Human composting and timber marketplaces: talking “industrial” VC with investor Dayna Grayson

While the venture world is abuzz over generative AI, Dayna Grayson, a longtime venture capitalist who five years ago co-founded her own firm, Construct Capital, has been focused on comparatively boring software that can transform industrial sectors. Her mission doesn’t exclude AI, but it also doesn’t depend on it. Construct recently led a seed-stage round, […]

© 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

Check out the roundtables at TC Sessions: Climate 2022

We’re on the brink of our first deep dive into climate tech at TC Sessions: Climate & The Extreme Tech Challenge 2022 Global Finals on June 14 in Berkeley, California. Join some of the leading scientists, founders, VCs, developers and other visionary climate innovators as we explore the new wave of climate tech and its role in turning back the rising tide of our existential climate crisis.

Don’t miss out: Buy your pass today and save — prices go up at the door.

As you peruse the agenda and plan your schedule, keep this in mind: You’ll find some of the most insightful and downright interesting programming happening in the roundtable discussions. And that, given the heavy hitters in our speaker lineup (ahem, Bill Gates), is saying something.

The roundtables are smaller, expert-led presentations that give you the time to lean into a specific topic, connect with other attendees, engage in meaningful conversations that can potentially lead to interesting opportunities. Regardless, you’re bound to receive valuable insight that can inspire you and help your business.

Take advantage of the knowledge and experience that these experts bring to fighting climate change and check out any (or all) of these roundtables. You’ll be glad you did.

Round tables here

Scaling Deep Tech Startups in Climate with SOSV’s HAX Program

Discussion of some of the challenges/hurdles and approaches to overcome scaling and early commercialization of diverse climate tech companies.

  • Essam Elsahwi (CEO, Pulsenics)
  • Beth Esponnette (co-founder, unspun)
  • Susan Schofer (partner and chief science officer, SOSV/HAX)

Climate Investing Insights with Alumni Ventures

Intimate discussion on investing in climate. Topics: Lessons from Climate 1.0; current trends; macro financial impact; zones of opportunity.

  • Matt Caspari (managing partner, Strawberry Creek Ventures/Alumni Ventures)

How to Solve the #1 Contributor to Climate Change- Food Waste with Full Harvest

Every year, one-third of all edible produce is wasted on farms in the U.S. simply because of cosmetic or surplus reasons, contributing to food waste as the No. 1 contributor to climate change globally. Join Christine Moseley as she discusses how to solve the massive food waste problem at the farm level with technology and innovation.

  • Christine Moseley (founder and CEO, Full Harvest)

Planting the Pre-Seeds: Investing Early In Climate Tech with Obvious Ventures

We have seen a surge in investors and entrepreneurs building companies that address the climate crisis. The solutions, however, are far-reaching: cold fusion, electrified transportation, carbon-free cement and emissions accounting software. How are top investors in the space defining climate tech? What are they looking for in entrepreneurs and ideas at the earliest stages? What is their decision-making process? What trends are they seeing in this space?

  • Andrew Beebe (managing director, Obvious Ventures)


Will burdensome balance sheets and long payback cycles of infrastructure keep the clean tech industry behind?

  • Alex Kopelyan (partner and senior director, IndieBio and SOSV)
  • Jared Moore (founder and CEO, Solid Ox Motors)
  • Parikshit Sharma (partner, SOSV’s IndieBio)
  • Michelle Zhu (CEO, Huue)

Building Trust with Forward-looking Reforestation Carbon Offsets with DroneSeed

With overall demand for carbon offsets increasing and buyers getting more sophisticated, high-quality removal offsets with tangible, verifiable benefits for the climate and local ecosystems are in short supply. At the same time, wildfires are getting bigger, hotter and more frequent, leaving many forested lands struggling to recover naturally. A new approach to forestry-based offsets that focuses on planting trees and the CO2 they will capture as they grow offers a solution to both challenges. Learn about ex-ante (forward-looking) forestry-based carbon offsets, why they represent new, promising approaches to post-fire forest recovery and how they provide a better supply of high-quality carbon removal offsets in the marketplace.

