On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Shomik Dutta, co-founder and managing partner of Overture VC, talks about how his firm is tackling climate change.
Before moving into the venture capital world, Dutta was invested in politics. Much to his father’s dismay, he joined Maryland gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley on the campaign trail rather than join Lehman Brothers, where he had been working in college. The decision ultimately ended up being to his benefit, as the bank later collapsed.
After working on O’Malley’s successful campaign, Dhutta was offered a spot on the campaign for Clinton’s ‘08 presidential campaign, but—again to his father’s chagrin—he decided to join then-Senator Barack Obama’s staff instead.
“I was just a fast-talking, punk fundraiser,” he says. “but it was the best experience I've ever had in my life.”
Ultimately, that position took him to the White House, where he took a position in the West Wing.
“It's just an astonishing amount of stress, time and focus. And it's something that still, you know, people in the private sector startups are fast and all encompassing,” says Dutta. “But, respectfully, I’ve never seen work and stress like I’ve seen [in the] West Wing.”
Dutta said his time driving in a Saab to 30-person fundraisers in the early days of Obama’s underdog campaign prepared him for his time as an investor.
“I think the thing, all of us that were early enough came to appreciate was that anything is possible in this country,” he says. “Huge change is possible still today. It takes a lot of conviction. It takes a lot of organization. It takes a lot of discipline. And it takes time.”
Now in his role as a partner at Overture VC, Dutta is putting that experience to work helping climate startups navigate government and regulatory complexity.
“A lot of companies don't have the cash to spend on expensive lobbyists or on full time employees,” he says. “And so this is where we can engage and be most helpful.”
Overture VC invests in early-stage startups tackling the climate crisis. He sees U.S. commitment to the struggle against environmental issues as analogous to where the country was before World War Two—largely on the sidelines as the Europeans take the lead. Soon, he says, he expects the U.S. will be forced to get involved,
“Sometimes it's hard to get the U.S. government's attention until literally bombs go off,” says Duttta, adding that more wildfires, massive storms and droughts will be the explosions that will usher in a period of frantic mobilization.
“I think investing in climate thematically is both the emergency we know it to be but also the largest economic opportunity I'm aware of in our lifetime.”
Engagement and Production Intern Jojo Macaluso contributed to this post.