Sourcing and Climate Tech: In this 11th episode of the Propel(x) Podcast we interviewed Jason Holt from Baruch Future Ventures to better understand how he thinks about his investment opportunities sourcing and climate tech. The episode is available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and other platforms.
The Propel(x) Podcast is hosted by Swati Chaturvedi CEO of Propel(x), and by Andy Reed, Director at Propel(x). Propel(x) is an investment platform focused on early-stage deep tech investment opportunities. Accredited investors may learn more at www.propelx.com and if interested may join here. To hear more, sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Twitter @Propel_x.
Jason from Baruch Future Ventures made several key points on sourcing and climate tech that are worth highlighting again:
- “Good” deals come from investors who previously demonstrated success by creating value for their investors
- First time founders should be “coachable”
- Climate tech includes a range of technologies and addresses a broader range of technologies than Clean tech 1.0
- Deep tech startups should focus on non-commodified markets where they can extract a premium in early sales
- The cost curve on solar and wind demonstrates that there is a potential path to commercial viability for new Climate technologies
Sourcing and Climate Tech – An Overview by Jason Holt of Baruch Future Ventures
In the podcast related to sourcing and climate tech, Jason from Baruch Future Ventures surfaced this idea of a portfolio of technologies that are necessary to address climate change. In an email exchange following our call, he outlined this in more depth.
Q: What are the key technology areas that comprise the “portfolio” of solutions we need to implement to address climate change?
A: Regarding your question and the portfolio of solutions needed to address climate change, I would classify them as such:
- Tech to get to net zero emissions — I am most excited about the theme of mass electrification and taking traditionally high GHG footprint industries and transforming them with cheap renewables. There are opportunities to do this in heavy industries like cement production and steel manufacturing, among others. Other possibilities include the use of this cheap, clean energy to manufacture commodity chemicals with enormous GHG footprints, e.g. NH3 for fertilizer production.
- Tech to drawdown existing CO2 in the atmosphere (so called “negative emissions technologies”) — Direct Air Capture gets a lot of the attention (i.e. machines that “suck” CO2 out of the air), but I am frankly more interested in NBSs (nature based solutions). This is largely due to the fact that: 1) we are often piggybacking off of millions of years of evolution, i.e. they are technically “de-risked”, 2) they are generally cheap to implement by comparison and generate salable products, i.e. there is a business model, and 3) the carbon they sequester has a number of possible sinks to keep it in place for a century or longer. To be more specific, we are interested in the potential of the ocean and opportunities like kelp cultivation.
Sourcing and Climate Tech: In this episode talking about deal sourcing and climate tech, we hear from Jason Holt from Baruch Future Ventures on how to build a quality efficient deal sourcing practice. He shares his perspective on how to distinguish good markets from bad markets, and what to look for in founders as an investor. Jason’s previous experience as a deep tech entrepreneur and current climate tech investor contributes to his views on deal sourcing and climate tech investing gives him hope in an era of climate catastrophe.
Episode Notes With Jason Holt from Baruch Future Ventures
- (0:30) What is product-go-to-market fit?
- (3:00) Why isn’t Climate Tech just Cleantech 2.0?
- (8:00) How do you source good deals efficiently?
- (17:00) Who else supports Climate Tech?
- (23:31) What lessons did you learn from your first successful investment that are still relevant today?
- Investment Diligence
- Hard Tech
- Tough Tech
- Carbon Tech
- Technology commercialization
- Synthetic Biology
- Product Market Fit
- Sustainable Protiens
- Climate Catastrophe
- Climate Change
- Solar and Wind Energy
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Jason Holt Interview
[00:00:00] Disclaimer: [00:00:00] This is the Propel(x) podcast, a discussion on investing in all things. Startups, startup investing is highly risky. Please listen carefully to the disclosures at the end of this podcast,
[00:00:16] Andy Reed:
[00:00:16] The time has come and I’m very excited to hand it over to Jason Holt
from Baruch Future Ventures.
[00:00:23] How do companies and I guess more importantly investors think about what is a commodity market versus what is a market where there’s really going to be opportunity?
[00:00:32] Jason Holt:
[00:00:33] We were in the driver’s seat seeing this firsthand and Cleantech 1.0 and the classic example of that are biofuels. And you saw a lot of companies with various industrial biotech solutions to making quote unquote drop-in replacement fuels in many cases, those weren’t dropping replacement.
