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Expert Voices: Elemental's Dawn Lippert

Megan Hernbroth
Jun 17, 2022
Photo Illustration of Dawn Lippert, CEO of Elemental Excelerator, solar panels and treetops
Photo Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios. Photo: courtesy of Elemental Excelerator

Today we're talking with Dawn Lippert, founder and CEO of Elemental Excelerator.

Why she matters: Elemental Excelerator is one of the few nonprofit early-stage investors backing climate technology startups and projects. Lippert tells Axios that Elemental has backed roughly 130 companies since she started it 12 years ago.

What in your view was the big story in clean energy and climate tech this week?

  • Markets are chilly but the world is getting hotter. Climate is the macro trend on top of the macroeconomic environment.
  • From extreme flooding in Yellowstone to a megadrought leading to agricultural deficiencies, we are seeing too much water in some places and none in others. This is our changing climate. 2022 had the sixth hottest May on record, and climate science will not wait for the market to come back around.

What would you add to the narrative?

  • While growth capital is in trouble, early stage venture capital is still booming. There are a host of new and existing funds that need to invest more than last year’s venture capital totals. For early stage climate investors, 2022 actually looks better than 2021 as valuations come down and companies get more disciplined with their deployment milestones.
  • Corporates and governments, as customers, are doubling down. Just in the last month, United Airlines made a significant investment in Dimensional Energy, an Elemental portfolio company, and the Office of Naval Research continued its funding commitment with us towards net zero and beyond.

By contrast, what’s being under-noticed or under-covered?

  • Through the Elemental lens, this moment can accelerate climate action by engaging diverse talent and perspectives:
    • Philanthropy is positioned to fill gaps in increasingly creative ways. This includes new support for emerging talent, like our EDICT internship program, as well as new efforts to build the financing pipeline for climate deployments.
    • At the government and community levels, there is an unprecedented focus on climate justice in technology deployments, like Justice40 initiatives and implementation of frameworks for community engagement such as our Square Partnerships model.
    • Climate startup CEOs are tracking layoffs in other industries and should be able to secure top talent as layoffs hit other sectors, and we expect a few high-profile announcements around talent movement soon.

In three-ish words, what would you do to accelerate clean energy and climate tech investment?

  • Deploy tech that communities want.
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