Climate & Clean Energy
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126. Climate Tech $ Above The Fold

Published on
June 14, 2022
Show notes

In Episode 126, Quinn meets his newsletter heroes: Kim Zou & Sophie Purdom, co-founders of the independent media outlet Climate Tech VC.

Kim works with Energy Impact Partners, a venture capital firm investing in climate technology. Sophie works as an investor in early stage climate technology businesses.

Together they write Climate Tech VC, the data-obsessed, essential take on the opportunities, deals, and news in the flourishing climate tech scene.

There is a massive cost that comes with transitioning every single existing building and vehicle, not to mention all of our power and infrastructure to green tech. While it’s arguably the biggest challenge of our time, it is also quite possibly the biggest market opportunity ever.

Kim and Sophie discuss the sustainability of volunteer advocacy for these important endeavors, and managing the currency of free time as this work becomes people’s second jobs--without the pay.

They also outline the action steps you can take, whether an investor, journalist, or a student looking to make the leap into the climate tech space -- because (so fun) it’s now or never!

Today’s episode is brought to you by Avocado Green Brands, where sustainability comes first. They craft their GOTS certified organic mattresses, pillows, and bedding with natural materials sourced from their organic farms in India, in their own clean-energy powered facility in Los Angeles, where their team shares a singular purpose: To raise the bar for what it means to be a sustainable business.

Avocado is Climate Neutral Certified for net zero emissions and donates one percent of all revenue to environmental nonprofits through its membership with 1% For the Planet.

Find out what it means to sleep organic at AvocadoMattress.com.

Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.com

New here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.

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Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Episode #126

Quinn:
Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett, and this is science for people who give a shit. There's a lot going on out there. Our world is changing and being changed every single day. And you can take part in that change. I talk to the smartest, most impactful people on the planet to provide you with the inspiration and tools you need to feel better, and to fight for a better future for everyone. Our guests are scientists and doctors, farmers, and policy makers and senators, activists, astronauts, nurses, journalists. We even had a reverend.

Quinn:
If you want to be inspired, to find out how to make radical change, hit the subscribe button right now to get even more conversations, stories, and tools to come. And you can also scroll through the feed or you can go to podcast.importantnotimportant.com, to find 120 plus evergreen episodes covering everything from clean energy to cancer and artificial intelligence to regenerative agriculture.

Quinn:
In this week's conversation, I talk to the all-volunteer media magnates behind the climate-tech ecosystem. Why they do what they do. How they do everything they do, and what you can learn from their journeys, but also their work. My guests are Kim Zou and Sophie Purdom of Climate Tech VC. And I mean, I could not learn and be inspired and intimidated by the amount, and quality, and value of the work that these women put out every single week.

Quinn:
And so I'm so excited to share this conversation with you today. A reminder, you can always send questions and feedback or guest recommendations to me on Twitter at @Importantnotimp, or email me at questions at importantnotimportant.com.

Quinn:
For Avocado Green Brands, sustainability comes first. They craft their GOTS certified organic mattresses, pillows and bedding, with natural materials sourced from their organic farms in India, in their own clean energy powered facility in Los Angeles, where their team shares a singular purpose. To raise the bar for what it means to be a sustainable business. Avocado is climate neutral certified for net zero emissions and donates 1% of all revenue to environmental nonprofits through its membership with 1% for the Planet. Find out what it means to sleep organic at avocadomattress.com.

Quinn:
My guests today are Sophie Purdom and Kim Zou. And together we are going to explore another side of this climate tech revolution, as it is. And that's the media ecosystem surrounding it. Sophie and Kim, welcome.

Kim Zou:
Thanks for having us.

Sophie Purdom:
Thanks for having us.

Quinn:
For sure.

Sophie Purdom:
Kissing each other right out of the gate.

Quinn:
I know, that's right. Sophie, we also have a rabbit with us, correct? What is the rabbit's name?

Sophie Purdom:
We do. We have Toffee the house rabbit tuning in from Lodz, Poland.

