The deadline to apply for Cohort 12 has passed. If you are an entrepreneur looking to scale a transformative technology that brings both climate and social impact, stay in touch for future funding opportunities.
Why Project Track
We support later stage, high-impact companies with commercial project deployments by buying down the risk of trying something new and transformational. We want to fund a new product offering, a new business model, a new customer segment and/or geographic expansion. The most compelling projects are designed with Elemental’s Square Partnerships model in mind, and include a strategy to engage with and compensate community-based partners.
$1M of funding and tailored support to deploy a transformational project in any global market
How have our companies leveraged the Project Track for growth?
"A lot of the work that we’re doing is affecting people’s real lives but you need resources and partnerships to create systemic change. Elemental gave us the reinforcement and support around that model and it gave us a lot of confidence that we could do this and replicate it."
"It’s hard to quantify the credibility that being an Elemental portfolio company gives us to other investors, hires, customers, and our peers. That vote of confidence was more than just a little encouragement. Elemental's initial funding, plus a [follow-on convertible note], plus customers we've met through its events have turned us into an operationally profitable company."
"We continue to be humbled by the quality of people within the Elemental team and network. It is truly an incredible bunch of passionate, highly capable and highly connected climate tech leaders. Being a member of this community has supercharged our global expansion efforts."
Our Work In Action
Community-based organizations, leaders and nonprofits are uniquely positioned to help design projects in a way that reflects the values and culture of their communities. Through deploying over 100 climate tech projects in more than 30 countries, we learned that this strengthens a project’s impact on startups, their customers and the communities where projects are being deployed.
A new model for more equitable project deployment
Elemental’s Square Partnerships model is built upon the conviction that innovation succeeds best when it engages the community early and often. You are encouraged to collaborate with three key stakeholders from design to implementation: customers, community-based organizations and investors / funders. We have developed a toolkit to help you implement this new model that includes case studies from Elemental portfolio companies that have used this model for their Project Track deployments.
Mast Reforestation (formerly DroneSeed) makes rapid reforestation scalable by deploying custom-designed drones for aerial seeding alongside traditional seed planting methods. In a project backed by Elemental, Mast deployed its technology in Oregon’s Henry Creek area, which was heavily damaged by a 2020 wildfire that burned more than 200,000 acres. The project restored eight native tree species across 300 acres, with more than 200,000 total projected tons of CO2 removed. The company also prioritized environmental justice in the project design, which included a Tree Seed Summit held in collaboration with tribal communities. It serves as an example of one of the first projects under the Climate Action Reserve’s Climate Forward program, which helps organizations invest in future carbon removal.
Applications open for Elemental's Cohort 12
March 13, 2023
Applications will be reviewed as they come in and select applicants will be invited to progress through interview rounds on a rolling basis.
Priority application deadline
April 14, 2023
Companies are encouraged to apply early and increase their chances of securing a spot in Cohort 12.
Interviews and reference calls
April – July 2023
Select applicants will be invited to share more about their technology, business and strategy for scaling impact. We will also spend time getting to know their customers, investors and community partners.
May 31, 2023 | 11:59 p.m. PT
This is the final deadline to submit an application for Cohort 12. The sooner you apply, the better chance you have at securing a spot in the cohort. It is possible that the cohort is filled ahead of the final application deadline so we encourage you to submit an application as soon as possible.
Selection and onboarding
May – October 2023
Cohort offers will be made on a rolling basis. Following program acceptance, companies will become acquainted with Elemental’s team, systems and services. Project Track companies will work to finalize their Scope of Work and kick off their projects.
Cohort Kickoff and CEO & Leadership Summit
Cohort 12 companies will spend time in person getting to know the Elemental team, fellow cohort members and our partners through workshops and facilitated discussions. Then, we'll be joined by other alumni CEOs and and leaders from the Elemental portfolio to share knowledge and connect.
Project execution and closeout
Approximately 16 months after project launch
The Not-So-Fine Print | Funding & Equity
Each company selected into our Cohort 12 Project Track receives $1M. We typically use either a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) or convertible notes (see FAQ for more). Additionally, as Elemental is constantly looking to fill gaps in the market, we may provide more funding options in the future.
Funding is tied to three agreed-upon milestones, meaning companies do not get the full investment up front, but tranches are released as deliverables are complete. It is our intention that companies allocate a portion of this funding to pay community-based partners for their contributions toward the project’s success.
In past years, Project Track companies have met the following average criteria:
Have more questions? Download the Cohort 12 Application Packet to learn more about the program.
How do I know if I'm a fit for Project Track?
The Project Track is designed for mature companies, looking to deploy a first-of-its-kind project. Successful companies are able to design and implement a multi-phase project with a commercial customer and have a dedicated project manager responsible for the success of the project.
Can I apply to both tracks? Can I switch which track I'm applying to during the application process?
We ask companies to identify the best track based on needs. In the application, companies interested in applying for the Project Track will be asked to submit details about their proposed project, including project description and ideal outcome, budget, timeline, project partners and the status of commitment to the project. In some cases after application submission, we may advise switching to a better fitting track depending on the company stage and goals.
How does Elemental work with communities to deploy technologies?
Technology, policy, and markets intersect in different ways around the world and we know that community-based organizations, leaders and nonprofits are uniquely positioned to design projects in a way that reflect the values and culture of their community.
