boy with cell phone photography giant sequoia
Out in Nature Young boy taking a photograph of the General Sherman sequoia tree (the largest tree on earth by volume), in Sequoia National Park, California. © Nick Hall

Mark Tercek

Techstars Sustainability Accelerator

10 Start-Ups Driving Innovation For The Planet

Mark Tercek Former Chief Executive Officer


In the conservation world, we’re always looking for new ways to scale up our work. Lately, some of our best ideas have come from the private sector. One especially promising strategy we’re borrowing from business is early-stage investing in technology start-ups.

Last week I was excited to participate in the official launch of a program that’s putting this strategy to the test—the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator. The Accelerator aims to scale up start-ups with disruptive, commercially viable technologies that can help solve the world’s food, water and climate challenges.

Here’s how it works. Investors created an equity fund for the program, which provided seed funding for ten entrepreneurs with the most promising ideas for sustainability technology. The entrepreneurs are now participating in an intense 3-month program designed to help them grow their business. At the end of the program, they’ll participate in a “demo day” to showcase their technologies to potential investors for subsequent funding rounds.

 The 2018 Accelerator class is now up and running, and it’s an impressive group:

  • Aqulytics is a data collaboration platform for the sustainable management of water.
  • Conserve With Us is an online conservation fundraising and engagement platform that makes it easy for individuals and businesses to find and support conservation projects that matter to them.
  • FlyWire’s patented video technology provides fishers and managers with the tools they  need  to effectively assess and  certify   their  fisheries are operating sustainably.
  • Kodo is a B2B SaaS that makes it easy, fun, and effective any size company to implement initiatives. Kodo helps companies build a purpose driven culture that counter-attacks the lack of employee retention and engagement in the modern workplace.
  • Lotic Labs is an environmental data science platform to drive financial stability in the water sector in the face of climate change and weather volatility. 
  • Nikola Power provides solutions and services to drive down the cost and increase the ease of implementing and managing energy storage. 
  • Node is a technology platform that allows 4 people—without any special skills—to assemble a radically sustainable house in under a month, at 50% of the cost and 25% of the time.
  • StormSensor is creating the world’s first smart urban watersheds by providing customers the information they need to identify, track, predict and prevent pollution and flooding in real time.
  • This Fish is a global provider of seafood traceability software that improves business efficiency and increases trust and transparency in seafood supply chains.
  • WatchTower Robotics provides patented technology that allows municipal water companies to find leaking pipes, save water and protect infrastructure.

It’s encouraging to see entrepreneurs increasingly looking for ways to help save the planet. Think about the role that technology has played in transforming entire industries such as finance, healthcare, and transportation. Now imagine those kinds of breakthroughs in addressing pressing environmental and social issues.

At The Nature Conservancy, we’re excited to help advance those breakthroughs by providing the Sustainability Accelerator participants with our conservation know-how. Meanwhile, Techstars will contribute its business and technology mentorship. But the ultimate success of these forward-thinking companies and others like them will depend on the investors and business leaders willing to step up and support their development. That’s where you come in.

Together we can demonstrate that there is a viable market for technology companies focused on solving big global challenges—and the time to invest is now.

Originally published on Forbes


Mark Tercek is the Former Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy, the global conservation organization known for its intense focus on collaboration and getting things done for the benefit of people and nature. He is the author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

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