Quinn:
Perfect. Toffee the Polish house rabbit. We will get a... Toffee boy? Girl? Do we know?

Sophie Purdom:
Unclear? We can ask Toffee later if she,

Quinn:
Yeah.

Sophie Purdom:
He, they come over [inaudible 00:03:27]

Quinn:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We'll sort it out and see how they feel about the climate ecosystem.

Quinn:
Rock and roll. Sophie and Kim. Could you tell the people real quick, and that's kind of what we're getting into today, who you are and what it is you do briefly, before we really start exploring?

Kim Zou:
Sure. Happy to kick off. So I'm Kim. My day job, I daylight as an investor at Energy Impact Partners, which is a $2 billion, AUM venture capital firm, investing in climate tech. We're backed by a coalition of more than 35 strategics. A lot of which are in the energy, transportation, industrial space.

Kim Zou:
So do the day job of climate tech investing. And then also another day job, and night job I'd say, is writing Climate Tech, VC with Sophie. And I think CTVC has been around for two years now. Based off two newsletters every week, we cover the deals, news, what you need to know, every single week, as well as how to think about it. So we talk to the founders, the investors, experts that are in this space. We put out our own proprietary content as well, around different market deep dives. Like carbon removal or sustainable seafood. So a lot of content we've put out there and we're really now becoming the leading source on climate and innovation.

Quinn:
Rock and roll. Yeah. It's very upsetting how much content you put out. I genuinely am just like, "How? How do they have time?" That's what we're going to get into. Awesome. Sophie, anything you want to add to that before we get rolling?

Sophie Purdom:
Kim got it. I guess, Hey, I'm Sophie. I moonlight doing some other bits and pieces too. Everyone has multiple jobs these days, particularly in pandemic times. But my job, if you call it that, is also investing in early stage climate technology businesses. Which handily, is what we also gab about on the newsletter. And I've been doing that with a series of existing funds and I'm excited to be setting up my own structure. So happy to share more about that another time, once I'm locked and loaded with the SEC filing.

Quinn:
Yeah, yeah. We're not trying to break... Well, maybe some rules. Not those ones today. We got enough going on. Perfect. So Sophie, Kim, we do usually start these shenanigans with one question for the people. I encourage you to be bold and honest, but also realize it's a little preposterous, which is kind of the tone of this entire thing. So if you could each answer, why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Sophie Purdom:
I mean, I don't know if I am, right? And I think that's the greatest fear. You know, when kids are asked what's your greatest fear? Most people used to say sharks, or spiders, or heights, or something-

Quinn:
All terrifying.

Sophie Purdom:
Absolutely. And as a first grader, I had my British accent back then. Much stronger too, right? So everything I said sounded smarter than it actually was, and I was like, "I'm afraid of like obsolescence." And my teacher was like, "Could you draw a picture of that?" And it was a black hole. So we were off to the races is strong there.

Sophie Purdom:
So anyway, that's my actual answer. I don't think we do matter, but you could say maybe it doesn't matter, but we can try. The way that we're trying is through some combination of putting our words into practice, but also recognizing that content, and deep thought, and our whole premise of what do you need to know and then how should you think about it in climate and in early stage technology, I would like to believe that innovation is going to change the world for the better. So count us in for spreading the good word and telling the truth and hopefully inspiring some folks along the way. Hopefully that matters. Call it a green hole.

Quinn:
I love it. Kim, what do you got?

Kim Zou:
I love that. Thanks Sophie, for giving me the extra five minutes to think of a not terrible answer. But no, I'm in the same boat. I think thinking that oneself is vital to the survival of their species is a very bold claim to make. But I will say I've been thinking about climate change for most of my life. You know, now everyone's talking about it in the New York Times or whatever, but it's just this almost unsolvable problem. Not one person can fix it. All you can do is try to work on it, both in your career and your daily life. And I think that my goal is to be able to work on the climate crisis. Not only donating to a charity, but to do it every day and have it be part of my everyday life.