[00:00:51] So that’s a whole separate concern, but in general, I think the challenge that they saw as the challenge everyone faces with making [00:01:00] commodity goods and the volatility of prices of commodities.
[00:01:03] What we saw towards the tail end of that first wave of Cleantech were some of the few companies that managed to survive, including some in that, using algae as their platform, realized after the fact, Hey, you know what? We might be better off at the scales we’re operating at to target things like cosmetic ingredients. And I think there was maybe simplifying things, but to some degree an epiphany there that I think a lot of the second crop of companies that have emerged in their industrial biotech space have taken a heart.
[00:01:30] We’ve got a portfolio company that worked at one of those algae companies back in the day, and basically internalize those lessons and they are targeting the performance materials market, and specifically for sporting goods and other products where there is a much greater appetite for higher unit prices.
[00:01:49] And if you can kind of get your sea legs doing that and proceed methodically… go to market strategy… then getting to intermediate value goods when you’re at Intermediate scale, and then [00:02:00] ultimately once you’ve fully come down the cost curve, perhaps you can then enter those commodity markets once you’re at massive, whatever the case may be millions or hundreds of thousands of tons per year scale.
[00:02:10] A lot of the companies that we work with have taken that to heart. We have another company, our portfolio also synthetic biology company called Geltor
that has done that quite successfully. Started in cosmetics, but always with the end goal of getting into, the high volume food and beverage applications in this case for a synthetic collagen.
[00:02:28] That to us is really key to capital efficiency. And it’s seemingly logical. In hindsight, of course, I know there were other factors at play in Cleantech 1.0 that pushed a lot of companies to do things backwards .
[00:02:40] Andy Reed:
[00:02:40] So you touched on this term Cleantech 1.0, and I don’t know that that’s something that everyone’s familiar with. What distinguishes 1.0, from where we are today?
[00:02:49] Jason Holt:
[00:02:49] Everyone probably has their own definition of this and it’s not like some well-defined epoch or something like that. I think it roughly started in the early 2000s when a lot of the blue chip VC [00:03:00] firms, Kleiner Perkins
and folks like that got into the space, driven by folks like John Doerr
[00:03:05] I think there was this big awakening in the aftermath of Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth
. And I think it’s spurred a lot of interests in the space and which is good, but I think it also created a bit of froth and it brought investors into this space that really didn’t have the technical discipline or technical training and knowledge of the market and commercial strategies. Playbooks that they used quite successfully in IT-based companies obviously did not translate readily to the space.
[00:03:35] Cleantech in general, also compared to enterprise software or all the other areas in which there’s a lot of VC money, it’s so much more heterogeneous. I mean, you’ve got between companies in the water space or in building technology or in PV or whatever it may be, there’s just such a, so much heterogeneity there that it is hard for anyone venture firm to have all of the necessary expertise to[00:04:00] properly diligence these opportunities and deploy the capital rationally. But now , you were asking about nomenclature.
[00:04:06] You know, everyone has their own term of art nowadays. I think some people call it Climate Tech
. Some like to call it Hard Tech
or Tough Tech MIT Engine
. But I think in general, we’re still, we’re talking about the same thing where those circles in the Venn diagram there overlap.
[00:04:20] Andy Reed:
[00:04:20] Is it the same thing? Because I associate Cleantech, with efficiency and trying to build energy systems that are shades of improvement. Whereas my impression is the general understanding of where we are in global climate change is different than where we were 20 years ago. So the types of solutions or problems that people are trying to face, are different in scope. And maybe I’m wrong because I haven’t been in it.
[00:04:43] But do you feel like there’s a shift in maybe just in sentiment that, is different than where we were 15, 20 years ago?
[00:04:52] Jason Holt:
[00:04:52] The mandate has become a bit broader and certainly there are there are segments or technology segments that I think weren’t even on [00:05:00] people’s radar back, 15, 20 years ago that are there now. Like, as a case in point there’s a lot of attention being paid to de-carbonization and specifically, technologies like direct air capture, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Things like that were just really not on people’s minds 20 years ago. And I think there’s been some maturing of things like carbon pricing and it’s happening very sporadically, but trying to establish carbon markets, which are an essential tool for helping companies like that give them a head start to get their sea legs. So, it’s not entirely marketing and, spin by no means I don’t want to overly simplify that.