  • Cassie Meigs (director of Account Management, DroneSeed)

Accelerating Climate Solutions from Discovery to Deployment with UC Berkeley

What role should universities play in developing and transferring innovative and equitable solutions to the climate crisis?

  • Kathy Yelick (vice chancellor for Research, UC Berkeley)

Why the Next Big Entrepreneur Must Come from Climate Tech with Fifth Wall

We have arrived at a time where climate change is finally being acknowledged as a true climate crisis. From historic fires in Europe and Australia, record-breaking hurricanes to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, nearly every region in the world has been heavily affected. As a result, it is now a financial and moral imperative to make climate technology a main priority of humanity, and for this reason, we need to encourage and support young entrepreneurs developing these technologies. We need the brightest scientists, entrepreneurs and lawyers and financiers involved to make a significant difference to the future.

  • Peter Gajdoš (partner — co-leads the Climate Technology Investment Team, Fifth Wall)

The Future of Green Buildings — Flexible, Smart, Carbon-Free with ProspectSV

Commercial real estate is evolving quickly, from the rise of vehicle charging and renewable energy to a new focus on indoor environments. Let’s have a talk about the opportunities coming to build and manage buildings that are adaptive to new demands, responsive to needs, cost-effective and sustainable. We’ll also discuss the big frontier — building portfolios ripe for new solutions and services.

  • Doug Davenport (founder, Executive Director, ProspectSV)

Climatech — How to Make it Different This Time? with Khosla Ventures

What can startups learn from the successes and failures of Clean tech 1.0? How do we ensure a lot more successful outcome this time?

  • Rajesh Swaminathan (partner, Khosla Ventures)

Building a Food System for the Next 1,000 Years with Iron Ox

Join Brandon Alexander, CEO and co-founder of Iron Ox, to discuss how his team is revolutionizing the future of farming using A.I. and robotics to make the next generation of our global food system more sustainable, scalable and delicious.

  • Brandon Alexander (co-founder and CEO, Iron Ox)

AI in Farming: The Key to Sustainable Agriculture with Farmwise

There is a lot AI can do to help farmers reduce their environmental impact. We’ll dive into climate-smart farming strategies and applications of AI in farming today and tomorrow.

  • Sébastien Boyer (co-founder and CEO, FarmWise)

TC Sessions: Climate takes place in Berkeley, California on June 14 with an online event to follow on June 16. Buy your pass today and join the new wave of entrepreneurs dedicated to fighting climate change.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions Climate 2022? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

5 great reasons to attend TC Sessions: Climate next week

Honestly, there are a lot more than five great reasons, but you’re all busy so we’re going to cut to the proverbial chase. And these five should be enough to make just about anyone eager to attend TC Sessions: Climate & The Extreme Tech Challenge 2022 Global Finals on June 14 — that’s next week! — at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. 

Pro Tip: Buy your pass now and save $100 (prices go up at the door) Bonus: Your pass includes access to the online event that follows on June 16.

Ready? Here are the five great reasons.

1. SOSV’s Climate Tech Meetup: The first reason to attend TC Sessions: Climate actually takes place the night before the conference begins. SOSV — the number one climate tech investor, publisher of the annual SOSV Climate Tech 100 list and producer of the annual Climate Tech Summit — will host a meetup on June 13 from 6:00 – 9:00 pm PT in downtown Berkeley. Join the climate tech community, founders from SOSV’s Climate Tech 100 and the teams at SOSV, HAX and IndieBio for a fun meetup with great conversation and networking — plus beer, wine and snacks. Tickets are $20 ($5 for students). Register here.

2. A slate of world-class speakers: You’ll hear from leading voices at the forefront of fighting climate change. The roster includes climate philanthropists, policy makers and entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, U.S. Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, Impossible Food’s Pat Brown and so many more.

