Jun 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

Chris Sacca returns to venture capital with clean energy firm

Photo illustration of Chris Sacca.
Photo Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Photo by Nicola Gell/Getty Images for SXSW.

Chris Sacca was one of the past decade's most successful venture capitalists, with a run that included early bets in such companies as Instagram, Twitter and Uber. Then, in 2017, he quit.

Driving the news: Sacca is good at investing, but bad at retiring. He's now running a new firm called Lowercarbon Capital, focused on startups that are developing "technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, remove carbon from the atmosphere, and actively cool the planet."

"Clean tech" remains a dirty word for many venture capitalists, due to the mountains of cash lost on such deals in the late aughts.

  • Sacca argues that the sector today is akin to internet tech in 2005 when Y Combinator launched, in terms of lower startup costs and clearer paths to scale.
  • This is not, he stressed to me yesterday during a CB Insights conference interview, a charity case. Sacca also says he welcomes the investment participation of oil majors like Chevron and ExxonMobil, even though that's blasphemy in some clean-tech investment circles.
  • Portfolio companies include a startup focused on lithium extraction tech, a carbon credits marketplace, and an oyster hatchery in Maine.

Details: Lowercarbon currently is structured as a family office ⁠— Chris' wife Crystal is co-founder ⁠— in the tens of millions of dollars. It hasn't yet accepted outside money save for a few special-purpose vehicles with institutional investors from Sacca's prior funds, but there's a growing possibility that it will do a formal fundraiser.

  • Elsewhere: Climate tech investing is having a big week. Sweden's Pale Blue Dot raised $60 million for a new fund, Prime Impact Fund emerged from stealth with $50 million, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners raised a €1.5 billion fund focused on renewable energy infrastructure.

The bottom line: Sacca's participation could prompt others to tip their toes back in, or for the first time, but a stampede is unlikely until the new generation of clean tech companies produces a massive hit.

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