[00:05:34] But I do feel like the other big signature moment, probably in the 2010s is the Paris Climate Accords
. You know, the US has just pulled out of that at least for now. But that was another key moment of the last decade or so, that has drawn a lot of attention to how dire the situation is. And,we’re becoming very quantitative about it now. We know that from climate models, if you want to stay within one and a half to two degrees C with 50% probability, this is how [00:06:00] much carbon we have left to emit.
[00:06:02] We’ve put up a finer point on quantitatively as to what we need to do across all segments of our economy if we want to really meet our climate goals. I don’t think we were as specific about it. Maybe the underlying science behind these climate models was not quite as well established if you go back 20 or so years. But I think the positive thing is that it’s brought a lot of new players into the space. My hope is that we don’t have a repeat of what happened before with too many neophytes getting in with the wrong sets of expectations and seeing billions of dollars lit up in smoke.
[00:06:34] Andy Reed:
[00:06:34] I think that’s part of the reason why I wanted to speak with you. You’ve been in this space as an operator and an investor and an advisor essentially throughout your professional career. And one of the reasons I want to speak with you is to understand really how you think about deal sourcing.
[00:06:49] And I thought we could use where you are as an example to talk about that more broadly. With the overall goal of helping people who are interested in the space because of financial returns potentially [00:07:00] because of an interest in aligning their business interests with the interests of broader life on our planet .
[00:07:05] You do have a perspective on this that is very unique. How do you distinguish between like an emerging technology and actually a startup investment opportunity .
[00:07:15] So you mentioned carbon capture. What is the thing, or what are the set of things that occur for you to be like, ‘Oh, you know what? There’s something here to this. I think we could put money behind this.’ What does that process look like?
[00:07:25] Jason Holt:
[00:07:25] First and foremost, this is no big epiphany. We look at the quality of the team. The fortunate thing, working with my colleague, Tom, who has been in this space for decades and has written all kinds of waves, he’s seen a lot of entrepreneurs over his career and many of the investments that are made here for Baruch Future Ventures
have come from serial entrepreneurs.
[00:07:45] That one is a bit of a no brainer. If you’re been in the space long enough, and you worked with people that have taken you to a successful exit. Or even in some cases, if they didn’t, but the circumstances behind that were driven by other factors – too early, the [00:08:00] market wasn’t ready for the innovation or something like that – and you realize that the person you backed internalized , those lessons , that we look out for as well. And we have a company that was started a founder went through that experience directly.
[00:08:12] So the team is, is foremost. And then if it’s not somebody that we haven’t previously backed or have no prior history with, I think coachability is the biggest thing you have to look for.
[00:08:22] You know, we invest pretty early. We’re often the first capital into a company, things that have been freshly spun out of a university or national lab. We worked very closely with a number of companies coming out of accelerators or incubators like Cyclotron Road
. So you don’t have a whole lot to go on there for something that’s brand new like that. Coachability is I think the most critical thing you have to look for from a team assessment point of view.
[00:08:44] And we oftentimes will ask a very provocative question right at the outset, towards the end of the first meeting, we’ll say, so when are you going to replace yourself as a CEO?
[00:08:54] it’s a good question in a sense, because for many people that might provoke a defensive response, which would be [00:09:00] a bit of a red flag, but there, there is a right answer, so to speak, which is…
[00:09:04] Andy Reed:
[00:09:04] You don’t have to give it away all your, your interview secrets now.
[00:09:07] Jason Holt:
[00:09:07] Oh yeah. Well, it’s, it’s easy to see if somebody is just copying from a playbook as opposed to really genuinely believing it.
[00:09:13] But you know, you’re supposed to say, ‘I think I’m the right person for this venture and it’s seed stage, but if we can attract an industry expert as a company grows, and that would be a no brainer for me , to step aside and jump into the CTO seat. It’s typically how it goes. But yeah, I mean, team I think is the most important thing.
[00:09:30] Oftentimes we can find out enough about the market opportunity from market research that’s out there, or even through firsthand. Information, we can get through folks in our network or leveraging a lot of the corporate strategic partners that we work with to substantiate the size of the opportunity the company is going after.That’s usually not, the problem for us.
