Dec 1, 2021 - Economy

Flood of money pours into climate tech

Illustration of dollar bills falling from a cloud.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Funds are making moves to achieve climate solutions breakthroughs, as well as investing in companies that seek to help communities better manage the climate risks they already face today.

Driving the news: StormSensor, a company that monitors watersheds in real time, including providing flood data, announced on Wednesday that it has closed a $10 million funding round. The funding is co-led by Orbia Ventures and Buoyant Ventures, with participation from other funds and individuals.

Details: The company’s work is not the sexiest role in the climate tech space, but it’s increasingly vital as extreme precipitation events increase in intensity and frequency as global warming continues.

  • StormSensor places modular devices in pipes and other locations to monitor stormwater, sewer and coastal infrastructure in cities across the U.S., including Seattle, Norfolk, Virginia, and Boston.
  • The company’s cloud-based software can alert city officials when water depth gets too high or flow declines, potentially signaling impending flooding. StormSensor offers a whole-scale replacement of traditional ways of monitoring that rely on spot checks of tiny components of a city’s total underground infrastructure.

What they're saying: Erin Rothman, founder and CEO of StormSensor, told Axios that her vision for the company is for it to provide city agencies the equivalent of Google traffic maps of sewers and stormwater systems, and eventually coastal systems, too.

  • “We're monitoring and tracking how water is moving through these systems, or in many cases, how water is not moving through the systems,” she said. “And it's important to be able to do it both during good weather conditions and of course, disasters.”

State of play: In a separate development illustrating the push on carbon mitigation and cutting emissions, Lowercarbon Capital, the climate-focused VC firm led by Chris Sacca, yesterday told limited partners that it wants to raise two new funds, Axios has learned. One will be focused on carbon removal and the other on fusion.

What we're watching: Ryan Orbuch will lead the carbon removal fund. He joins Lowercarbon from Stripe, where he was widely credited with helping make the payments company a carbon removal pioneer.

  • Per the letter to LPs: "Removal means removal. It means cleanup on Aisle 2 of the 170 years of milk already spilled."
  • On fusion, Lowercarbon already has backed three companies; including Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which just raised more than $1.8 billion in new funding. Per the letter to LPs: "The biggest tipping point will come when fusion reaction generates more energy than it takes in... Q>1 is the Kitty Hawk moment for energy. It's Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic and Aldrin bouncing on the moon..."
  • Neither fund has a refined target, but both include a 15% GP commit and a 25% carried interest, per documents obtained by Axios.

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