3. Roundtable discussions: These smaller, expert-led sessions focus on a single topic. You’ll have time to dig into specifics and ask questions for deeper conversations and connections. You’ll find specific descriptions, times and locations for these 12 roundtable discussions in the event agenda.

  • Scaling Deep Tech Startups in Climate with SOSV’s HAX Program
  • Climate Investing Insights with Alumni Ventures
  • How to solve the Number One Contributor to Climate Change – Food Waste with Full Harvest
  • Planting the Pre-Seeds: Investing Early In Climate Tech with Obvious Ventures
  • CAPEX CAPEX CAPEX with SOSV’s IndieBio
  • Accelerating Climate Solutions from Discovery to Deployment with UC Berkeley
  • Building trust with forward-looking reforestation carbon offsets with DroneSeed
  • Why the next big entrepreneur must come from climate tech with Fifth Wall
  • The Future of Green Buildings – Flexible, Smart, Carbon-Free with ProspectSV
  • Building a food system for the next 1,000 years with Iron Ox
  • Climatech: How to make it different this time? with Khosla Ventures
  • AI in Farming: The Key to Sustainable Agriculture with Farmwise

4. Explore the cutting edge of climate tech: Don’t miss these 20 early-stage climate-tech startups exhibiting at the show. They span a wide range of innovative climate tech solutions. Go meet them and greet them. You never know where you might find your next collaboration, investment or internship opportunity.

5. The Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC)  2022 Global Finals: Don’t miss this competition when 10 XTC category finalists (selected from nearly 2,000 applicants across 100 countries) and three special award winners pitch their innovative startups with the potential to radically improve the world. Which startup will be crowned the Grand Winner of XTC 2022?

Those are just five of the many great reasons to join us next week at TC Sessions: Climate on June 14. Buy your pass today and save $200 before prices go up at the door. Then get ready for inspiration — and maybe even hope — as you explore the new wave of climate tech and the people taking action to make it happen.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions Climate 2022? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

GPS signals could detect tsunamis better and faster than seismic sensors

GPS networks are already a crucial part of everyday life around the world, but an international team of scientists has found a new, potentially life-saving use for them: tsunami warnings.

Researchers from University College London and universities across Japan studied the ability of the GPS network to detect tsunamis, concluding that instruments can indeed detect the destructive waves from space. They’ve also determined that GPS can provide more detailed information than current detection systems — at an extremely low cost — allowing authorities to issue more accurate warnings in advance of a tsunami’s impact on shore.

Tsunamis are created when ocean water is dramatically displaced by earthquakes, landslides, or volcanic eruptions. In the deep ocean, the waves are usually less than a foot high, but as they approach land at speeds up to 500 miles per hour, they grow in height rapidly before inundating a shoreline. GPS networks can detect these waves long before they reach land.

Though the disturbance at the ocean’s surface is slight, it’s enough to create a ripple effect through the atmosphere. As air is pushed upward, an acoustic wave travels all the way to the ionosphere, some 186 miles above the Earth, amplifying in scale as it travels. There, the density of electrons in the ionosphere is reduced by the wave, which directly affects the radio signals sent from GPS satellites to ground receivers. The researchers have developed a way to interpret the changes in radio signals to glean critical information about tsunamis.

Animation of particles disturbing the ionosphere above a tsunami.

Image Credits: University College London

Currently, tsunami warnings are issued based on seismic activity. The warnings are not necessarily very accurate, only indicating that a tsunami may happen at some point in the near future, but providing little other detail.

“In 2011, Japan’s warning system underestimated the [Tōhoku] wave’s height. A better warning may have saved lives and reduced the widespread destruction that occurred, allowing people to get to higher ground and further away from the sea,” Professor Serge Guillas of UCL Statistical Science and the Alan Turing Institute and senior author of the paper said in a press release. “Our study, a joint effort by statisticians and space scientists, demonstrates a new method of detecting tsunamis that is low-cost, as it relies on existing GPS networks, and could be implemented worldwide, complementing other ways of detecting tsunamis and improving the accuracy of warning systems.”