[00:09:50] And technology is obviously the other critical leg of the stool. But generally speaking, we wouldn’t really do a very deep technical, deep dive on an [00:10:00] opportunity until we really got ourselves comfortable around the team. And it’s to some that might sound strange as very much a high-tech, resource- tech, focused investor, but I think the specific technology a company is commercializing is less important than the team behind it. None of those other things matter if you’ve got a mediocre founding team. The cliche is that you’d rather have an A team behind like a, B or a C technology than you would the opposite.
[00:10:27] Andy Reed:
[00:10:27] So that’s kind of the first gating principle for you. Is this the team that you want to back?
[00:10:31] And then not necessarily are you going to invest, but then that’s the decision for, at what point do you initiate the next phase of diligence. It sounds like technical is really almost last
[00:10:43] Jason Holt:
[00:10:43] It’s about resource allocation for us, right?
[00:10:46] We’re a small group. The technology assessment can take the longest of any aspect of opportunity that we’re looking at, especially if you’re going to look through patents and maybe even do your own prior art search. And so it just makes no sense to start [00:11:00] there. Even though when I started getting into this, that was naturally where I gravitated towards.
[00:11:04] My background, I’m a deeply technical person, but it just doesn’t make sense to do that if you haven’t checked the initial boxes
[00:11:11] Andy Reed:
[00:11:11] If you were thinking about theoretically, let’s just say from an angel perspective or even a later stage investor perspective, is that a, a framework that still stands or do you think it changes as the company gets bigger?
[00:11:22] Jason Holt:
[00:11:22] From a diligence point of view, certainly if you’re looking at growth stage opportunities, I think you would, you tend to focus on other aspects of the business at that point. There’s a bit of a survivorship bias at play. I guess if you’re know, you’re looking at a pre-seed versus a series C company. If a company has made it through three or four rounds of financing at that point, it’s not as if we’re not going to do reference checks on the team and diligence that those elements, but I think we’re a little more comfortable around the team elements, you know, the founders than we would be in something that is brand new. And then it gets, to more critical things, you know, related to commercial success of the [00:12:00] venture.
[00:12:00] By that point, if they’re in growth stage, product, market fit should have been well established at that point, preferably with evidence of traction in the form of some real recurring revenues from customers. I think it’s the flavor of the diligence changes for sure. It becomes a lot more, a lot more quantitative at that point, which is helpful.
[00:12:20] Basically you need to be a psychologist when you’re looking at things in the pre-seed and seed stage and as, as it gets more mature, you don’t have to rely I think as much on gut intuition and, reading people because there are tangible quantitative things that you can look at and in the business absent and all those other things.
[00:12:40] Andy Reed:
[00:12:40] So one of the things that I’m interested to know about is how early you get involved and what does that process look like for you?
[00:12:48] I just know that you take a board seat. You are an advocate for companies really from day one when you start working with them. But you also mentioned that you have a small team. I can’t imagine that you’re at every [00:13:00] university technology unveiling and that you’re in touch with every university tech transfer office. You’re not reviewing all of the postdocs that come out of the top universities every year. It’s a big deal, then there’s a lot of opportunities.
[00:13:12] How do you cut to the chase in terms of your sourcing? Could you talk a little bit about the network development aspect and if that’s been a relevant factor of finding good opportunities?
[00:13:22] Jason Holt:
[00:13:22] I think it comes back to the point I was mentioning earlier. By virtue of working with somebody that’s been doing this since the eighties… the quality of the inbounds, the opportunities that we see is, it’s generally pretty high. A high proportion of the deals that we’ve invested in have come from warm referrals. And that, that makes things, makes things a lot easier on our side. You know, we collaborate pretty closely with Breakthrough Energy Ventures
. Our investment mandates and focus around climate are, are very similar, not, don’t overlap entirely, but I think again , our circles in the Venn diagram are strongly overlapping. Seeing them take [00:14:00] a strong interest in, in a particular opportunity, whether it’s in the, the building technology space or electrification or whatnot, is a strong signal to us that we should be looking at it as well. And we’ve done four deals to date with them largely for that reason. It’s reciprocal too. I think there’s some things that we’ve looked at, that have garnered their interest as well.
[00:14:19] Andy Reed:
[00:14:19] Can you talk a little bit about the ecosystem that you’re operating in, particularly in California, in terms of other people who are either investing in or supporting climate tech companies that you think would be relevant sources for information at the least for prospective investors?
