The Climate Crisis Is Changing How LA VCs Invest — Here's How

Harri Weber

Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to harrison@dot.la.

The Climate Crisis Is Changing How LA VCs Invest — Here's How

Many leading venture capitalists in Los Angeles say they've altered their investment strategy because of climate change, and some are responding to the crisis by pouring more cash into clean-tech startups.

A majority, or 60%, of the more than two dozen investors polled by dot.LA said climate change is affecting how they invest.


The trend is fueling a record-setting year for the sector, as investors put billions behind Southern California-based companies such as electric vehicle maker Rivian and home energy storage firm Swell.

As of late October, Pitchbook tracked $6.4 billion in Southern California "climate tech" deals this year — nearly twice as much as in the entirety of 2020. The expansive sector, as mapped out by the data firm, includes everything from clean-energy generation and electric transportation to the development of plant-based proteins (a.k.a fake meat).

By deal size, Rivian and Faraday Future led the pack in SoCal, followed by Swell, nuclear fusion firm TAE Technologies and Bird, the scooter company that just debuted on the New York Stock Exchange.

"I've been actively investing in the space," Thomas McInerney, L.A.-based angel investor and World Wildlife Fund national council member, told dot.LA. "I think venture can change the world. Its role is crucial," he added, and pointed to several investments in startups such as carbon-removal company Charm Industrial and battery-swapping startup Ample.

Most of the venture capitalists polled said the climate crisis has prompted them to fund more clean-tech startups. One investor noted they were on the lookout for "more novel solutions to these problems."

Globally, climate investments have skyrocketed. In the third quarter of 2021 alone, Pitchbook tracked a record $30.8 billion in related deals. "The industry could give rise to 500 to 1,000 unicorns in the coming years," Pitchbook added in its recent climate report.

What Can't Tech Do?

The promising fundraising trend comes as the White House argues that yet-to-be developed tech will play a critical role in the response to the climate crisis.

"I am told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don't yet have. That's just a reality," U.S. Climate Envoy and former Senator John Kerry said in May.

But like others skeptical of Kerry's optimism, Dr. Deepak Rajagopal, professor at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, views the environmental problem as less a "technological one but more socio-political at an aggregate level and behavioral at an individual level."

For years experts have warned that tech alone cannot solve the crisis, and emerging tech often yields unexpected outcomes.

"My research on life cycle assessment of technologies always has shown every technology has unintended consequences and it is an ethical question whether the unintended consequences are worth it. You cannot find a solution which does not have some type of negative impacts," Rajagopal told dot.LA

Dr. Greys Sošić of the University of Southern California, whose research includes supply chain sustainability, called the rise in clean tech investments "commendable," but urged a holistic approach.

"I am wondering what is happening with the rest of their investments? Are there any trends toward reducing investments in "dirty" startups? Until this happens, we cannot make a lot of progress," said Sošić. "Just adding some clean tech startups in one's portfolio, without doing additional changes, looks more like greenwashing than a serious effort to help the environment."

Largest Southern California Clean Tech Deals by Size


Data from Pitchbook.

Lead image and infographics by Candice Navi.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Inflation Reduction Act Officially Passes the Senate, Revamping Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Capitol at Sunset
Courtesy of Mike Stoll via Unsplash

Over the weekend Senate Democrats officially passed the Inflation Reduction Act in what amounts to President Biden’s biggest legislative win so far. The bill includes a host of broad-spectrum economic policy changes and completely reworks the subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. The law still has to get through The House, but this should be a much smaller hurdle.

dot.LA covered the bill in depth as it neared the goal line at the end of July, and the final iteration doesn’t change much. To recap:

1.The rebate total stays $7,500 but is broken into two $3,750 chunks tied to how much of the car and its battery are made in the US.

2.The manufacturer caps are eliminated, meaning even EV companies that have sold more than 20,000 vehicles are once again eligible.

3.Rebates will now only apply to cars priced below $55,000 and trucks/SUVs below $80,000

With the new system placing a renewed emphasis on American manufacturing and assembly, the calculus of which vehicles cost how much is still being worked out, but the most comprehensive list I’ve seen has come from reddit user u/Mad691.

In addition to the EV rebate program, the bill also includes a number of economic incentives aimed at curbing emissions and accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

There’s $20 billion earmarked for the construction of new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $3 billion will go help electrify the USPS delivery fleet. Another $3 billion will go to electrifying the nation’s ports. Then there’s $1 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses.

Now that the bill is about to be codified into law, VC investment in the sector might heat up in response to the new money flowing in. “I do anticipate more climate funds standing up to invest in EV infrastructure,” says Taj Ahmad Eldridge, a partner at Include Ventures and the Director at CREST an ARES Foundation initiative with JFF/WRI that aims to provide training for people in the new green economy. “However, we do see funds being a little more thoughtful on diligence and taking their time to fund the right investment.”

The sentiment seems similar across Southern California. ChargeNet CEO and Co-Founder Tosh Dutt says the Inflation Reduction Act “super charges” the company’s effort to build infrastructure across the country.

“This investment accelerates the transition to renewable energy and gives companies like ChargeNet Stations the confidence to expand more rapidly, especially in underserved communities,” says Dutt.

For Rivian, the bill’s passage has left would-be customers in a sort of limbo. Because many of their models will exceed the $80,000 cap for trucks and SUVs after options, customers who’ve preordered are scrambling to sign buyers’ agreements to take advantage of the current EV rebate scheme which doesn’t include price caps. As I noted in the previous article, if you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

With the legislation seemingly on the fast track to become law, it’s unclear whether or not Rivian will expedite the purchasing process to allow customers to sign the buyers’ agreement before the new rebate program becomes the law of the land. Tick tock!


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