The researchers suspect that if GPS data had been used during the Tōhoku disaster, an accurate tsunami warning could have been issued at least 10 minutes before the wave reached land, potentially giving more people time to prepare for impact.

The team believes that with further research, they will be able to more precisely determine the size and shape of tsunamis based on GPS radio signals.

“From my experience of working for the Japanese government in the past and seeing the damage caused by the tsunami, I believe that if this research comes to fruition, it will surely contribute to saving lives,” said Ph.D. researcher Ryuichi Kanai of UCL Statistical Science and the Alan Turing Institute, who co-authored the paper.

The researchers’ study was published in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences last month.

One week left to save $200 on passes to TC Sessions: Climate 2022

Whether you’re an early-stage startup founder, scientist, developer, investor or other visionary climate innovator, you can’t afford to miss out on the abundant opportunities at  TC Sessions: Climate 2022 (featuring the Extreme Tech Challenge 2022 Global Finals). 

Our first climate tech summit takes place in person at UC Berkley’s Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley, California on June 14 — with an online day to follow on June 16.

You know what else you can’t afford to miss? Our early-bird pricing, which disappears next week. Buy your pass by 11:59 pm (PT) on May 6, and you’ll save $200. 

What can you expect at TC Sessions: Climate? More than 1,000 people determined to save our planet will gather to hear from, and engage with, in-the-know early-stage founders, CEOs, scientists, researchers, engineers and the VCs who fund them.

TechCrunch editors will interview the leading voices in the fight against climate-change — like Impossible Foods’ founder and chief visionary officer, Pat Brown. The connection between climate change and farming animals for food inspired him to create a better plant-based meat. 

That’s just one example of many more to come. The agenda, which we’ll announce in a few weeks, will be packed with panel discussions, 1:1 interviews and breakout sessions, plus smaller, topic-driven roundtables where you can drill down in greater detail for deeper conversation, connection and collaboration.

Do you want to speak at this event or recommend a speaker? TechCrunch editorial is accepting speaker recommendations through May 6. Fill out this application, and you will receive notification by May 13.

Don’t forget to head over to the expo floor where you’ll find dozens of boundary-pushing early-stage climate tech startups displaying their tech and talent. It’s fertile ground for networking with like-minded climate-savers, discovering opportunities to collaborate or maybe even meet a potential co-founder or baby unicorn. Check out the demos, try some lab-grown foods and see the latest in green building tech.

While we’re talking about networking, make life easier on yourself and use CrunchMatch. Our free, AI-powered business matchmaking platform helps you quickly find and schedule meetings with people who align with your business goals.

TC Sessions: Climate 2022 takes place on June 14 in Berkeley, California (with an online day June 16), but your chance to score the early-bird price ends Friday May 6 at 11:59 pm (PT). You want to reduce waste, right? Beat the deadline, buy your early-bird pass and save $200!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions Climate 2022? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Without sustainable practices, orbital debris will hinder space’s gold rush

Look up at the sky — hundreds of discarded satellites, spent upper-stage rocket bodies, and mission-related objects circle Earth, posing a risk to space-based services and future missions that will support what is projected to be a trillion-dollar space economy.

According to the European Space Agency, more than 36,500 cataloged objects larger than 10 cm are currently orbiting Earth, along with millions of pieces smaller than 1 cm. Not surprisingly, any collision in orbit can be catastrophic. Traveling at more than 7 km per second — faster than a high-speed bullet — even a 1 cm piece of debris can cause significant damage to a spacecraft and end an entire mission.

Today’s sustainability crisis in space is the result of 60 years of exploration and utilization that have largely ignored the environmental consequences of space activities and treated satellites and other space assets as single-use objects.

The consequence of this approach is an unsustainable model that increases costs and puts the tremendous promise of the space economy at risk. Low-Earth orbits are already so populated that satellite operators are forced to assess conjunctions and perform debris-avoidance maneuvers that consume valuable resources and can disrupt services.

Who’s taking responsibility?

