Last year, the Biden administration passed the groundbreaking Inflation Reduction Act, a so-called “climate bill” that unlocked $369 billion in funding and incentives to try and stop global warming. Since, the bill has added over 100,000 clean energy jobs to the American economy and companies have announced over $110 billion in clean energy manufacturing investments.
However, for some, there are still roadblocks to accessing the billions in not only federal money but state and local climate tech funding and incentives. For one, it can be very confusing. The IRA alone involves 137 different programs, as of this month, divided over a plethora of government agencies.
"For thousands of climate tech companies, access to non-dilutive funding can make or break their growth trajectory," said Mitko Simeonov the CEO of San Francisco-based startup Pioneer.
Pioneer is an “outsourcing incentives team” for climate tech companies, as the startup likes to put it. The service uses artificial intelligence and experts to win several funding incentives, proposals, grants, loans, and more for companies based on sector, business model, and capital needs. The startup identifies the most relevant opportunities, manages application timelines, allocates resources, coordinates successful applications, and finally applies for opportunities, automating parts of the application.
The service spans the climate tech industry from energy storage and EV charging station grants to opportunities for advanced energy manufacturing, and battery and critical mineral recycling.
Earlier this month, the startup announced the close of a $2.9 million seed round led by Blue Bear Capital, with participation from Collaborative Fund, Soma Capital, Cool Climate Collective, and Kayan Ventures. "Our seed round will enable us to speed up development and serve more entrepreneurs looking to rapidly deploy and scale key climate solutions,” Simeonov said in a statement.
Ultimately, Pioneer wants to serve as an extension of climate companies’ teams. Since its launch in February, Pioneer has gone on to help several companies access unknown funding opportunities, which according to these companies, has been a game-changer.
"We’ve already applied for three awards in the first two months, which is a huge feat based on the amount of effort it takes to complete a single application. I can confidently say we would not have been able to accomplish this without Pioneer," Nick Rinaldi, the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Blue Line Battery, a Wisconsin-based industrial lithium-ion battery company, is quoted in saying on the company’s site.
As it is currently accepting companies to add to its waitlist, the seed funding will help it meet the increasing demand, a steadily rising sector, as climate investments are expected to rise $16.6 billion this coming quarter, according to an analysis by BloombergNEF. That’s a 63% increase from last quarter, showing the increasing prevalence of climate companies, and underscoring the growing numbers.
As TechCrunch reported at the end of this summer, since the IRA’s inception, 270 new clean energy projects have been announced, with a 65% increase in companies related to EV charging, and a 72% increase in startups tackling hydrogen technologies, along with skyrocketing interest in carbon capture and storage, energy transmission, solar, and long duration storage.
"There is a lot of hype in both AI and climate tech, but what Mitko and the team at Pioneer have built is truly impactful," Ernst Sack, a partner at Blue Bear Capital said in a statement. "Parsing and matching huge amounts of written data for a process that's non-core to your daily operations: that is a perfect job for LLMs,” he added referring to a type of AI algorithm known as a large language model, that specializes in massively large data like that of the neverending stream of climate grants.
“Informed by Pioneer's industry expertise, their LLMs are already revealing millions of dollars of new funding for companies that otherwise don't have the bandwidth or experience to navigate the complexity of grant, program, and credit funding,” Sack said.