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Why climate tech is poised to survive a recession

June 28, 2022, 12:36 PM UTC

Nothing about breathing underwater is natural.

It’s why before you go under you must strap a 30-pound cylinder to your back, cover half the surface area of your face with plastic, and stuff a breathing device in your mouth, before sloppily backrolling off the side of a boat into the ocean. 

I would argue that scuba divers—with their pressure valves, regulator tubes, and dive computers—are the most bizarre-looking living things in the ocean at any given moment. 

But while the gear itself might be wonky, it’s nothing short of incredible that you can follow a fish, study anemone, hunt for lobsters, or inspect a submerged Volkswagen many meters below the surface. It’s extraordinary—and humbling—to be part of an entirely different underwater system that functions under a different density. 

It also puts into perspective how fragile the entire ecosystem is. The oceans are the recipients of about one-fourth of carbon dioxide emissions. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that acidity has increased by about 30% since the Industrial Revolution (To put that in perspective, that’s more than 10 times the increase from millions of years prior). 

More than half of the coral reefs in the world have already disappeared, and scientists estimate that some 70-90% of them will disappear in the next two decades alone. A more recent study pegs that figure at 99% by the 2030s if we are unable to prevent another 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. 

Last week, I got my scuba diving certification in Isla Mujeres, an island about a 15-minute ferry ride off the coast of Cancún, Mexico, where I am working remotely the next few days. To be frank, it’s likely that nearly all of what I’ve been musing at underwater will simply no longer exist in just a couple dozen years. You can already see the effects of pollution in the water and on the beaches in the surrounding area. In the last few years, an unprecedented invasion of Sargassum, an algae that, in abundance, can devastate coastal ecosystems, economies, and human health, is threatening sea life in the area and reducing visibility in the Caribbean. The overabundance of the algae is considered to be linked to pollution and climate change—and is a smelly and quite visible showcase of the changes that are transforming the face of the Earth rather quickly. 

It’s one of the core reasons that green technology will continue to pull in investments into a recession: There frankly isn’t time to waste. Last year investments in green tech reached new records (right alongside new funding peaks in plenty of other sectors). Private equity firms have invested around $150 billion, and they have sponsored more than 1,000 clean technology companies in the U.S. in the last 10 years, per Pitchbook and the American Investment Council. In 2021, there was $755 billion invested in things like renewable energy, energy storage, electrified transport or heat, nuclear, hydrogen and sustainable materials, according to the research firm BloombergNEF—and $53.7 billion raised by climate tech startups. To be sure, the pace of climate dealmaking likely won’t be able to match that of last year as valuations come down and market volatility shutters late-stage exit plans. Even so, there had already been 369 VC deals in climate tech year-to-date at the beginning of June, per PitchBook. I’d imagine this will only continue as the price of gas soars and climate momentum continues to build.

Green tech companies have continued to secure funding and pepper the deals section of Term Sheet. Last month, Climeworks became a newly minted European unicorn after securing $650 million in funding to build direct air capture plants that will suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, then store it away. Just in today’s issue of Term Sheet, an Asheville, N.C.-based renewable energy developer for solar and storage raised $200 million in funding, and a U.K-based company raised seed funding to make packaging with mushrooms instead of plastic foam.  Last week, Electric Hydrogen, a fossil-free hydrogen tech company, announced it had raised $198 million in Series B funding. That’s not to mention the billions in corporate dollars flowing into green tech or energy initiatives—some 58% of Fortune 500 CEOs say they are striving to reach net zero by 2050.

Here’s the question: Will all this cash be able to save the coral reefs in time? I’m not risking it, and plan to keep diving to see them while I can.

For those of you who have asked, I regret to inform you that I took no underwater photos from my diving adventures this week. I simply wanted to experience it firsthand and feel as much a part of it as I could. I recommend you to take some time to do the same, if that’s your sort of thing—and to do the big and small things within your power to limit pollution and keep the anemone dancing.

It’s good to be back. I’ll see you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- Pine Gate Renewables, an Asheville, N.C.-based renewable energy developer for solar and storage, raised $200 million in funding from Generate Capital

- Pave, a San Francisco-based compensation platform, raised $100 million in Series C funding. Index Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, YC Continuity Fund, LocalGlobe, Craft Ventures, Original Capital, Backend Capital, Contrary Capital, and other angels. The company also acquired Advanced-HR, a San Francisco-based HR platform, from Morgan Stanley.

