Scouting for the next Tesla in the start-up world

V Rishi Kumar Hyderabad | Updated on December 10, 2020

From the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in the US to the Deccan Plateau in India and the Alps in Europe, Third Derivative is on a mission mode, scouting for the next Tesla from the world of start-ups.

It is backed by the might of corporate heavyweights (representing $3-trillion in market capitalisation) that include FedEx, Microsoft and Wells Fargo, along with nine investor partners, including India-based Social Alpha.

Named Cohort 417 after peak atmospheric CO2 concentration of 417.1 ppm recorded in May, Third Derivative’s (D3) inaugural cohort of about 50 climate innovation start-ups, selected from over 600 applicants across over 60 countries, covers renewable energy, electricity, transportation, buildings, industry, energy access, food and agriculture, circularity, financial and business model innovation.

A joint venture of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Colorado, and New Energy Nexus, D3 combines all the traits of a next-generation accelerator, a venture capital, and an ecosystem of global corporations. D3’s partner investor funds have $2 billion of assets in management, and its corporate partners have a combined market capitalisation exceeding $3 trillion.

“No one invests in hard tech solutions. They are too capital-intensive and too risky. There has been really one, Tesla, in the last decade. We will need two to three Teslas every year for the next decade to address climate change,” said Jon Creyts, Managing Director, Rocky Mountain Institute, a clean energy think-tank.

The inaugural cohort includes three Indian climate tech start-ups: LoadExx provides last-mile logistics with light electric vehicles, Three Wheels United finances light electric vehicles, and rePurpose Global works in the recycling and waste reduction sector, he told BusinessLine.

By investing and innovating up and down the value chain, D3 hopes to move entire industries such that all participants in the accelerator can be successful.

“We can't wait for some massive government stimulus or the odd innovator who already had a load of cash from his internet start-up. Those aren’t odds we can bet the planet on. We have created an alternative model because we do not want to risk the future of our world on the basis of a system that isn’t functioning right today,” he says explaining how the huge portfolio is being looked at as hopefuls for the future.

New Energy Nexus supports entrepreneurs with committed venture capital, backed by Factor[e]Ventures, Chrysalix Ventures, CRCM Ventures, Emerald Technology Ventures, Imperative Ventures, Social Alpha, Skyview Ventures, Tsing Capital, and Volo Earth Ventures. Confirmed corporate partners include AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, bp ventures, Engie, Envision Group, FedEx, Microsoft, Shell, and Wells Fargo.

“We plan to work closely with all these start-ups to facilitate investments, growth and long-term partnerships. They will have the backing and support, which can make a difference. Unless we find couple of Teslas every year, the problems of climate change will be tough to handle,” he explains sharing their commitment towards bringing about climate change.

Start-ups with hard tech solutions seeking to transform our energy future face enormous challenges and have significant capital needs and longer paths to market than software startups favoured by investors. D3 is designed to overcome these specific challenges, bringing together top climate researchers, visionary investors, global corporate partners, and transformational innovators all under one roof.

Published on December 10, 2020

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