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Coding a Path to Solutions: A Guide to Software in Climate Tech
by Ben Shwab Eidelson and Nathan Eidelson
What’s still preventing the top software builders from working on climate problems?
We spoke to hundreds of them and the answer we heard repeatedly was: “This isn't a software problem.” We strongly disagree. So much so that we wrote A Guide to Software in Climate Tech, and what follows is a summary of the key points.
Software in climate tech builds upon the last 30 years–the rise of the internet, mobile, enterprise SaaS, fintech, and now AI. We can build products that leverage the distribution, personalization, interconnection, and processing capability unique to software and point them right back at our physical world.
- Cody Simms, partner at MCJ Collective
Those that can build software have at their disposal the fastest deployed lever in modern society – let’s look at exactly how.
What is the role of software in delivering value? Software can be the product, output the product, deploy the product, enable the product, or design the product.
We break down software in climate tech into the following spectrum:
Data and Actions – We need APIs for utility data access (Bayou Energy), incentive programs (Eli.build), climate risk (First Street), controlling devices (Enode), and more to be able to build consumer and business-facing flows.
Marketplaces - Recurrent for used EVs, Evergreen for RECs, Patch for carbon removal, InRange for commercial clean energy, Greenwork for talent. New products, funding, services, and people need to be matched across nearly every industry.
Devices – New stoves (Channing St. Copper, Impulse), water heaters (Altus), and cold storage (Therma) that is designed to account for energy patterns. Our homes need upgraded HVAC (Gradient, Quilt, Dandelion Energy) and we want boats (Arc) and RVs (Lightship) with the software of a Tesla.
We need to build for everyone, from consumers to the largest institutions and governments. Approaching a new customer segment may be intimidating for folks coming from traditional tech, but they need not fear – it is much of the same:
Consumers need help navigating the overwhelm of upgrading their personal infrastructure, including transportation, home, and finances.
Businesses face the same challenges as consumers alongside a complex regulatory environment and demands for progress. Just like all other B2B software, we need to address their challenges via both vertical-specific solutions and broad horizontal platforms.
Financiers need help launching new products, better underwriting projects, and analyzing emissions from their activities. This applies whether banks are financing consumer loans, industrial expansions, or large commercial renewable projects.
Governments are pushing major policy and funding initiatives to motivate changes in their regions, and want software tools to manage programs and deploy faster.
No matter who you end up building for, you should speak with the people on the front lines and ask lots of questions. They are excited for you to help.
When it comes time to act, software builders have four potential paths:
1) Change your current company. Not everyone needs to leave their company to impact the climate, in fact most don’t. Drawdown Labs focuses on this concept specifically, and has a wonderful how-to-guide “for employees looking to make every job a climate job.”
2) Join a company. Counter-intuitively, we don’t think you should start with job boards. Use top climate VCs to identify companies aligned with your interests, deeply research the ones that interest you, and then get in touch at all costs. They will sense in you a genuine passion, backed by a clear understanding of what their product is.
3) Advise, consult, or invest. Operate at a higher level until you’re ready to dive in. Being useful to new founders can get you surprisingly far in advising and investing, while finding work as a contractor is not that hard in climate tech.
4) Start a company. This is never easy, climate or not. Good ideas involve making a better product or saving people time and money. YC put out a good list, but it’s no substitute for talking to people.
We are at the beginning of a wave. The existential drive and motivation to work on climate problems are clear, but it can be hard to see how unique this moment is. The scope of this transition requires us to blow on hundreds of dandelions to scatter thousands of seeds of ideas and talented people to build over the decades to come.
We hope you’ll join us.
-Ben & Nathan
Note: We are investors and/or advisors to some of the companies mentioned above, as well as LPs in MCJ Collective.
✍️ The Draw-down
Weekly climate art by Nicole Kelner
🍿 The Lean Back
Check out the latest series, “UnF*cking the Planet,” from our friends at Pique Action.
👩💻 Climate Jobs
Software Engineer at AMP Robotics (Remote)
Staff Electrical Engineer at Artyc (Fremont, CA)
Senior Marketing & Communication Manager at Cirplus (Remote/Hamburg)
Controller at Charm Industrial (San Francisco, CA/ Fort Lupton, CO)
Head of Marketing at Enode (Remote)
Senior Product Designer at LevelTen Energy (Seattle, WA)
Industrial Designer at Lightship (San Francisco, CA)
Accounting Lead at Patch (Remote/US or Canada)
VP of Finance at Remora (Remote)
IT Support Technician at Sense (Cambridge, MA)
Project Manager at Waterplan (Remote/Argentina)
🗓 June Events
Click the event title for details & RSVP info. For more climate events, check out the #c-events channel in MCJ Slack.
🙌 Climate Career Advancement Meetup: If you’re thinking about advancing your career to work in climate, join us for an hour of learning and networking. (6/07)
🌤️ San Diego Meetup: Informal networking event in Miramar (6/07)
🌱 Climate DC: June Meetup co-hosted by Raise Green (6/08)
🍻 Minneapolis / St. Paul Meetup: Monthly gathering for the local climate community. (6/15)
👋 MCJ Community Welcome Call: Connect, share and learn with members. (6/15)
💡 Monthly Idea Jams: Two presenters will pitch their ideas to the group, and attending community members will provide their feedback. (6/16)
☕️ Seattle Climate Tech Coffee Crawl: We will be visiting 6 locations in the area. The full route will be emailed to you after you register. (6/24)
👭 Women in Climate Meetup: Monthly meetup for women who work in, or want to work in, climate. (6/28)
💭 If you have feedback or items you’d like to include, feel free to reach out.
🤝 If you’d like to become an MCJ community member, apply today.
💡 Have a climate-related event or content topic that you'd like to see in the MCJ newsletter? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org