Aligned with Elemental’s Square Partnership model, the strongest project proposals include a strategy to engage with and compensate community-based partners. More often than not, local community organizations are asked to volunteer their time without the expectation of compensation. This well-accepted norm has led to underinvestment in community-based organizations. Similar to how you would procure and hire a project consultant, fair compensation for community partners acknowledges the significant contributions they make to a project’s success.
Learn more about how Elemental works with communities through Elemental’s Square Partnership toolkit.
Can I apply with a project that is already in progress?
No, we want our funding to go towards something that will be transformational for your company. We are not looking to subsidize something that is already moving forward with or without our support. Instead, we want to unlock something new for your business or accelerate the launch of something you’ve been planning, such as a new product offering, a new business model, a new customer segment and/or a geographic expansion.
Tell me more about project cost share. Is this required?
Project funding is used to help buy down deployment risk. This means we do not pay for the whole project, but rather we will structure deployments under a cost share model. As an applicant, you are asked to find a customer or partner to fund a significant portion of the project, typically 50% or more.
Cost share, or partner/customer contributions to the project, is how our program evaluates market-pull for solutions. Our strong preference is for cost share to come in the form of cash from customers. This is the strongest indicator of market demand for a solution. Secondary cost share sources can be 1) partners; 2) investors; 3) university, state, federal or other funds. We will recognize in-kind cost share in special circumstances including labor from customers, discounted equipment/leases and other contributions to the project.
How does the rolling acceptance timeline impact cohort selection?
The rolling application process was designed with the following outcomes in mind:
- Elemental can be more nimble with our due diligence process and get back to you with questions and decisions at a faster rate.
- Accepted companies will have access to Elemental’s suite of services even before Cohort Kickoff in October. Accepted Project Track companies will be able to launch projects on their own timelines, rather than waiting until the full cohort has been onboarded.
- Because we only fund 15–20 companies per year, the sooner you apply, the better chance you have at securing a spot in the cohort. It is possible that the cohort is filled ahead of the final application deadline (May 31, 2023) so we encourage you to submit an application as soon as possible. Rest assured, all companies will be evaluated using the same criteria.
Can you provide more information on the funding instruments you use?
As a nonprofit organization, any proceeds from our investments go to supporting future climate tech entrepreneurs. We use either a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (“SAFE”), convertible note, or in some cases may be able to participate directly in an open round. We’ve shared a high-level overview below and will provide more specifics upon acceptance into the program.
Simple Agreement for Future Equity (“SAFE”):
Y Combinator created the SAFE as a simpler alternative to convertible notes. It allows investors to purchase shares in a future round at a pre-negotiated discount (industry standard is 20%). We like this investment vehicle because it is founder-friendly and flexible, allowing us to work with companies outside of their usual fundraising cycle. Accepted companies will execute three separate SAFEs with Elemental, each aligned with program milestone deliverables and payment amounts.
In some cases, we will use a convertible note. This flexibility allows later stage companies to choose the instrument that is right for you. If you’re interested in learning more about the commercial terms of our Convertible Note, we can share that information further into the application process. Accepted companies will execute three separate notes with Elemental, each aligned with program milestone deliverables and payment amounts.
In some instances, Elemental will be willing to directly participate in an open round if the timing aligns with completion of the milestones deliverables. In addition, as Elemental is constantly looking to fill financial and programmatic gaps, we may offer other funding mechanisms in the future, such as additional debt offerings. We will work closely with accepted companies to find a path that makes sense for both parties.
How does Elemental define frontline communities?
We define frontline communities as groups that “experience continuing injustice — including people of color, immigrants, people with lower incomes, those in rural areas and indigenous people — [and] face a legacy of systemic, largely racialized, inequity that influences their living and working places, the quality of their air and water and their economic opportunities.” (Climate Justice Working Group)
For projects in the U.S., we encourage companies to reference multiple tools to compare indicators including the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, CEJST, and the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool, EJScreen. These tools are based on nationally consistent data and an approach that combines environmental and demographic indicators in maps and reports that include burdens across climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water, wastewater and workforce development. These maps help compare selected census tract locations to the rest of the state, region or nation.
Elemental’s work has been motivated by our experiences in Hawaiʻi where proximity to resources and significant exposure to climate risks impact the island communities. These impacts are particularly acute for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, whose communities are often not seen as priority areas for infrastructure investments. In Resolution 20-206, the city and county of Honolulu have defined frontline communities and committed to equity and justice to the realization of equitable outcomes. The Resilient Oahu program has identified the Social Vulnerability Index and ALICE Report findings as helpful tools to identify frontline communities and advance equity (more on each tool here).
One tool we use to identify the communities in California on the front lines of climate change is the CalEnviroScreen 4.0 (CES). CES is a mapping tool that, while not perfect, identifies “disadvantaged communities” with both pollution burden and vulnerability to the effects of pollution. Areas identified in yellow, orange and red by the October 2022 CalEnviroScreen map reflect high levels of pollution across multiple indicators (socioeconomic, environmental and health).
We expect companies working or looking to work in countries outside of the U.S. to adapt Elemental’s frameworks for approaching projects and research, explore and seek local feedback on the appropriate definitions and tools for the geography they aim to deploy in.
Where does Elemental deploy projects?
While projects can be deployed in any geographic market, each year the majority of projects are based in the U.S.