One of the inspiring trends we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing (and working to support) is exceptional entrepreneurs taking on daunting and complex climate challenges, regardless of whether they have prior domain knowledge or related expertise. Time and again, we’ve met founders of far-flung backgrounds who have audaciously committed to tackling the most difficult problems of the climate crisis, due to the gravity of the problem and their feeling of duty to help. This could not be more true than in the case of the founders of Charm Industrial, who a couple of years ago embarked on a mission to return the planet to a state of climate not seen in over two centuries. To this end, the team has developed and patented a process for generating negative emissions by means of converting carbon-rich biomass into bio-oil and injecting it deep underground. This solution, which offers a permanent and scalable way to decarbonize the atmosphere, is just one application of the company’s proprietary bio-oil. Other opportunities the team is exploring include converting it into green hydrogen and syngas for industrial applications in refining, ammonia and steel production. Believing in both its mission and the team executing it, we’re excited to announce our investment in Charm (made last year, but finally announcing!).
The Charm team at its headquarters in California.
What is Charm?
Started by founders Kelly Hering, Shaun Meehan, and Peter Reinhardt, Charm is working to “return the atmosphere to 280 PPM CO2,” which reflects a global carbon dioxide level not seen since before the Industrial Revolution of the mid-1700s. Focused on that mission, it aims to convert large quantities of biomass, eventually from feedstock such as corn stover, wheat straw and other crops, by means of fast pyrolysis into a multi-purpose bio-oil. This viscous carbon-containing substance can be injected deep underground in vast quantities and sold to companies as a negative emission. It can also be further refined into green hydrogen and used as a clean fuel by industry or applied as a replacement for metallurgical coal, which is a driver of emissions in steel production. Validating the first opportunity, Stripe announced last year it would purchase 416 tons of Charm’s bio-oil at $600 per ton as part of the payments company’s negative emissions efforts. Along with many other Stripe customers, MCJ is a Stripe Climate member and part of the proceeds of our memberships go towards supporting projects like Charm’s:
Peter was an early-guest on the MCJ Startup Series last summer (which led to this investment!), in which he shared the genesis and vision behind Charm.
Why Did We Invest?
The founders have robust backgrounds in aerospace engineering, skills which they have applied in developing Charm’s hardware-centric business. In addition, there is experience within the team scaling large, successful companies, given Peter Reinhardt (who is also an MCJ Collective LP!) founded and scaled Segment, a customer data platform that was acquired last year by Twilio. While the business of producing bio-oil is far afield from the world of APIs and B2B software, we believe the ability to execute and scale large, successful companies is as a key advantage in delivering both significant climate and commercial impact.
Addressing Climate Change Head-on and at Scale
Climate change is a complex issue with numerous systemic emissions contributors. Charm is providing a solution that not only addresses the need to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but also helps to decarbonize sectors whose footprints are some of the largest. Fundamental to the success of this mission is to accomplish both propositions at scale, and the team believes they can generate at least a gigaton of carbon removal per year.
Bio-oil converted from wood and sawdust at Charm’s production facility.
A Bold Purpose-Driven Mission
Charm is a business that many would regard as being physically and logistically daunting and scientifically complex but the impact, if they are successful, will be huge. It’s this boldness to take on a challenging new space, determination to address the climate crisis, and incredible track record of the team that convinced us Charm will be one of the leading climate tech companies of our time.
If you are an accredited investor and want to learn more about being an investor in our fund (to back more great companies like this one!), reach out here.