Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley business accelerator famous for launching tech businesses like Airbnb, Doordash, Coinbase, and Dropbox, just held its most recent demo days — where startups from around the world debut their companies in front of an audience of investors.
Among all of the traditional tech plays focusing on making businesses run more efficiently, advertising more effective, programming more automated, and consumers more educated and entertained there were a slew of innovators working on climate change mitigation and sustainability.
The technologies on offer ranged from reducing CO2 in the oceans to using microbes to get rid of plastics, to electric air taxis that can make the trip from Malibu to the Mission in San Francisco much easier and more affordable. There were event companies looking to clean up space garbage.
Amid the daily drumbeat of disasters that are hitting the front pages these days, there’re folks working on solutions and here’s a list (culled from the exhaustive, amazing, and invaluable reporting from TechCrunch) of the ones that made the cut for tech’s most famous accelerator.
Phykos: Built by former GoogleX mechanical engineers and software development geniuses, this company uses robotics and machine learning to grow carbon capturing seaweed and sells the offsets to companies that are looking to zero out their greenhouse gas emissions.
Abatable: The greening of the financial services industry is a thorny problem, since a lot fo the so-called ESG advisors often have some pretty unsustainable businesses in their portfolios. This company is greening automated money management by focusing on creating investment portfolios containing companies laser-focused on carbon removal.
Ferveret: Data centers are huge, energy sucking monsters. And as our need for (Internet) speed and data hogging digital goods increases, finding ways to reduce how much energy they consume is vitally important. Ferveret purports to do just that. The company faces some competition from businesses like Submer, but it has landed two paid pilot contracts with the energy giant Enel and Crusoe Energy (the company converting abandoned natural gas wells into bitcoin mining and data center stations).
Coulomb AI: When electric vehicles become THE cars on the road, folks are going to need all sorts of things about the batteries that power them. Knowing when they need to be replaced, how much that replacement could cost, and what could those batteries potentially be used for next is a tricky problem. Those insights are what Coulomb AI is looking to provide to its customers. The issue is starting to get attention from some of the biggest names in the auto industry, with no less important a player than Cox Automotive buying into the business.
Buoyant Aero: Your next package could be delivered by an electric-powered blimp, if the folks at Buoyant Aero have their way. The company claimed its solution is four times more efficient than using small aircraft, according to TechCrunch’s reporting. They’ve already built four airships and are looking to traverse Middle America with their blimps to tackle the middle-mile rural delivery market. A business that’s currently worht a whopping $6 billion.
SolarMente: Spanish company SolarMente wants to make solar financing for European homeowners a breeze. The company’s offering a service that handles installation and financing for a cost of around $10,000 to its customers. According to TechCrunch, they’re already bringing in $120,000 per month.
QOA: Chocolate and coffee are two of life’s little pleasures, but they both come at a significantly high cost for the planet. Chocolate is the fifth most carbon intensive food and coffee comes in at number six on the list. That’s why there are companies like QOA, looking to make cocoa free chocolate. That means less risk of deforestation from cacao growers as their existing cropland becomes threatened by climate change. Carbonfact: How cool would it be if consumer product companies listed the carbon footprint of their products in the same way they list ingredients or materials? That’s what Carbonfact could enable with their carbon footprint database for consumer offerings. It’s a tool that could certify the low-carbon-output of products and could rank a company’s products against industry averages, according to TechCrunch.
BluumBio: Pollution remediation through biological engineering? Sign me up. BluumBio is one of the companies that looks to be creating better living through biology. If companies can find ways to safely bioengineer solutions for the kinds of problems the chemical industry has created, that’s fantastic. And BluumBio’s mission is to do just that. Taking sites polluted by microplastics, heavy metals, or petrochemicals and introducing their specifically engineered microorganisms to gobble them up. The company’s microbes already have been approved by regulators for use and are heading for field trials now.
Greenwork: Every job is going to be a green job, and many of these green jobs are going to require blue-collar workers with real industrial skills to get things done. That’s why companies like Greenwork could be well-positioned to help handle the demand and ensure that the green revolution is one that benefits and is accessible to the people who’re going to be on the front lines of making things happen. Instacrops: Agriculture is a big, carbon-intensive and water intensive business. So anything that can make the industry operate more efficiently is a boon for the world. Instacrops is bringing the huge boom in tech innovation that’s swept the U.S. (agtech startups raised $6 billion last year) to Latin America. The company aims to help farmers maximize yields using sensors and drones giving them better data to make the best decisions for their farm operations.
Pylon: Flooding, wildfires, hurricane wind damage, are all massive problems that the providers of basic infrastructure in America are ill-equipped to deal with. That’s where Pylon comes in. The company pitched itself as a platform to help water and electric companies manage infrastructure. It’s a business that’s already profitable — unsurprising given the stresses these companies are under.
Waterplan: The drought that’s created crippling water shortages in the American West isn’t going to be a once-in-a-century problem. The declaration of the first water shortage for the Colorado River meant businesses and consumers in Nevada and Arizona could draw less water. Waterplan has software that can help businesses plan for and manage that risk. In its first year in business the company already has $345,000 in annual recurring revenue from 12 pilot customers, according to TechCrunch’s reporting.
Heimdal: All of the problems that increased greenhouse gas emissions are causing on land are, unfortunately, also happening under the sea. It’s not something that has gotten a lot of attention, but about 90% of the excess heat from climate change is absorbed by oceans. Oceans have also helped things from getting worse by absorbing CO2, but as the planet warms the seas will absorb less CO2. That’s the problem, and Heimdal has a potential solution. The company is pulling chemicals and minerals out of the ocean for use in cement manufacturing and other industrial processes. It’s applying some of the same tech that’s gaining traction above ground to the watery depths. And it’s necessary. Craft Aerospace: Imagine an electric flying taxi that could make the trip from Malibu to San Francisco’s mission district emissions-free. Now imagine it’s pretty affordable. That’s the future Craft Aerospace is designing with its radical new vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The company wants its planes to be used within cities and intends them to help with navigating the urban sprawl of massive metropolises like Houston and Los Angeles. Connecting the exurbs to cities in novel ways could be a big business. TechCrunch as more about their new approach here.
Turion Space: Can we make space more sustainable? That’s the reported goal for Turion Space, which is hoping to build spacecraft that can remove stuff from orbit — and eventually service satellites and mine asteroids. There’s a big booming business in space right now and it’s going to be transforming our night skies. It’s also going to create even more junk and debris around things. If Turion can ensure that we don’t litter space the way we’ve already littered earth, then that’s a clean business we probably can all get behind.