and innovators who are only just embarking on the journey of their climate-driven solutions.
What stood out to me was the variety of support entrepreneurs can access, particularly non-dilutive Federal funds. For example, America’s Seed Fund, powered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), highlighted their $4 billion program, emphasizing three main points – a focus on early-stage startups, an entrepreneur-friendly approach, and providing partnerships amongst staff with program directors with startup experience as operators and founders. At the same time, American Made Challenges, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, stood on a platform of a prize competition program, which provides a lower barrier to entry into government funding through competitions amongst entrepreneurs and academics that can accelerate the timeline for receiving funding through prize earnings.
There were also a handful of accelerators and incubator labs present in the pitch line-up, all of which were people-centric in the support they provided. For example, Activate Capital described itself as a people-first organization, supporting fellows who make or build purpose-driven things. Their fellowship program has helped 188 scientists and 145 companies succeed, all in partnership with Berkeley Lab. Greentown Labs was also present in the line-up as the largest climate tech incubator in North America, emphasizing an accelerator space that is built by founders for founders.
The discussion moved us into the venture capital landscape, including climate tech-focused VCs and VCs that include climate tech sectors in their portfolio, amongst other industries. Each respective VC stood out in their particular interest. One is Amplify Capital, a Canadian-based seed stage venture fund that is a Certified B Corporation investing in technology companies solving social and environmental market gaps, particularly in healthcare and education. Another differentiating fund was For ClimateTech, supported by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, with two branches of support: Venture for ClimateTech, a non-profit global venture studio and accelerator program, and Scale for ClimateTech, which provides support throughout the manufacturing process.
For entrepreneurs and operators in the startup space looking for support in funding and resources, the “Reverse Pitch” event is the place to be. Within one hour, entrepreneurs get insight into 10+ firms and programs open to finding innovators and operators with climate solutions to partner with and direct connections to these opportunities through their presenters. Stay tuned for the next “Reverse Pitch” event hosted by WCS for the chance to join and gain more exposure to the readily available resources and funds ready to be tapped.
View the complete list of presenters here.
Written by: Samar Syed