[00:14:35] Jason Holt:
[00:14:35] Cyclotron Road has been great. We’ve been involved with since day one. You know, essentially, at my last company was in essence a poster is your child for that for that model, even before the program was created, because we essentially incubated it at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
. And largely because one of our co-founders was a staff scientist. There had a number of DOE grants that we were [00:15:00] both investigators on, so it created a natural way for us to work closely together and then use some of the resources of the lab. But that’s that firsthand experience I had really opened my eyes to the possibility of doing that, creating a program around that I remember, and some early discussions with their Managing Director, Ilan Gur
, as he was as he was setting that up. And for things that are the things super early are essentially PhD thesis that no VC would back at that state of maturity, that’s a perfect vehicle for maturing those to the point where they would be backable by seed investors. But I think one thing that they would, they would point out and I think it’s worth mentioning , it’s not an accelerator in the traditional sense because they would call it more a fellowship than anything else because they are investing in the person and investing in the team rather than the specific idea. And that’s it’s almost kind of reconciling yourself to the fact that you’re going to [00:16:00] undergo multiple pivots until the company finds a hit. But I think for an organization like that that’s a perfectly good model.
[00:16:08] You find somebody who you think is going to learn from their failures and, after a two year, two or three year fellowship period, they will have zeroed in on something that has commercial potential , is hopefully de-risked technologically and is ready for venture investment. I think some of the opportunities that we have invested in out of there right, as they were starting the program, we’re probably a little more mature than most of the cohort.
[00:16:34] But I think organizations like that are, great either for. investors that want to come in right at the very beginning or track those companies as they go through their discovery process and maybe come in as the first outside capital, once they graduate from the program.
[00:16:51] Andy Reed:
[00:16:51] That brings me to a question I’ve have in general. The NSF
has a lot of grant opportunities and there’s this older infrastructure of transitioning [00:17:00] technology from a national lab or government funding in through a commercialization pathway and into market. Is that the way that we should be thinking about bringing these technologies to market?
[00:17:13] Jason Holt:
[00:17:13] What you might be referring to there, the NSF, at least it’s the icorpse innovation core program, which is something that I I’m very familiar with as, is Tom.I think at the time when I started my first company, it wasn’t part of the curriculum, it wasn’t something you had to go through in order to get a, a phase two SBIR grant. But, but it is now. And I think it has. Infiltrated its way into a lot of other government agencies. Many of the top universities also have a version of this program, which is excellent. It essentially tries to systematize the commercial strategy for these, these early stage companies.
[00:17:48] And, a key component of that is customer discovery, getting on the phone and talking to as many potential end customers for a company’s product or services as possible. And it’s really bringing the [00:18:00] same kind of scientific hypothesis driven process to commercialization as scientists would do to conducting the science.
[00:18:07] That’s resonated nicely with entrepreneurs I’ve talked to that have gone through that process. You know, earlier this year we invested in a company in the energy storage space that went through that program and it makes it makes our job diligencing the opportunity a lot easier too, because there’s some critical mass of conversations that if you’ve gone through, I think you, you can speak with credibility as a founder that you know, that there is a market opportunity here.
[00:18:32] I may have seen some evidence of product market fit already. Even if you don’t have a tangible article that you’ve produced already, you can say, well, I’ve talked to so-and-so and they say, if I can make. If I can make this thing with attributes XYZ at this price, they will buy this many units, that kind of thing. So that, that’s what the whole idea around the icorps program was. And we actually, we generally don’t invest in the funds, but by my colleague, Tom [00:19:00] invested in a fund called M34
that adheres strictly to that program. In fact, they won’t consider… they wouldn’t even conduct any diligence on a company that hasn’t already gone through that process, it’s a very early stage fund like ours, but I say it skews almost even earlier than than we go. and was started by a former NSF program manager, Errol Arkilic, who I knew from back when we were applying for NSF grants and he was the one that started that, that whole curriculum over there.
[00:19:27] Andy Reed:
[00:19:27] That’s a really interesting story. One of the questions I had for you was first investment that you had, that you would kind of consider a success story. Would you be comfortable kind of walking us through. Really kind of, where did that investment come from? Where, you know, when was it kind of in your career and was that something that you could kind of look back at and say, what were the patterns that you could draw from that have served you well, since then?
