Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.
I have founded or led eight climate tech startups. I’ve had one really big success, a few smaller successes, and a few “learning experiences” along the way – but every one of them would have had a better outcome if there hadn’t been tremendous systemic impediments to launching, commercializing, and scaling climate tech startups.
After selling my most recent venture last year, I resolved that my next great adventure would be to work on the problem rather than in it. To paraphrase my mentor: the system drives behaviors and behaviors drive outcomes. It is time to fix the system!
I intended to spend months thinking great thoughts, having conversations, and figuring out how to maximize my impact in transforming the climate tech commercialization system. As has been the case with basically every career move I’ve ever made, though, the universe had other plans!
At exactly the same time that I was thinking about how to fix the system, two incredible organizations – Rocky Mountain Institute and New Energy Nexus – were joining forces to initiate a bold new change model. A mutual climate VC connection introduced me to their principals and I flew out in January to discuss their initiative.
Originally I intended the discussion to be advisory but our time together was so exothermic that it quickly became clear that we needed to work more closely together than that. Their theory of change matched up with exactly the challenges I had encountered in my previous ventures, the people in their organizations were exactly my kind of mission-focused spiritual warriors, and the leaders heading their organizations were already climate heroes of mine. What began as a quick trip to help out a new initiative quickly became an alluring call to adventure!
Katie and I weren’t looking for a big change. We had a great life in North Carolina, surrounded by family and friends, excellent care for our child, and Katie thriving in her job at Duke. However, we believe in living a life of service and adventure, not comfort and complacency, so, by answering this new call to adventure, we are living those values.
As such, we are in the process of moving to Boulder, Colorado at the moment – impeded, but not prohibited, by the COVID crisis. I have already started my new role as CEO of this joint venture between Rocky Mountain Institute and New Energy Nexus: Third Derivative, which is a fully integrated engine for climate innovation. We find, fund, hone, and scale the world’s most-promising technologies to achieve larger, faster reductions in global carbon emissions.
For more details on what we are doing and how, check out a recent LinkedIn article I wrote on Why We Built Third Derivative.
In the meantime, it has been a whirlwind of activity building and leading an awesome team, most of whom have never met each other in person but all of whom, working together, managed to take Third Derivative from powerpoint to launch in less than 90 days! This isn’t my first adventure and it won’t be my last (My first ever blog post was about an adventure, as was my post announcing my return to the US.), but it is an incredible privilege to serve this team and this mission and I just can’t wait for this adventure to unfold!