Mar 5, 2019 - Technology

Bill Gates fund backs new California cobalt venture

In this image, a yellow battery drips yellow circles on top of a blue background.

Photo: David Santaolalla/EyeEm via Getty Images

Quartz reports Tuesday that a California startup called Kobold, which has developed advanced methods to chase down supplies of cobalt, has won backing from the Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the VC powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz.

Why it matters: Cobalt is a critical component in batteries needed for smartphones and the growth of EVs, so demand is growing.

The impact: The majority of the world's supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where mining is associated with human rights and environmental problems.

The intrigue: Per Quartz, Kobold employs experts in fields ranging from quantum computing to economic geology and says it can bring advanced digital tech to bear on finding supplies outside the DRC.

  • "Kobold's bet is that it can sniff out new cobalt reserves by deploying machine learning and other AI techniques to large sets of geological, physical, and chemical data," Akshat Rathi reports.

Go deeper: The Congo's chaotic election throws the future of cobalt in doubt

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