The Mission All Sustainability Tech Startups Share: Save the World

Aug 31, 2020
Mission Sustainability Startups Share - Image

Sustainability. One word that describes what must be a priority for the world’s businesses, governments, universities, and communities. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, humanity has made preserving natural resources, conserving energy, and slowing the rate of climate change secondary to economic prosperity. That needs to change not after the coronavirus pandemic finally recedes, not next month, but today.  

The good news is that the commitment to improving sustainability in all areas of our lives among corporations and the investment community has never been higher. That commitment is fostering a growing community of innovative startups that are developing sustainability technologies that will help overhaul the global economy — from agriculture and construction to electric transportation networks and renewable energy markets. 

Techstars’ new Sustainability Report examines the opportunities that lie before these companies, their investors, and their corporate partners, as well as the never-before-seen challenges they all face. 

The report combines data from the companies that are participating in our accelerators dedicated to sustainability startups. We also interviewed more than 50 leaders in the sustainability industry spanning our global network. Our goals were to gain deeper insights into key topics and pinpoint what is changing. 

We have identified three overarching themes: Climate Change, Business Change, and Measuring Change. The report also drills down into each theme to examine the ten unique sub-themes driving the narrative:

Sustainability Report Subthemes Graph

You likely recognize some of these subthemes, and may even be contributing to their growth. For instance, if you drive a hybrid or fully electric car, you’re part of the Cars & Homes subtheme. In 2019, the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads reached 7.2 million, a 40% increase YoY. That momentum will continue building as battery prices decrease, networks of charging stations increase, and more EV startups enter the market. 

But this fact may surprise you: startups seeking to improve our food systems have received the highest volume of investment activity at Techstars. The waste and pollution our food production practices and delivery networks generate may not be as visible as smoke belching from a factory chimney, but they are significant contributors to global warming.

Over the course of the next month, we will do deep dives into these themes and subthemes, and the startups that are working to bring their innovations to market. We’ll focus on the four issues they all face:

01. Incentivizing Sustainability

Cultivating and managing critical relationships and obtaining the funding they need to commercialize their technologies.

02. The State of Food Systems

Convincing food producers and suppliers to adopt new technologies and business practices to reduce food waste.

03. Circular Economy

The world’s economy is a linear model: a product is created, sold to customers, used, then thrown away. Many products have deliberately short lifespans and are difficult to repair or upgrade. We’ll explain how companies are turning that line into a circle.

04. Behavior Modification

Change begins at the local level. How can startups and their partners make it easier for communities to embrace sustainability best practices? 

However, you don’t need to wait for the next installment in this series. Our report examines these issues in-depth and provides the tools entrepreneurs, investors, and their corporate partners need to make substantive changes happen. 

To quote Niraj Swami, Sr. Advisor, Applied AI & Innovation Ventures, at The Nature Conservancy: “For nature and people to thrive together, we must lean on technology to help us understand our choices and their impact on our evolving planet.”

Want to learn more? You can download a condensed version of the report.