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Reality closes in on climate-tech optimists

Illustration of a butterfly perched on a robot's finger with a shadow moving over it.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Reality is crashing into the hallmark optimism of climate tech investors and entrepreneurs, Axios reports from TechCrunch Sessions.

Why it matters: TechCrunch events are typically hype-fests. Tuesday's event at UC Berkeley was not that.

What they're saying: Panelists were uncharacteristically pragmatic about tech promises and the fundraising environment.

  • "It's a technical challenge unlike anything we've ever attempted. I don't want to be a downer, but physics is physics," William Collins, a director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says of direct air capture, one of tech's favorite climate technologies.
  • Collins also took aim at carbon offsets, calling them a "feel-good measure" more akin to "fool's gold."
  • "When we come into times like this, you have to put to bed the idea of the market you want to have and accept the market you do have. You have to survive," says DCVC Bio managing partner Kiersten Stead.
  • Lime CEO Wayne Ting says the e-scooter company wouldn't consider going public in the current IPO environment and plans to wait it out until the market stabilizes.

Yes, but: Investors maintain there is opportunity in heavy industry, with nearly every investor — including Bill Gates — pointing to cement and agriculture as two primary areas of interest in the near-term.

  • Web3 and blockchain also garnered a few honorable mentions, though mostly as snarky examples or sponsored sessions.

The intrigue: Attendees seemed less pessimistic than the panelists. Many audience questions focused on policy pressures and activism instead of capital fundraising.

The bottom line: The entire industry is battening down the hatches, while still seeking to get potentially pivotal climate technologies to market as fast as possible.

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