- Speechmatics, a Cambridge, U.K.-based speech recognition technology company, raised $62 million in Series B funding. Susquehanna Growth Equity led the round and was joined by investors including AlbionVC and IQ Capital

- Cyolo, a Tel Aviv-based zero trust network access solution provider, raised $60 million Series B funding led by National Grid Partners

- Atomo Coffee, a Seattle-based coffee company, raised $40 million in Series A funding. S2G Ventures, AgFunder, and Horizons Ventures invested in the round. 

- Eclipse Foods, an Oakland-based plant-based dairy products provider, raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Sozo Ventures. Forerunner Ventures, Initialized Capital, KBW Ventures, and Gaingels invested in the round. 

- Incredibuild, a Tel Aviv-based hybrid development acceleration platform provider for developers and DevOps teams, raised $35 million in Series B funding. Hiro Capital led the round and was joined by Insight Partners.

- Socially Determined, a Washington D.C.-based health care analytics company, raised $26 million in Series B funding. Questa Capital led the round and was joined by investors including CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, LRVHealth, OSF Healthcare, and Ziegler Link-Age Funds.

- Kogniz, a Berkeley, Calif.-based computer vision platform, raised $10 million in funding. Ulu Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including super{set} Venture Studio and its CEO and co-founder Tom Chavez, The Indy Fund, K20 Fund, H. Barton Asset Management, and others.

- Salesroom, a Boston-based video conferencing platform for sales professionals, raised $8.5 million in seed funding. Craft Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Village Global, Seedcamp, WndrCo, Asymmetric Capital, and other angels.  

- Populix, a Jakarta, Indonesia-based consumer insights platform, raised $7.7 million in Series A funding. Intudo Ventures and Acrew Capital led the round and were joined by investors including Altos Ventures and Quest Ventures.

- Veritonic, a New York-based audio analytics and research platform, raised $7.5 million in Series A funding. Lavrock Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Progress Ventures, Greycroft, Lerer Hippeau, and Newark Venture Partners.  

- Swave Photonics, a Leuven, Belgium-based semiconductor company that designs and markets holographic chips, raised €7 million ($7.41 million) in seed funding. Imec.xpand and Flanders Future Techfund led the round and were joined by QBIC

- AI Squared, a Washington D.C.-based A.I. integration platform, raised $6 million in seed funding. NEA led the round and was joined by Ridgeline Partners

- Magical Mushroom Company, an Esher, U.K.-based packaging company using mushrooms, raised £3 million ($3.69 million) in seed funding. Ecovative Design led the round and was joined by angels including Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, activist Robert Del Naja, and Adoreum Partners co-founder Marcus Watson.

- Adwisely, a Wilmington, Del.-based ad automation platform for e-commerce DTC brands, raised $1.5 million in seed funding. TMT Investments led the round and was joined by investors including Gaingels, Mana Ventures, Cabra VC, ICU Ventures, and other angels. 

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Accel-KKR acquired a minority stake in Singletrack, a London-based client engagement and analytics platform for capital markets. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Ardian agreed to acquire a minority stake in SERMA Group, a Pessac, France-based electronic technologies, embedded systems, and information systems consulting and services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Watterson, backed by Highview, acquired Bassett Creek, a Chicago-based restoration services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

EXITS

- Siemens AG acquired Brightly Software, a Cary, N.C.-based asset management solutions platform, from Clearlake Capital Group, for $1.575 billion. 

OTHER

- Cloudbeds acquired Whistle, a Los Angeles-based hotel guest engagement platform. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- Flipp acquired reebee, a Kitchener, Canada-based digital savings distribution channel. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- XM Cyber acquired Cyber Observer, a Caesarea, Israel-based cybersecurity company. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

IPOS 

- Weilong Delicious Global Holdings, a Luohe, China-based snack maker, which had previously put on pause plans to go public due to inflation concerns and the war in the Ukraine, has filed to go public in Hong Kong and could raise about $500 million, according to Bloomberg. Hillhouse and Tencent Holdings back the company. 

- Mirxes, a Singapore-based biotechnology startup, is weighing an initial public offering of about $300 million in Singapore next year, according to Bloomberg. 

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