Elemental Bolsters Team of Entrepreneurial Climate Coaches to Drive Policy, Equity & Access and Financial Success for Portfolio Companies

April 21, 2023

· 11 min read
The Elemental Team

Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit investor driving climate technology for social change, announced today the expansion of its climate coaching team to encompass experts in project and carbon finance, policy and equity and access. The new additions to the roster complement an existing bench in messaging, fundraising, customer segmentation, go-to-market strategies and commercialization. The subject matter experts join a team of 50+ professionals at Elemental and are part of Elemental’s strategic programming to support the advancement of its portfolio companies with tangible outcomes. The expansion of the climate coach team follows Elemental’s recent announcement to accelerate $43 million into the sector.

“For more than a decade, we’ve understood that investing in portfolio companies requires more than a check. By expanding our climate coach team, we’re providing our portfolio companies with the resources they need to scale faster and have a greater impact on climate change,” Elemental Excelerator Managing Director of Portfolio Danya Hakeem said.

The new coaches include Policy Entrepreneurs in Residence Cesar Diaz and Melinda Hanson, Equity & Access Practitioner in Residence Dai Lin, Sales & Growth Coach Chris Parish, Financial Advisor Ananth Pharshy, Financier in Residence Natalie Volpe and Carbon Finance Entrepreneur in Residence Jennifer Wagner. They join a roster of talent that includes Market Intelligence & Sales Coach Nina Ali, Investor in Residence Avra Durack, Market Intelligence Coach Peter Fiske, Investor in Residence TD Lowe, People & Operations Coach Oliver Sabot and Messaging Coach Tamsen Webster.

“Prior to participation in Elemental, CarbonCure did not have a defined public policy strategy. Through the support of this program, CarbonCure developed multiple policy positions and is now actively supporting dozens of policies and engaging with policymakers, industry and other key stakeholders across the United States through dedicated staff,” CarbonCure Director of Global Commercial Operations Jeffrey Nichols said.

“Participating in the Elemental program has been transformational for us. The coaches understand the nuance and complexity of the climate tech markets and equip you with the necessary tools to position your company for success,” Reath Co-Founder Claire Rampen said.

“Elemental provided the coordination, expertise and guidance to teach our team, show us options and provide opportunities for personal and company growth. It is as if we added a whole public relations, project management, technical, marketing, finance and policy team to the company,” Dimensional Energy Chief Science Officer Bradley Brennan said.

Elemental Climate Coach Biographies

Nina Ali: Market Intelligence & Sales Coach
Nina brings nine years of experience at Siemens, where she focused on introducing clean energy technologies across various global markets. With experience spanning several countries, she managed go-to-market for utility-scale solar in Latin America, smart grid software in Asia Pacific, clean air gas-insulated high-voltage switchgear (GIS) & breakers in North America, and wildfire mitigation in California. During her time in the field, Nina sold over $700M across energy technologies, including first-of-a-kind projects. She earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California Los Angeles, specializing in alternative energy. Nina has spent several years supporting companies to answer key commercialization questions around customer segmentation, go-to-market strategy, sales strategy, pricing and more.

Cesar Diaz: Entrepreneur in Residence: Policy
Cesar is an entrepreneurial public policy and government affairs specialist with experience in transportation, climate and housing. He has held senior policy management roles at ChargePoint and Aurora and worked for Lyft and the City and County of Los Angeles. He holds a degree in Urban Planning and another in Political Science from the University of California Los Angeles. With a proven track record of developing government relations strategies at a startup, Cesar will join the policy lab team in sharing insights on developing and implementing these strategies.

Avra Durack: Investor in Residence
Avra has focused her career on high-impact sectors, including climate change, education and affordable housing. She is a Senior Advisor at The Ad Hoc Group, a consulting firm with climate tech companies. Prior to that, Avra was a Director at National Grid Partners, a corporate venture capital firm investing in a digitized, cleaner energy future. She focused on early-stage investments and supporting portfolio companies. Avra also has a background as an operator, including roles at Stem, AltSchool and One Block Off the Grid. Avra has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA in Urban Studies from Stanford University. Avra allows companies to get candid feedback and strategic guidance on how investor expectations evolve as they scale.

Peter Fiske: Market Intelligence Coach
Peter leads a research program as the Water-Energy Resilience Research Institute Director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, addressing critical gaps to improve water-energy systems. He also mentors early-stage entrepreneurs in the Department of Energy’s I-Corps Program. Previously he served as PAX Water Technologies CEO, where he helped develop energy-efficient technologies for the water industry that mimic natural systems. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. Peter’s market intelligence coaching provides clarity and data around operating ecosystems, customer segmentation and target markets. He has deep experience assisting early-stage ventures on non-dilutive funding strategies, having won over $200M in Federal and State Research & Development and technology development grants in his many ventures.

Melinda Hanson: Entrepreneur in Residence, Policy
Melinda is the founder of Brightside, a sustainable mobility consultancy. She is also the co-founder of the Equitable Commute Project, a coalition of NYC organizations connecting lower-income New Yorkers with e-bikes and credit-building micro-mobility loans. Melinda has worked for Bird, NACTO, and the ClimateWorks Foundation, streamlining collaboration between the public and private sectors to advance projects that reduce carbon emissions. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in Environmental Studies and has a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from New York University. Melinda has been integral in building tools and coaching portfolio leaders on securing federal grants and engaging in local, state and national government relations.

Dai Lin: Practitioner in Residence, Equity & Access
Dai’s commitment to equity and community building began during her education in Queens. She broadened her cultural understanding by teaching in Azerbaijan, South Africa and East Harlem and developing education technology and augmented reality products in New York and Shanghai. She shifted her focus to addressing the climate crisis during her graduate studies at Harvard Kennedy School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She now brings her equity-driven perspective to her role as Director of Product at UtilityAPI, an Elemental portfolio company. Building on the foundational training Elemental provides to all leaders through its Equity Is Dynamic curriculum, Dai will support in implementing the best practices for diversity, equity and inclusion throughout their companies.

