Timing in life is key, and the inaugural Startmate Climate Tech Fellowship came into my life at a particularly auspicious time. I was looking to transition from Fin Tech to Climate Tech when Kristin Vaughan of Virescent Venture Capital recommended the Fellowship to me.
I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. I finished feeling overwhelmed and excited by the possibilities in front of me.
The program goes for 8 weeks, and each week focuses on a different sector in the Climate Tech industry.
Some examples include renewable energy, ag tech, biodiversity, carbon markets, circular economy, the future of food, plastic and waste, and transportation.
Each week we engaged with founders, investors, and seasoned operators from the sector in focus. This was an opportunity to find out the problems they are tackling and the challenges that each industry is wrestling with.
We received really useful advice on how to evaluate how we might fit into each industry.
The most valuable part of the program was the network of advisers, many of who have taken time outside of the scheduled sessions to explore and guide our ambitions and curiosity.
My peers are a wonderfully diverse group coming from different career and education backgrounds with varying levels of defined career goals.
It has been rewarding to see these goals refine and develop over the course of the program.
My cohort has already demonstrated continuing engagement through arranging follow-up group sessions to perform deeper dives in specific sectors, like the circular economy.
I felt it was time I made a difference and utilised the skills I have built to affect change. I was hoping to gain a little more exposure to the local market and who the players were.
Being the inaugural course, I was expecting it to have some gaps and to need some iterations to mature. I did not expect to experience such comprehensive sector coverage and founder and investor exposure.
Through the seminars, roundtables and referenced resources, I was exposed to a broad set of problem areas and solution applications within Climate Tech, such as…
My plan going in was to focus on the renewable energy sector, this opened my eyes to alternatives that are pushing the limits of technologies in other exciting fields (sometimes literally).
On renewables, we met founders from a number of exciting organisations - for instance, Louise Brown, Associate Professor of Biophysics and founder of Hydgene, whose tech converts biomass to green hydrogen. We got to hear about the challenges and opportunities.
The greatest benefit has to be the ready-baked network – the cohort of Fellows and the sector players who have been willing to give their time and advice. As Afonso Firmo, Environmental Engineer and Founder of NetNada says:
"We need communities centred around network bridging rather than network bonding. While a bonding network unites individuals from similar backgrounds or groups, a bridging network connects people from diverse groups. We need to get this right so we can come up with new angles to tackle climate change. And Startmate did this to perfection."
First off, I was surprised by the depth of the Climate Tech space here in Australia and New Zealand. I had read widely about players and activities in North America and Europe – I had not been exposed to the local scene to any extent prior to the Fellowship.
I was surprised by the candour of the advisor group. They were willing to open up about the good the bad and the frustrating in the sector. This is highly beneficial: when we land our next gig, we want to be able to identify misaligned interests early and be confident we are aware of the environment we are entering – again back to the trade-offs spoken about before.
I was also impressed by the general attitude of sector participants who collaborated with us. Consistently, we were met with the mindset that the problem space is so large and the opportunity so great that we need to collaborate and share knowledge and learnings across the sector. I found this very refreshing compared with other sectors that I have covered.
The fellowship is suited to those motivated to have an impact on climate and feel they can bring existing skills or passion to the cause. The advice given by Climate Tech veterans guides those wanting to make a career move in the sector.