[00:19:54] Jason Holt:
[00:19:54] It comes back to what we started the conversation with, in backing successful prior [00:20:00] entrepreneurs. I think they’re the first one that I remember. It was right around the time when I first met my colleague, Tom, I think this was in early 2012 right as I was winding down my first company.
[00:20:09] And the name of the company is Calista
, at least at the time it was called Calista Energy. They were developing a biological process for producing various fine chemicals and the quote unquote drop in replacement fuel. Yeah, that’s what you’re talking about – talking about earlier. The really interesting thing about that company, just speaking a little bit to the technology is that they were making use of its specific microorganism called Methanotrophs that can metabolize methane.
[00:20:35] They use methane as their feed sources as opposed to sugars or other, more expensive chemical feedstocks. Natural gas prices, even back then were, were quite low. I think they dipped even lower in the ensuing years. When I compared that company to a lot of the other industrial biotech companies, I was aware of ones trying to use biomass of various kinds and starting with cellulosic feed stocks, I think what made this one really [00:21:00] attractive is just seeing that like right off the bat – they had a intrinsically advantaged, cheap feedstock chemical driving the process. And so you go through and, run the techno economic model. I think it was clear that they had a real leg up on the competition.
[00:21:16] Aside from the various technical advantages that I saw, they, they had the, the, the X factor here is what I talked about earlier. And I can’t take any credit for this, cause I didn’t know any, I didn’t know any of the founders behind this, but my colleague Tom had backed the two founders in previous ventures.
[00:21:33] In fact, the lineage of this company can be traced back to what was probably the very first synthetic biology, a company called Maxygen
, which Tom was an investor in, in the nineties. was a work that spun out of my Alma mater at Caltech Francis Arnold
‘s group, who was last year’s Nobel prize recipient in chemistry. So, really really solid lineage there. There was Maxygen as the first and bio company and then a later enzyme company called [00:22:00] Codexis
, which is where the CEO and, and I believe the CTO came from. And then they subsequently founded this company, Calista, both of the predecessor companies were quite successful. Even absent a lot of technical diligence… pouring over the patent literature.. I think we’re probably already positively predisposed to that one. That was quite helpful.
[00:22:18] The other piece of the story fast forward, a few years, post investment, the really interesting thing about this company. They executed a pretty major pivot three, four years after their founding. Largely for that reason I mentioned earlier. The initial focus was going after chemicals and fuels and more commoditized products. And with oil prices crashing over that period of time, the unit economics started to not make. Make a whole lot of sense, even with methane as your, as your feed stock. And they actually pivoted into a space wherethey’re now operating, which is a protein. So instead of using these microorganisms to make these other chemicals or fuels, what they do is feed them on [00:23:00] methane and harvest the harvest that single-cell protein, that biomass to make high protein feed for aquaculture applications.
[00:23:08] It is an industrial scale process right now, already being used for salmon feed and shrimp feed. They just put out a press release a few months ago about building the first commercial plants in China to bring that process to scale. But there’s opportunities with that as, as a, a protein platform to expand it out of our other verticals, like pet food and eventually human food. It’s a very cheap, sustainable source of protein and has high digestibility and a very solid nutritional profile.
[00:23:38] That one I’d say is really one of the first ones that I looked at. And it’s been really interesting to see how it’s evolved over time. And, you know, I think it’s kind of the poster child for executing a really successful pivot. I know of many companies that have not been able to essentially completely reinvent themselves, go from, you know, making gasoline to making food.
[00:23:58] Andy Reed:
[00:23:58] Totally. That’s a whole other episode [00:24:00] of discussion.
[00:24:00] One of the last question I really have for you is really actually just a personal one. Which is that, quite honestly, it can be very depressing to think about climate catastrophe. We’re already living in an environment where , the sun is blacked out from the sky on certain days. There’s no doubt that we’re in a world and our children will be in a world that is driven by climate. What gives you hope and what are the things that you’re most interested in and excited by as you go to work on a daily basis?