TD Lowe: Investor in Residence
TD is a Partner at 42Phi Ventures and Founder of EnovationNation Inc. Her technology career has impacted over ten thousand startups who have raised billions in startup investment. TD has worked in technology, strategy, finance, innovation and venture capital at Fortune 50 companies as well as smaller firms. During her tenure, TD assumed key roles as a leader in corporate innovation, corporate strategy, finance, product marketing, partner-vendor negotiations and technical development. She served as faculty at Southern Methodist University Digital Accelerator, as a guest speaker at Stanford University’s School of Engineering, and co-authored a crowd-written book, Innovating Women. She is a Politico Ambassador, economist and self-taught developer. She was also honored as one of the “15 Most Influential Graduates” of the new millennium at the University of Alabama and named a “Legend” for the university. TD is focused on helping companies with everything from fundraising strategy and valuations to term sheet assessments and closing paperwork.

Chris Parish: Sales & Growth Coach
Chris is a sales leader for the construction division at Autodesk. Chris joined Autodesk four years ago from the company’s $875 million dollar acquisition of PlanGrid. He has also served as an Investor and Advisor at Snackpass and mentored Founders at Dorm Room Fund and First Round Fast Track. Chris graduated from Southern Methodist University and has worked in various sales roles for a variety of high-growth startups from the early stage to IPO and acquisition. Drawing on this diverse background, Chris will be sharing valuable insights on how to design a sales strategy and build the right team for breakout success.

Ananth Pharshy: Financial Advisor
Ananth is a financial professional and technology entrepreneur with 20+ years of product innovation and project finance experience, including new business development, transaction structuring and advisory, risk management and financial modeling. As a financier, he has worked on transactions across power, oil & gas, mining and infrastructure in nearly a dozen countries and has advised on marquee financings such as the Panama Canal Expansion project and several other ‘firsts’. He is focused on helping Elemental’s portfolio companies with project structuring, risk analysis, contract review and financial modeling. He graduated from Loyola College, Chennai (India), with a Bachelor of Commerce and later with an MBA in Finance from the University of Iowa. He is a registered Chartered Financial Analyst.

Oliver Sabot: People & Operations Coach
Oliver is a serial social entrepreneur and executive coach, and investor focused on developing and scaling new approaches to transforming climate solutions, particularly in emerging markets. He currently leads climate-related initiatives and investments for a number of philanthropies and serves as an executive coach for a range of rapidly growing climate tech companies. He founded and scaled a number of businesses, including one of the largest networks of high-quality K-12 schools in Africa and a tech-driven university model. During a previous chapter, he built and led major programs for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, focusing on using market-based approaches to accelerate the large-scale distribution of medicines in developing countries. Oliver supports Elemental portfolio companies in navigating important foundational questions around organizational structure, company culture and leadership development.

Natalie Volpe: Financier in Residence
Natalie is a finance professional and climate investor with over ten years of experience in sustainable infrastructure investing, corporate strategy and development, fundraising and capital strategy. She’s currently an advisor and fractional CFO for climate tech companies and raises corporate equity and non-dilutive capital for electric vehicles, carbon capture, alternative fuels and industrial decarbonization companies. She previously worked as an investor at Generate Capital, investing in sustainable infrastructure across project equity, corporate equity and debt and financed distributed generation solar projects at SunEdison. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. Natalie will help portfolio leaders traverse the development gap by providing strategic guidance on deal structuring, financial modeling and offtake agreement structure.

Jennifer Wagner: Entrepreneur in Residence, Carbon Finance
Jennifer is a Breakthrough Energy Fellow, where she supports innovators advancing groundbreaking climate technologies as part of the Breakthrough Energy network founded by Bill Gates. Jennifer is the former President of CarbonCure, a high-growth climate tech company that was recognized as Cleantech Group’s North American Company of the Year Award in 2020 and won the grand prize in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. She is an experienced startup advisor, investor, thought leader, speaker and team builder. Jennifer has been recognized as one of 20 Women Driving The Future of Climate Tech, Business Insider’s Clean Energy Rising Stars, Canada’s Clean50 Emerging Leaders, and the Climate Action Summit’s Climate Trailblazers. In her spare time, Jennifer advises early-stage founders and is involved with several programs dedicated to fostering a more diverse, equitable and inclusive climate tech sector. Jennifer helps companies navigate the complexities of carbon markets, integrate carbon finance into business models, and design scalable strategies to accelerate growth.

Tamsen Webster: Messaging Coach
Tamsen is a message designer who helps impact-focused leaders build buy-in into their ideas. She has worked with major organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Harvard Medical School, and Intel, as well as with individual founders, academics, and experts all over the world. Tamsen is a TEDx Idea Strategist and former Executive Producer, author of Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible (which details her trademark Red Thread approach for developing a message) and a member of the Thinkers50 Radar “Thinkers to Watch” class of 2022. She graduated from Boston University with a BA in American Studies and a BS in Market Research, and received both an MA (Arts Administration) and MBA (Organizational Behavior) from Southern Methodist University. Tamsen helps Elemental’s entrepreneurs develop and deploy strategies for complex messaging, helping them clearly communicate and activate people around their big ideas.

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About Elemental Excelerator

Elemental Excelerator is a nonprofit investor focused on advancing climate solutions and social impact for communities. Elemental fills two gaps fundamental to addressing climate change: funding scale-up companies focused on climate technologies in communities and embedding equity and access into climate solutions. For more information, visit

Rena Ramirez