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Gratitude, Community, Urgency: A Look Back at EEx Interactive 2018

August 16, 2018

· 5 min read
Ian Chipman Editorial Director

On July 24th, we brought together over 200 investors and corporates (oh, and an astronaut!) with 37 of our portfolio companies at EEx Interactive in San Francisco. EEx Interactive is a place to gather the community of people who are working to address the large system and social challenges we are facing. For our network of investors and partners, this yearly event provides an inside look at the innovations being developed by our portfolio companies. And for our companies, it’s an opportunity to share lessons and results from deploying those innovations in Hawaii, Asia Pacific, and California.

Themes of urgency and action emerged. Dawn opened EEx Interactive by sharing the following chart from Carbon Brief. It frames the global challenge we’re helping to solve by funding startups and the deployment of their technologies. It shows that every year matters. Indeed, every month, week, and day matters.

Source: Carbon Brief


The next morning, we received a note from one of our entrepreneurs, PastureMap CEO Christine Su. We asked her if we could share it with you, since it captures so much of what we’re trying to achieve at Elemental Excelerator — not in addition to, but as a necessary part of helping startups change the world, one community at a time.

Mahalo nui (thank you) for putting on such a great event yesterday! I sat next to one of my classmates and close friends who is a female venture investor. She was teary eyed for the entire last part of EEx Interactive, from Sara’s equity talk through the Earthshot video and panel. Even with all the talk of inclusion right now, it’s still very rare to physically be in spaces where there is this much inclusive leadership on stage.

Everyone I talked to loved the Taiko. Stanford has a strong Taiko tradition and I literally grew up with it. I think we’re hungry for business events that weave in art and cultural context.

Personally, I had such a great time talking story with an investor during the reception. We talked about growing up in majority Asian communities and how that affects how we experience being Asian-American, connections between our home culture and rural spaces in the Midwest, about leaving our corporate careers to reconnect with the land, and even about searching for our part Filipina heritage.

I got up this morning with a huge smile and had to stop and sit down and write you this note of gratitude. So many aspects of the EEx experience are about feeding us 🙂 with things that we didn’t know we were hungry for because we had never experienced them. Mahalo nui loa!

With gratitude,

The gratitude is all ours, Christine! In so many ways, EEx Interactive is a space for all of us at Elemental Excelerator to learn and draw inspiration from our broader community. Here are just a few of the other moments that we’ll carry forward.

“If no one from the communities you’re trying to benefit is part of the process or the decisions you’re going to make all along the way, are you building the best product? And then are you actually going to do the things you need to do that properly and disproportionally positively benefit that community?”

Calvin Gladney, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, spoke about investing and designing with an equity lens

“One of the things we’re trying to do better, because it’s not good enough for Mars or for the moon, is to clean our water, clean our air, grow plants in a place that’s really hard to do that. And all of those goals solve really important problems right here on earth.”

Cady Coleman, veteran of two space shuttle missions with NASA, discussed how the problems we’re solving in space have an impact on earth as well

“We set out on a plan two years ago when we wanted to be self-sufficient, and we wanted to pay our own way as quickly as possible … You never really understand the flexibility of your organization until you force it to become optimized. For us, I was amazed what you can actually live without.”

Tom Willie, CEO of Blue Pillar, in a conversation with Dawn and John Carrington, CEO of Stem, about the journey out of “startup mode”

“Four years ago I got stuck at a traffic light. The light was red for me and green for the other direction, and not a single vehicle in sight. And that got me thinking, why? And for the first time in my life, I questioned traffic and transportation mobility, and the reason our system exists the way it does today.”

Mark Pittman, founder and CEO of Blyncsy, during a live demo of his company’s software

“What if you had a 100MW capacity battery installed, paid for, and you forgot to turn it on? … In Hawaii alone, if you retrofit water heaters in rental communities alone, that’s what you would have … It’s a way to provide not only capacity, but you’re now being inclusive to the entire community and rallying people toward this goal that we all have of being off of carbon, 100% renewable.”

Forest Frizzell, CEO of Shifted Energy, in a conversation about the opportunities of optimizing and modernizing the electric grid

With hands raised high, we put another EEx Interactive in the books. See you next year!