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Our 2020 Investment Themes for Techstars Sustainability Accelerator

By Hannah Davis, Program Director of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy

In 2020 we will invest in ten more companies that we believe can make a material contribution to create a world where people and nature thrive. We are interested in companies that fit our investment thesis (which we’ve explained below) and companies with business models and impact goals that are aligned so that when the business grows, the impact grows alongside it.

In addition to focusing on the investment themes below, we know backing diverse teams is a necessary part of real climate action. Climate change impacts us all, and those working to solve our challenges should be representative of that.

Techstars and The Nature Conservancy are both global organizations with a combined presence in 100s of countries. Though the program operates in Denver, Colorado, we aim to source companies from around the globe with a diverse range of backgrounds.

Our Investment Thesis

This program is run in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and when sourcing for the accelerator we look for companies that align with TNC’s mission “to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends."

The Nature Conservancy achieves their mission by focusing on four key areas of conservation:

01. Tackling Climate Change

02. Protecting Land and Water

03. Providing Food and Water Sustainability

04. Building Healthy Cities

As investors, it’s our job to take the four areas of conservation focus and find the best business opportunities to scale. In addition to the four themes above, we are addressing “cross-cutting technology”, i.e. technologies that catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive, as our fifth investment category.

About Our Partnership

The Techstars and The Nature Conservancy ’s partnership was conceived in 2017. The Nature Conservancy, one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world, is always looking for new ways to scale up their work. And Techstars, the worldwide organization that helps entrepreneurs succeed, knows how to do just that.

The Nature Conservancy provides the Sustainability Accelerator participants with their conservation know-how and network. Meanwhile, Techstars contributes its business and technology mentorship and growing global network to support the participants.

Climate change is impacting nearly every system humans touch including the economy, national security, and our health. And we believe big problems can also equal big opportunities. But we don’t have any time to waste. Climate change isn’t a future problem -it’s a problem today (actually yesterday), and we must act quickly to preserve the lands and water we all rely on to live. We are inspired by the entrepreneurs we’ve had the privilege to work with over the last two years of Techstars Sustainability and we can’t wait to meet the class of 2020. We hope you’ll join us.

Applications are open February 17th through May 10th, 2020 and the program will run September 8th through December 4th, 2020.

More About Our Investment Thesis

Tackle Climate Change

Make the case for natural climate solutions, inspire climate action, conserve working forests.

Climate change mitigation

  • Carbon sequestration, carbon measurement and market validation, precision forestry, sustainable timber, reforestation

Climate change adaptation

  • Advance nature-based solutions to lessen climate impacts (drought/flooding) (examples of nature-based solutions include: wetland conservation, open space protection, dam removal, groundwater infiltration, living shorelines) with technologies such as innovative insurance and finance models, remote sensing, and spatial planning

Provide Food and Water Sustainably

Improve fishery health, rethink agricultural practices, protect water at its source, build ‘zero- deforestation’ supply chains

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Soil health and nutrients, zero-deforestation supply chains, sustainable yield increases, precision irrigation and fertilization, nutrient runoff monitoring, sustainable grazing, carbon capture, microclimate sensing

Sustainable Fisheries

  • Catch monitoring, bycatch exclusion, supply chain transparency, vessel tracking, automated stock assessment

  • Technology to support sustainable aquaculture such as monitoring systems, ecologically restorative business models, siting technologies, feed innovations,off-shore / open-ocean systems

Water Funds and Markets

  • Watershed-scale sensing, flow measurement, sensor connectivity, usage mapping technology, aggregating water data, groundwater recharge, fintech companies that assist in the arbitrage of water use / allocation

Build Healthy Cities

Urban water, greenprinting, sustainable cities, transforming the city landscape, urban heat and air quality

Greenprinting and Stormwater

  • Advance green infrastructure, urban growth planning, address urban challenges (including stormwater run-off, air pollution and heat islands)

Protect Land and Water

Expand community-led conservation, build a model of sustainable energy development, inform smart infrastructure decision-making, protect oceans and increase climate change-resilience

Land and Water Protection

  • Technology that unlocks conservation investment in land and ocean protection, coastal restoration, climate adaptation

Energy and Infrastructure

  • Technology to improve energy siting, land-use planning and development, renewable energy planning, mitigation mapping

Indigenous Landscapes and Communities

  • Technology that facilitates community-based natural resource management, multi-stakeholder engagement, sustainable economic development for local communities and indigenous peoples

Cross-Cutting Technology

Technologies that catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive.

Generate More & Better Data on Planetary Health

  • Tools that increase our understanding of/ monitor/ improve - ecosystem services, pollution, and natural resource use (Remote Sensing, GIS, Sensors/Hardware)

Understand the Data

  • Tools that aggregate/ analyze/ visualize/ digitize data

Influence Decision Makers (NRM - natural resource managers)

  • Tools that better inform NRM (farmers/fisherman/industry etc)

  • Influence policy makers and business leaders

  • Innovative finance and funding mechanisms that incentivize decisions to improve planetary health

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