Technical measures alone cannot solve the space sustainability problem. The on-orbit servicing market must be driven by national space policies and international standards that directly support satellite servicing. National regulatory policies are struggling to keep pace with the advancement of technology, the growth of the satellite population, and the development of new activities in orbit.

While multilateral UN provisions, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 2019 Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, provide high-level guidance, specific licensing practices must be created and implemented by national regulatory agencies in individual countries.

There is no template for the implementation of these guidelines and high-level agreements on an internationally coordinated basis, and global space activity is not under the control of any single national or international entity. Hence, there is no common set of rules that govern global space activity and no mechanisms to ensure the proper disposal of hardware at the completion of space missions. Nor is there any coordinated effort to clean up the decades of space debris already accumulated in orbit.

Attitudes are changing, however, and over the past year, we have seen a significant shift in the urgency around the issue. In June 2021, G7 member nations released a statement confirming orbital debris as one of the biggest challenges facing the space sector and pledged to commit to the safe and sustainable use of space.

While this statement represents a valuable acknowledgment of the scope of our problems with space sustainability, it’s only a step in the right direction. Key players across the international community, from national governments to private commercial companies, must start developing and coordinating space traffic and environmental management.

On-orbit services – the key to a sustainable future

To date, satellite operators haven’t had options for reducing the risks to their satellites in orbit. However, on-orbit servicing is changing this risk scenario. D-Orbit, Astroscale and ClearSpace are joining forces to move the space sector into an era of sustainability, turning on-orbit servicing into an emerging reality.

On-orbit servicing is comparable to roadside car servicing on Earth. Nobody would ever abandon a car in the middle of the highway because the fuel tank is empty or the battery charge runs out. Yet this is exactly how most satellite operators have worked since the dawn of the Space Age, leaving these metaphorical “orbital highways” more congested.

According to applications submitted to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and International Telecommunications Union, the number of satellites in low Earth orbit is projected to increase by anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 satellites by 2030, and a single system of over 300,000 satellites has recently been proposed. This growth promises to make a serious issue exponentially worse.

The deployment of a geostationary satellite typically costs $150 million to $500 million. Over the next 15 years, more than 100 geostationary satellites will reach their planned retirement age, driving satellite operators to pursue options for extending the value of their assets, rather than just replacing them. By extending the life of a satellite, servicing enables commercial and institutional operators to be more deliberate in how they use their capital.

Satellite operators — particularly those building larger constellations — can install a low-cost interface on their satellites before launch to reduce the cost and complexity of any future service that might be required. When a satellite fails or reaches the end of its life, a servicer spacecraft can remove it, much like a tow truck assists broken-down cars on a roadway, keeping orbits clear and reducing collision risks to other satellites, including those belonging to the same constellation.

When we extend removal services to on-orbit inspection, operators can assess the condition of their satellites more completely when anomalies arise. With on-orbit relocation services, operators can deliver their satellites from initial deployment to their intended operational orbits, make adjustments to compensate for natural decay, reposition assets within a constellation to address coverage issues, or relocate them to compensate for faults, all without expending their own fuel budget.

As with any other long-term plan requiring significant investments in research and development — like the space race of the 1950s — national governments have an essential role in jump-starting sustainable orbital infrastructure. Active debris removal services are set to emerge, with both the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency funding debris removal missions in low-Earth orbit in partnership with private entities like ClearSpace and Astroscale.

While solving this global issue requires significant public and private investments, along with systemic changes in the industry, the potential rewards are virtually unlimited. The space economy — a new, unbounded playing field — has the potential to impact life on our planet and open a new frontier across our solar system and beyond.

Brazil’s iFood outlines sustainability initiatives aiming to reduce its carbon footprint

The Brazilian-based pan-Latin American food delivery startup iFood has announced a series of initiatives designed to reduce the company’s environmental impact as consumers push companies to focus more on sustainability.

The program has two main components — one focused on plastic pollution and waste and another aiming to become carbon neutral in its operations by 2025.

