Propelling ocean-based climate tech solutions
By Nick Van Osdol
As we discussed on Thursday, ensuring the ocean remains an ally in mitigating climate change – as opposed to it turning into a reinforcing feedback loop that drives more global warming – is a paramount challenge. Propeller wants to ‘propel’ more venture funding into this focus area; the fund estimates only 1% of climate VC dollars go to ocean-based solutions. As a result, they see both need and significant opportunity in funding companies that harness the ocean’s power, whether to remove carbon, generate energy, or make new materials.
Without further ado, here’s the Q&A. Thanks, Reece, for taking time during a big launch week!
Have you already begun investing out of the fund?
Yup! We have a growing portfolio and have a few more deals closing shortly. Most of those companies are in stealth and/or haven’t announced their funding yet, so we’ll let them share on their own time.
Let’s talk a bit more about what stage you will focus on.
I know it’s cliché for a VC to say, but we like to be early. We focus on pre-seed and seed-stage founders. That’s where most of our experience is and where we can be most helpful. Lots of what we focus on is innovators scaling up their ideas out of a lab. We also see later-stage deals, mainly because other generalist investors and generalist climate funds send us ocean deals for our input/sector experience.
How did you arrive at the three main focus areas for the fund:
The adage is “Don’t boil the ocean,” right? While the ocean is connected to a wide array of industries and opportunities, we tried to distill our focus to a few core themes that would give us the right blend of latitude and focus. We’re interested in Ocean Carbon, Ocean Organics, and Ocean Industrials (read more on those here). We landed on those naturally, as these are areas where we see the greatest opportunity for climate impact, where we see the most opportunity as investors, and where we’re most interested personally. Hopefully, these will all contribute to us literally not boiling the ocean.
Which other fund managers do you all look up to? Were there any who were an impetus or inspiration for this new venture?
We’re lucky that we all have a ton of experience with investors across our partnership. Our partner, Brian Halligan, took HubSpot to IPO and worked with some of the best investors in the world along the way. Meanwhile, our partner Devdutt is a General Partner at CRV (where he’s been for 15 years) and has an incredible track record. So, I feel fortunate to have that experience on our team.
Additionally, some great investors and managers – some of whom we’re lucky to count as mentors and LPs in our fund – have been around for a long time. Then there are emerging managers whom we respect. My main point is that there’s something to be learned from everyone and inspiration to be found everywhere.
What types of talent are most needed at the firms you’re investing in?
Great question. We love seeing the migration of talent into climate tech, but we still need more. Specifically, there’s a lot of engineering work to be done. Many companies we see are in a lab and need to scale up their prototype. They’re often looking for mechanical engineers or process engineers. Some firms are looking for more specific hires, e.g., naval architects or marine engineers. Many are also looking for scientists with particular areas of expertise, like biopolymers. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of talent needed!
Any ocean-based climate techs you wish you had invested in?
Fun question, but it’s phrased as if we missed them already! We think the ocean-climate sector is still just getting started. A couple of companies are now a little beyond our sweet spot in terms of stage, but it’s never too late for a truly excellent investment opportunity!
Where should folks apply and / or dig in to learn more to hone their skills?
We finally made our website live with more information about Propeller and a couple of ways to get in touch. If you’re a founder/company, send us your pitch, or if you’re interested in being an Entrepreneur-In-Residence with us, see here.