[00:24:31] Jason Holt:
[00:24:31] Going back further in my career, I know I was involved in endeavors that say were not as personally satisfying and feeling like I was just a cog in a, in a very large wheel. But, now, at this point in my career sitting mostly on, on the investment side of the table, I think that my reason for positivity is at least feeling like I’m kind of on the front lines. By virtue of working with a lot of our portfolio companies with the entrepreneurs that are going to come up with the whole [00:25:00] portfolio of solutions that we need for climate.
[00:25:02] And what’s happening in government and going all the way up to the federal level is, is a bit bleak, but I’m cautiously optimistic that things will change in a in a matter of a few months, it will say, well, we’ll see how that plays out.
[00:25:15] But I think the other reason for some optimism here too, is that in a lot of areas of clean tech or climate tech, you’re not, you’re not relying upon direction or economic incentives from the federal government as an example. And the case study in that, and I think that the reason why people in our space should be optimistic, is, look what’s happened to renewables and solar and wind. Even with all of the bluster about coal and trying to continue to support this dying industry, solar and wind has won on its on its own merits. It’s increasingly becoming the economical choice for cheap power. Not just because it’s green, it’s more or less standing on its own two feet right [00:26:00] now. And so I think that pivotal moment, I think you can debate exactly when that crossover point has happened. In many cases,I’ve heard that it’s cheaper to build a new utility scale solar plant than it is to continue to operate coal fired power plant or natural gas is in some cases too. And not to mention nuclear. By seeing that renewable energy has finally reached that tipping point, which I think was going to lead to a greener and greener electrical grid, I think is a one big momentum shift that I think should give us reason for it, for optimism. But a lot of the things that we’re looking at now that also seem pretty daunting, or they seem like where Solar Energy was at 20, 30 years ago, there’s a path for them to scale and become the best solution to the problem.
[00:26:43] Andy Reed:
[00:26:43] That’s a really good point. I think if you look at the amount of money that’s going into wind, as you said, the fact that it’s cheaper to build a new plant from renewables than it is to maintain a current infrastructure on coal. It’s a massive change, that is a totally new [00:27:00] world.
[00:27:00] And so we’re intersecting these worlds where on one hand from a cost basis, we’re kind of arriving or we have arrived at that moment. And then from a needs basis is less exciting, but I need it to happen.
[00:27:15] Jason Holt:
[00:27:15] I also don’t want to be too flippant about it either. When you’re totally upending the energy industry, there’s going to be consequences, negative consequences of that as well. A lot of people in the oil and gas industry that need to be retrained and find new occupations. And that I think people don’t realize there are some areas within clean energy, where there are some obvious synergies and overlap with oil and gas example was in geothermal geothermal portfolio company. Where a lot of the basic operations that they’re involved in are quite familiar to people in the oil and gas industry. People should, should give some consideration to that. I think they don’t just think of these things as threats to these legacy jobs, but they’re, there may be some opportunities there for bringing [00:28:00] folks from these legacy industries into, into the renewable space.
[00:28:04] Andy Reed:
[00:28:04] Total the French energy company has been on a pretty big acquisition spree in renewables
. And you’re seeing those shifts from those existing companies into cleaner portfolios. So I am hopeful and also optimistic and am sharing your belief that there are direct crossover skills. And then also from a corporate strategy perspective there’s interest in shifting companies in general. And so with those companies, hopefully there’ll be continued to be places for people to build meaningful and long lasting careers.
[00:28:37] Jason, I wanted to end just by asking you a little bit about what you’re looking for at Baruch Future Ventures and how people can contact you.
[00:28:45] Jason Holt:
[00:28:45] We look at anything within the resource tech space, principally it’s things in energy, air, water, and food and ag.
[00:28:56] Andy Reed:
[00:28:56] Great. Well, thank you so much for your time today. This was very insightful.
[00:29:00] [00:28:59] Jason Holt:
[00:28:59] Yeah. Thanks Andy
[00:29:03] Andy Reed:
[00:29:03] If you can’t tell, I loved having Jason on this show. I’m really grateful to him for sharing his view on how we can be hopeful today in an era of climate catastrophe, and for his thoughts on how to triage during the sourcing process and to avoid commodity markets. If you’d like to learn more about Jason and what he’s up to visit Baruch Future Ventures, that’s B A R U C H dot VC.
[00:29:27] Likewise, you can keep up with our team by following us on Twitter at Propel underscore X
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[00:29:47] Lastly, if you liked this podcast, please rate it and subscribe on Apple
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