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Exclusive: Zero Carbon buys Bronfman-backed Global Thermostat

May 22, 2024
Illustration of a metal dial with the Earth on it, turned upward.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Zero Carbon Systems has acquired Global Thermostat, one of the first major direct air capture startups, the companies tell Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: The deal marks a significant shift within the handful of startups trying to turn a moonshot carbon removal technology into a viable industry.

The big picture: Zero Carbon Systems last month acquired Global Thermostat for "tens of millions of dollars" in cash and equity, Zero Carbon CEO David Elenowitz tells Axios.

  • Global Thermostat was majority owned by CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., the former Seagram and Warner Music Group chief who invested in 2016.
  • Financial terms were not disclosed. Global Thermostat had launched an equity raise in February 2023 but didn't find traction with investors.

"If we were out there three years ago, it might've a been different answer," Bronfman said in an interview.

Catch up fast: Global Thermostat was one of three early startups working to develop direct air capture, alongside unicorn Climeworks and Carbon Engineering, which Occidental Petroleum acquired for $1.1 billion last year.

  • The idea is to turn back the clock on climate change: suck up and store carbon molecules spread throughout the air, but without using so much energy that you end up producing more emissions.

The latest: Both Bronfman and Elenowitz say Global Thermostat figured out how to efficiently remove carbon from the air, and at potentially lower cost than competitors.

  • Where it's struggled is the engineering to make it all work as a system — which is where Zero Carbon Systems comes in.
  • "Their core technology is like the engine of a car, and what we've developed is the car around that engine," Elenowitz says.

What's next: Zero Carbon Systems is planning a 2,500-ton demonstration plant at a yet-to-be-announced site in the U.S.

  • The company is owned by investment firm Zero Carbon Partners. Elenowitz, who was CEO of flooring giant Empire Today, funded the New York City-based firm with $100 million.
  • Zero Carbon Systems is planning a $40 million to $50 million equity raise this year.
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