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Expert voices: Collaborative Fund's Sophie Bakalar

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Dec 8, 2022
Photo illustration of Sophie Bakalar, a partner at Collaborative Fund, surrounded by various blocks of color and Collaborative Fund's logo

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Sophie Bakalar

Sophie Bakalar started working on the trading desk when she was 17 years old, after excelling in math in high school. She traded credit derivatives for a hedge fund prior to the 2008 recession in what she calls a "Wild West" of finance that ultimately left her looking for a more meaningful way to use her skills.

"No one wakes up in the morning and is excited about trading credit derivatives," Bakalar tells Axios.

Why she matters: She joined Collaborative Fund, an early-stage venture capital firm that invests primarily in consumer startups, and eventually started the firm's climate investing practice.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What, in your view, has been the big story in clean energy/climate tech this week?

  • The climate story that's been most top of mind for me is the breakthrough agreement for climate adaptation funding at COP27 in Egypt. 
  • It's the first international agreement to provide loss-and-damage funding to the vulnerable nations on the front lines of worsening extreme weather events, which is a much-needed step in the right direction. 
  • That being said, it's still unclear how the adaptation plan will be paid for and implemented. For example, American diplomats may have agreed to participate, but funds will still need to be appropriated by Congress. So while we're taking a step in the right direction, the shoe still hasn't dropped. We don't know how big of a step it will be in the end. 

What would you add to the narrative?

  • The international community continues to be too slow to act on mitigation. It's encouraging that we're finally starting to move in the right direction with adaptation. But adapting to the worst impacts of climate change should never come at the expense of emissions reductions. If it does, then we're just throwing in the towel. In climate, the right answer is always "yes, and." We need more ambition and action across every dimension — mitigation, adaptation and removal. 

By contrast, what is not receiving the attention you feel it deserves?

  • There's a seismic shift happening with talent. The best and brightest leaving their jobs to work on climate and filling the void left behind by the international community. It's not just white-collar workers leaving consulting, banking and Big Tech; it's also blue-collar workers who see better opportunities for professional development, wage growth and job stability,
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technicians and solar installers were two of the fastest-growing job categories in the U.S. this year, and they're expected to keep growing at a blistering speed over the next 10 years. 

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

  • Keep working together. 
  • Historically, climate has been much more collaborative than other areas of tech because everyone in the space shares a common goal. But as more money, talent and attention has entered the arena — which is a very good thing — the culture has also become more sharp-elbowed.
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