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Expert Voices: Raj Atluru of Activate Capital

Photo illustration of Raj Atluru and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: courtesy of Activate Capital.

This week we're talking with Raj Atluru, managing partner of Activate Capital, a Bay Area VC that focuses on startups reshaping industrial and infrastructure sectors. He's also on the board of O.G. Generate Capital.

Why he matters: Activate under Atluru's leadership has invested early in a number of climate-tech startups: Voltus, PosiGen and Sympower, to name a few.

  • It's also backed Flexe, a Seattle-based marketplace for on-demand warehouse space that hit unicorn status in July.

Atluru's responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

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

  • Two things stood out to me: First, Yvon Chouinard's stock transfer from Patagonia to Earth, and, second, consumer electric bill inflation hitting on a new level.

What would you add to the narrative

  • Let’s hope Yvon’s move helps launch a Giving Pledge 2.0 where corporate climate investment is accelerated. It's time to move beyond climate goals and deliver action through investment. We are in a supercycle of deployments of energy technologies — the laggards risk being left behind.
  • On electric bills, my friend in Connecticut has an $850 utility bill and is looking to add a $100,000 solar system, which was unheard of until now. Shocking, really. It's another reminder of the need for moving faster to get to a cleaner, more intelligent energy grid.

By contrast, what’s going under-noticed?

  • We're all excited about the Inflation Reduction Act. The intent is there, but implementation is critical. Remove the bottlenecks, make permitting easier
  • Australia has 25% home solar penetration at half our cost. No reason we can’t get there across a whole set of technologies, like EVs, solar, wind, heat pumps, storage and the like. 

In three-ish words, what change would you make to clean energy/climate-tech investing?   

  • We need Climate Warriors. Launch a climate-focused Peace Corps.
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