Elemental Portfolio

What Makes the Elemental Portfolio Special?

March 30, 2022

· 5 min read
Danya Hakeem
Danya Hakeem Managing Director, Portfolio

Time is running out to apply for Elemental’s Cohort 11. If you are an innovator working to redesign the systems at the root of the climate crisis, we want to hear from you today.

This year we are funding startups in two tracks — one focused on growth strategy and the other on project deployments. For a deeper dive into Elemental’s tracks, offerings, and programming, please check out our funding opportunities.

At Elemental, we’ve always been guided by helping startups succeed and deploying first-of-their-kind demonstration projects. But that’s just the start of what it means to become an Elemental portfolio company.

What really makes this such a special community is the way it grows together.

By joining the Elemental portfolio, you will be a part of one of the largest climate tech portfolios in the world. Since peer entrepreneurs make the best mentors, that means you are part of an incredible network of doers who are navigating the same waters as you, and who are eager to share and receive hard-won wisdom.

But what really makes this such a special community is the way it grows together. Over the last four years, I’ve witnessed two major evolutions in the Elemental portfolio:

Equitable climate action across all

The first projects I oversaw when I joined Elemental in 2018 were a part of our Just Innovation Prize, where we awarded three $100,000 non-dilutive prizes to our alumni companies to complete a transformational pilot with a non-profit partner in a frontline community in California. This initial pilot has flourished into a deeply embedded element of our mission: to ensure that social equity is at the heart of every climate tech deployment.

Allison Dring describes equity and access work

It was such a success that we have expanded our equity and access work across our entire portfolio, developed curriculum, hosted workshops, and revamped our internship program. In one of my early projects with Trove, a recommerce company that partners with leading brands like Patagonia, Lululemon, and Levi’s, I learned how important it is to intentionally incorporate this thinking into a startup’s DNA early on. In 2018, Trove was a Series B public-benefit corporation that was on the cusp of hockey-stick growth. Over the course of the project, Trove successfully set a foundation of fair and equitable HR policies and hired hundreds of employees from the communities surrounding its recommerce facilities.

Too often, the missing piece in climate action is investment in the local people who are affected the most by climate change, and who bring the most valuable wisdom to the table. Using our Square Partnerships framework, Elemental startups are now consulting and compensating community partners for their expertise and local knowledge. Cohort 11 will have the opportunity to build on this foundation and contribute to its ongoing evolution, learning from the dozens of equity and access projects we’ve deployed in the last four years.

Our systems-based approach actualized

It’s long been clear to us at Elemental that we need to take a systems-based approach. We can’t transition to a renewable energy future without electrifying transportation; we can’t tackle transportation emissions without addressing global food distribution; we can’t create on-farm efficiency without addressing high water use; and we can’t examine the water sector’s footprint without tackling the energy use required for pumping and treatment. It always comes back around. That’s why nearly a decade ago we made big bets on startups like TerViva, FreeWire Technologies, and WaterSmart.

Naveen Sikka describes Elemental's unique value

When I joined the team, domains like water and wastewater, materials and waste, and food and agriculture were just beginning to gain mainstream visibility as major contributors to climate change. My mission was to deepen our expertise, build our portfolio, and expand our partnerships in each of those domains, and I’m happy to say we have done just that with additions such as CarbonCure, SOURCE, and PlanetFWD to Elemental’s portfolio, as well as Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and PepsiCo joining the ranks of our Navigator program.

Whereas startups once primarily worked in distinct sectors, it has been fascinating to witness, for instance, the lines between an energy company and a water company become increasingly blurred. As we see both expanded commitments from corporate and government entities, and our portfolio sharing lessons with each other from across industries, our entrepreneurs are stepping up to meet the moment, no matter where they started.

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Key information on Elemental’s application process:

  • Deadline: April 8, 2022
  • Funding: $300,000 / $600,000
  • Geography: Startups can be from anywhere in the world, relocation is not required
  • What we offer: We fill two key gaps for companies: capital for first-of-their-kind projects and investment into companies’ growth strategies as they’re about to hit key inflection points.
  • Equity & Access: All companies will complete Elemental’s Equity Is Dynamic curriculum. ​​The most compelling projects are designed with Elemental’s Square Partnership model in mind and include a strategy to engage with and compensate community-based partners.
  • For more information, review our applicant resources.

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