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Gideon Yu on the climate crisis, Super Bowl

Photo illustration of Gideon Yu and graphic shapes.

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo courtesy of Yu Capital

Venture capitalist and San Francisco 49ers co-owner Gideon Yu is on the lookout for more climate tech investments after backing direct air capture startup 280 Earth, the investor tells Axios.

Why it matters: Yu sees climate as the existential crisis of our generation and is serving as executive chairman of the company that spun out of Google's X, the innovation lab and so-called moonshot factory.

  • Yu was a partner with Khosla Ventures in the 2010s and though he was focused on IT, he had a front-row seat to the firm's many cleantech investments.
  • 280 Earth was his first substantive climate tech investment that he co-led, but he's done some angel investing in the space.
  • Yu spoke with Axios on Thursday going into Super Bowl weekend, when the 49ers will be playing the Kansas City Chiefs.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

On what got him excited about investing in 280 Earth:

  • "Direct air capture is only one piece of the overall solution, but if it's done right, and more importantly at the right cost per ton of removal, it can serve as the tip of the spear."
  • "The combination of chemistry, optimization of software, mechanical and operational, with the esteemed goal of having a sustainable cost per ton low enough to unlock the global community's ability to find the solution. To me that is irresistible."

On Google X:

  • "These guys have dozens of projects that go after really big substantive moonshots and they've produced some really notable amazing companies, Waymo, Verily."

On investing in 2024:

  • "If you look back at market difficult moments, I'm old enough to have gone through a handful of boom and bust cycles. Lots of the most notable companies come from funding and being created in down markets."

On the first wave of the cleantech bubble and bust:

  • "I think that you needed that first wave to kind of raise awareness and inject funding and start to attract the right talent. I think that a lot of the seeds that were planted there really are being harvested today."
  • "It's hard to look back on all those investments and be super critical. The awareness, the technology, the global demand, if you will, to be a part of the solution to this problem is all coming together at the right time."

On his Super Bowl "prediction":

  • "I predict that I'm going take my family and my two kids there, so we're gonna have a great time and we'll have some good selfies."
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