Climate Change & Energy
New $375 Million Venture Fund Will Back Biodiversity-Focused Startups
Source: Bloomberg - October 10, 2023
At One Ventures has closed a new $375 million fund it will use to invest in startups working to improve planetary health, with an eye towards overlooked founders and solutions.
The firm, which is led by Tom Chi, a founding member of moonshot factory Google X, is focused on four, often interconnected areas: air, water, soil and biodiversity. An intergovernmental organization established by the United Nations estimates that about 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction, and air, water and soil pollution are key drivers of this biodiversity loss.
A large number of venture capital funds investing in climate tech are looking for companies that can cut carbon emissions. Chi, a managing partner for At One, said that leaves a lane open to back startups tackling other problems.
“There’s nothing in the economy that wasn’t mined or grown, which means it was all produced by nature,” he said, explaining the firm’s investment focus.
Five of the firm’s 35 portfolio companies are currently focused on biodiversity, including automated ecosystem restoration startup Dendra Systems. At One wants to expand on those investments, ensuring that 20% of the startups in its portfolio are addressing ecosystem health by 2025.
Unique among most venture firms, 40% of At One’s startups are run by underrepresented founders, such as women or people of color. Chi said that this outcome wasn’t intentional. It came out of the firm’s focus on the underlying fundamentals of companies, which include working on breakthrough technology that’s cheaper and better than competitors’ and provides benefits to the natural world as well.
“If everybody in the world is looking at the same entrepreneurs, these white dudes that just came out of Stanford, then those things get massively over-picked,” Chi said. “That means you’re going to pay way too much for something relative to its value.”
Among At One’s investments is battery recycling firm Ascend Elements. The startup recently won a number of major contracts and raised a massive $542 million series D round. Other portfolio companies include Dalan Animal Health, which developed a USDA-approved vaccine for honeybees, and Colossal Biosciences, the startup attempting to resurrect the woolly mammoth and dodo bird.
“It’s going to take a different kind of thinking than what got us into the climate crisis to get us out,” Helen Lin, the firm’s London-based partner, said in a statement. “We value diversity of thought so we can get a multi-faceted and in-depth understanding of problems in order to find tangible solutions.”