Why you should build a climate tech startup at Entrepreneur First

Posted 25 September 2023
Clemence Bellanger headshot
By Clémence Bellanger
Principal Talent Investor, Paris

The climate crisis is 100% the single most important problem of our time, but it’s also the biggest opportunity of our time. All things considered, it’s the only thing an entrepreneur should be working on. - Seb Blanc, EF Advisor.

Everyone working in climate science today started their career hoping to make a difference to humanity’s most pressing problem. But the reality is that there are few places where your impact will really be felt. If you truly want to change the trajectory for future generations and make impact at scale, choose entrepreneurship. 

Becoming a founder gives you the freedom to choose the solution and how it’s implemented. There are dozens of industries with climate related problems to tackle, and many emerging technologies with direct potential applications to solving climate-related problems. If you  have an edge in such a market or technology – then Entrepreneur First is the place to build. 

Climate startups have proven to be recession resilient

Climate investment in Europe was up 10% year-on-year in 2022. That’s a $16B investment influx into climate startups in 2022, closely trailing the US’ $20B figure. If you’re looking for a European “Sustainability Valley” to rival Silicon Valley, Paris makes a strong contender for the title. 19% of all the investments made in France last year went to greentech startups, a total of $2.2B, and the only place in Europe to see startups raise more money in 2022 than 2021. A €500M investment from France’s state investment bank Bpifrance into deep tech startups, and a massive €54B “France 2030” plan should make a compelling argument for you to build one of their projected 25 greentech unicorns by 2030.

At EF, we’ve demonstrated a commitment to research-oriented solutions

One in three of EF Paris’ founder teams from the last cohort were working on climate-related ideas. Over the past few years, we’ve invested in dozens of climate tech companies, in several countries. Our portfolio companies have found connections to other like-minded investors through our extensive network, enabling them to continue building solutions for the future. 

Take the example of Fairbrics from the first Paris cohort, which spins sustainable polyesters from industrial waste air, or Genomines, increasing mining yields by recovering metals from soil. If you’re looking for impact closer to home, we’ve also helped launch Neoplants, which purifies household air with genetically modified plants, and La Vie, which has created plant-based pork alternatives. 

Climate tech will push more boundaries than anywhere else

The cutting edge technologies these startups are developing are far beyond the limits of academia or big business. For Lionel Mora, CEO and cofounder of Neoplants, it’s like “we’re coding life like we once coded programs. Nature is the only technology that is inherently durable by design- and my intuition tells me that many solutions for today’s major problems already exist in nature… My conviction is that revolutionary innovations will be the path forward.” 

The extraordinary people building these startups met at EF in Paris. For Seb Blanc, two-time exited founder and EF investor, this is the major reason he’s so inspired to advise our founders. “The quality of the people that come to EF is so high, and so deeply technical, with a lot of masters’ and PhD grads in the same room. As a result, you get people with high drive and deep knowledge coming up with all sorts of crazy ideas.” 

Climate tech combines interdisciplinary edges to make impact

The brilliance of climate tech startups is how many different types of scientific and engineering disciplines intersect. Pairing up with someone unexpected can yield powerful results: Vincent Poulichet had a PhD. in Chemical Engineering and Physics when he paired up with Nicolas Schweitzer who had a background in fintech and business. Together, they built La Vie, which developed a patented recipe to reproduce the taste and texture of pork products using plant-based methods. 

From machine learning, to mining, to biology, exceptionally talented people have turned their talents to combatting the climate crisis with greentech startups built at EF. The companies built at EF are diverse: some are building software while others are focusing on breakthrough scientific innovations, particularly in the life sciences. Guided Energy, which has developed an AI SaaS platform for fleets to operate and charge EVs leverages deep learning research. Conversely, FairCraft has used material science and tissue engineering techniques to produce a cell-based alternative to animal leather. 

Make your mark in climate tech

So for all of you working in climate-adjacent fields, thinking about what’s possible and what’s next: it’s not enough to hope for a better future, you just have to get out there and build it, now.