Perhaps the most ambitious, and surely the most capital intensive of the company’s waste reduction initiatives is the development of a semi-automated recycling facility in Sao Paulo.

“We want to transform the entire supply chain for plastic-free packaging in Brazil. By controlling the national supply chain, from production to marketing and logistics, we can offer more competitive pricing for packaging to industries that already exist but do not have a scale of production and demand today,” said  Gustavo Vitti, the chief people and sustainability officer at iFood. 

 The company has also created an in-app option that allows customers to decline plastic cutlery when they’re getting their food delivered. 

“These initiatives will contribute to reducing the consumption of plastic items, which are often sent without being requested and end up going unused into the garbage bin,” said Vitti. “In the first tests that we did, 90 percent of consumers used the resource, which resulted in the reduction of tens of thousands of plastic cutlery and shows our consumers’ desire to receive less waste in their homes.”

On the emissions front, the company will work with Moss.Earth, a technology company in the carbon market, which developed the GHG inventory to offset its emissions by buying credits tied to environmental preservation and reforestation projects. 

But the company is also working Tembici, a provider of electric bikes in Brazil to move its delivery fleet off of internal combustion powered mopeds or scooters.

“We know that compensation alone is not enough. It is necessary to think of innovative ways to reduce CO2 emissions. In October last year, we launched the iFood Pedal program, in partnership with Tembici, a project developed exclusively for couriers that offers affordable plans for renting electric bikes,” said Vitti. “Currently, more than 2,000 couriers are registered and are sharing 1,000 electric bikes in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in addition to the educational aspect of program that we have contemplated. With good adherence indicators, our plan is to gradually expand the project, taking it to other cities and, thus, increase our percentage of clean deliveries.”

The Brazilian electric motorcycle company, Voltz Motors is also working with iFood, which ordered 30 electric motorcycles for use by some of its delivery partners. The company hopes to roll out more than 10,000 motorcycles over the next 12 months. 

Coupled with internal facing initiatives to improve water reuse, deploy renewable energy and develop a green roof at its Osasco headquarters, iFood is hoping to hit sustainability goals that can improve the environment across Brazil and beyond. 

“We know that we have a long way to go, but we trust that together with important partners and this set of initiatives, in addition to others that are under development, it will be possible to reduce plastic generation and CO2 emissions impact on the environment. Our relevance and presence in the lives of Brazilian families further reinforces the importance of these environmental commitments for the planet,” said Vitti.

India’s first Earth-imaging satellite startup raises $5 million, first launch planned for later this year

Bengaluru-based Pixxel is getting ready to launch its first Earth imaging satellite later this year, with a scheduled mission aboard a Soyuz rocket. The roughly one-and-a-half-year old company is moving quickly, and today it’s announcing a $5 million seed funding round to help it accelerate even more. The funding is led by Lightspeed India Partners, and includes participation from Blume Ventures and growX ventures, as well as a number of angel investors.

This isn’t Pixxel’s first outside funding: It raised $700,000 in pre-seed money from Techstars and others last year. But this is significantly more capital to invest in the business, and the startup plans to use it to grow its team, and to continue to fund the development of its Earth observation constellation.

The goal is to fully deploy said constellation, which will be made up of 30 satellites, by 2022. Once all of the company’s small satellites are on-orbit, the the Pixxel network will be able to provide globe-spanning imaging capabilities on a daily basis. The startup claims that its technology will be able to provide data that’s much higher quality when compared to today’s existing Earth imaging satellites, along with analysis driven by PIxxel’s own deep learning models, which are designed to help identify and even potentially predict large problems and phenomena that can have impact on a global scale.

Pixxel’s technology also relies on very small satellites (basically the size of a bear fridge) that nonetheless provide a very high quality image at a cadence that even large imaging satellite networks that already exist would have trouble delivering. The startup’s founders, Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal, created the company while still in the process of finishing up the last year of their undergraduate studies. The founding team took part in Techstars’ Starubst Space Accelerator last year in LA.