“A person needs new experiences. It jars something deep inside, allowing them to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”-Duke Leto Atreides, Dune
I know I’m mixing references here but the key message is that, with incredibly mixed emotions, I must share that I am leaving Third Derivative to pursue my next climatetech [ad]venture.
You may recall my Third Derivative origin story and first progress report. I was brought in to found, launch, and lead a game-changing climatetech startup – the most ambitious (in terms of both speed and scale) accelerator ever attempted. Our founding hypothesis was that our deeply integrated ecosystem approach would bridge key valleys of death in the process of commercializing, deploying, and scaling hard climatetech, attracting the USD $Trillions that need to be invested in the sector.
And . . . we’ve done it. I am incredibly proud of what we’ve built during two [very challenging!] years:
- a diverse, world class team that performs at the highest level despite the challenges of being forged in the crucible of multiple global crises
- an unprecedented ecosystem of corporate partners (worth USD $4T+ in market cap), investors (with $7B+ in assets under management), and startups (the largest cohort of climatetech startups in history)
- $300M+ invested into our 60+ game-changing climatetech startups in the year since we launched our first cohort
- a financially thriving venture with $Millions ARR (annually recurring revenue) and multiple years of runway
- the people, systems, processes, and tools in place for scaleup
Although winning at all is crucial in addressing the climate crisis, I also believe that how we win really matters. Through this lens, I am most proud of several key aspects of “the Third Derivative way:”
- Urgency and Purpose – we launched in the midst of a global pandemic but we didn’t let that deter us. We lived a mantra of “the climate isn’t waiting so neither can we.”
- Positivity and Hope – we worked to be a shining beacon of optimistic light in a field that can be consumed by darkness and pessimism with each new climate report.
- Humility and Learning – in a field (venture capital) known for everyone purporting to be the smartest people in the room, we tried to be upfront about all the things we don’t know and we open-sourced / shared our learnings along the way.
- Gratitude – we began each week sharing all the things for which we were grateful; these meetings mostly turned into lovefests for our teammates and was an incredibly energizing way to kick off each purpose-driven week of ambitious mission fulfillment.
- JEDI as a feature, not a tradeoff – we put JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) front and center, driving not just our hiring but also our strategy. Much more than just “checking boxes,” this approach was key to our success. This is a presentation I gave last year about our JEDI failures, learnings, and aspirations:
All of these not-so-humble-brags belong not to me but to the entire Third Derivative team and it has been one of the great privileges of my career to have been entrusted with its leadership. Of all the mixed emotions I referenced above, the most significant is gratitude to have worked with such wonderful people. The outpouring of love and support I received from my colleagues after announcing this transition has been moving beyond words. I treasure our time together and earnestly hope we will work together again:
My gratitude, though, extends far beyond the boundaries of the Third Derivative team. Our “parents,” RMI and New Energy Nexus, were critical to our success through their expertise, networks, and support. As an entrepreneur I always look for an “unfair advantage” in launching a new venture and these awesome NGOs have definitely been that unfair advantage for Third Derivative.
Don’t misunderstand me that Third Derivative has achieved all of our aspirations. There is still a lot to learn and do . . . but it isn’t really a startup anymore. A startup is a temporary organization searching for a scalable, repeatable business model (and impact model, in this case). To paraphrase Yoda, “Searching? Found something, you have!”
Third Derivative has everything it needs to take the next step and my skills as an entrepreneurial builder are less additive at this point. My leadership style is to build an incredible leadership team, trust and empower them, and keep myself out of the critical path. Accordingly, my transition out of the CEO role is going very smoothly.
We have already begun the search for my successor so please send us great candidates! This should be the easiest job in the world, stepping in to lead such a capable, bonded, high-performing team!
Now that Third Derivative is in such a great place, I feel the call to start building the next game-changing climatetech venture. I’m not sure what that will be specifically yet but I have been inundated with opportunities (See previous post about this amazing time for climatetech.) and I haven’t been able to free up any capacity to evaluate them while heads-down building and growing Third Derivative.
As I step back from Third Derivative, I am intending to take some time off to reflect (Stay tuned for blog posts about lessons learned while building Third Derivative.), recharge (Building Third Derivative has been a sprint!), and reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues before bringing my focus to my next venture. This will hopefully be a good time for me to catch up on reading, fitness, and reclaiming some of my e-sports world records too. We’ll see, though; I have a notoriously poor track record when it comes to taking time off! Please help keep me accountable if you notice me diving headlong into a new venture too quickly!
As for Third Derivative, although I will no longer be the CEO, I will always be a founder. I believe deeply in Third Derivative’s mission and especially its team. I will always be cheering for it and even working actively to continue increasing its success, but now in the background – like a Force ghost!
It has been an incredible journey, Third Derivative, and climatetech is a small world so . . . I’ll see you out there!