Jul 28, 2021 - Energy & Environment

A new push to diversify the climate startup world

Illustration of hans holding planet earth

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A prominent energy venture capital firm and large companies including Microsoft and Duke Energy are launching a new fund to help diversify the clean technology startup sector.

Driving the news: The clean energy and climate-tech focused Energy Impact Partners (EIP) on Wednesday morning unveiled the Elevate Future Fund.

  • It aims to "create a more diverse founder community and inclusive venture capital ecosystem within the broader energy transition."
  • The goal is backing companies founded and led by people from Black, Latino, LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented groups.

How it works: The fund is initially targeting $120 million and has secured over half that from investors that also include Southern Co., Xcel Energy and several others.

EIP has largely targeted growth-stage companies, but the fund will focus on early-stage investments, said Anthony Oni, the new fund's managing partner.

"[C]ultivation of diverse founders needs to start early in the investment lifecycle — Seed and Series A as they are not receiving the early funding to make it to the later stage of investments," Oni said via email.

Why it matters: Communities of color are underrepresented in business ownership and C-Suites, and the startup world is not isolated from the problem.

  • Crunchbase News recently reported that "of the record $161 billion in venture capital invested in the U.S. last year, single-digit percentages went to Black, Latino or female entrepreneurs."
  • Also, with the world far off pace from emissions cuts needed to hold global warming in check, finding a broader pool of entrepreneurial talent matters for everyone.

Where it stands: The new fund has already made three investments, including ChargerHelp!, an LA-based tech company founded by Black women that enables fast servicing of electric vehicle charging stations.

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