Kim Zou:
And now it is, both at EIP as well as through Climate Tech VC, which is really exciting. And the mission of what we're doing isn't to say, "Hey, everyone should be a Climate Tech founder. Everyone should be a Climate Tech investor." But it's to facilitate these conversations, and to show the positive side of... Not the positive side of climate change, but the positive solutions to climate change.

Kim Zou:
Everyone talks about the science. We all talk about how we're basically screwed. We're not going to get to 1.5 degrees, we can just hope for the best. But then what I'm happy about now is hopefully Sophie and I are trying to move the conversation past, "we're screwed." To "what can we do about it? What are the solutions out there? How do we actually capitalize and accelerate these solutions at a timeframe that no one's ever seen before?"

Kim Zou:
Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft had a quote the other day that was like, "climate Tech is basically the same extent of putting a man on the moon type of mission." And there are steps to get there. And the way that we've done it so far over the last decade has been too slow. How do we accelerate this? It's by bringing the founders, the investors, the policy makers, all these voices together. And we're trying to highlight that, and also facilitate an ecosystem where they can start conversing and make those connections.

Kim Zou:
So that's hopefully how Sophie and I are ensuring the our species' survival, or whatever. But I think just trying to actively make the ecosystem move a little faster.

Quinn:
I love it. That's great. Those are awesome. And obviously your work is much appreciated. You're here for a reason and... Literally on the show for a reason. So here's why I wanted to, besides just my admiration for you both and your work, why I wanted to have this conversation. I think folks are going to take a lot away from it, whether they're familiar with it or not. Because as you guys know, my prism isn't just climate as much as climate touches everything, and we saw that with COVID and stuff like that. It is public health. And it's cancer, and agriculture, and food and water. Again, climate touches all of them, but they are also and have been for a long time, had their own issues, but also opportunities.

Quinn:
But in this case we're seeing such an acceleration of private and now public money in some places, flowing hand over fist into this huge range of climate tech projects. There's hard tech stuff like building, or like block power's doing, and HVAC retrofits and battery tech, and satellites to track deforestation, all this stuff.

Quinn:
And the crisis is here. Again, we're not going to get into that too much today. People get it. It's breathing down our necks. But when one of the best ways to slow it is to retrofit every existing building on the planet, to build a huge number of new units with green concrete and green steel. And when we have to replace every car on earth, and the infrastructures that support them and manage a transition around all of those, ignore the power sector infrastructure, right? That needs to be replaced and built. There are estimates that put those costs alone at I think it's $56 trillion, in incremental spending, before 2030. Something like that.

Quinn:
And so we've seen, I think, this year and no one better to correct me and please spend this entire podcast correcting me as you need to. But I think there's been like $32 billion in Climate VC money this year, something like that. It's like 5,000 startups. It's close. The point is, this crisis is arguably our biggest challenge of like the last 200,000 years. But it's also the biggest market opportunity, probably ever, right?

Quinn:
We're designing this entirely new thing. All these new systems. And you two have become, like Kim, you were saying two years, which time has no meaning anymore, but the voice of this community. Besides participating in self, you guys are the megaphone for it. And helping people not only know what's going on, but like you said, how to think about it. And I've loved learning from you along the way.

Quinn:
So you're both investors yourselves, and I've dabbled some. Probably should be doing more. But with this huge new marketplace and the reinvention of this... I mean, when you think about it, all of our geopolitics, and economic systems and societies of the past hundred years have basically been based on crushed up dinosaur bones, right?

Quinn:
So you started the Climate Tech VC newsletter to report on and explain everything that's going on, but you're already doing all this other work. What made you go each, "I have to do this." And, "We have to do this." What did you feel like there was a hole that was missing? And how did you get over that hump of, "I guess I'll do this extra work to enlighten everyone." How did this come to be?

Kim Zou:
Yeah, I can kick off with that. So, this goes back two years. At the time I wasn't in climate tech, I was in investment banking. So doing your typical banking models, and nothing related to climate. Only on the finance side, focused on tech companies. And for so long in my life, I had actually gone into university wanting to figure out how to work on the climate crisis, whether it was on the engineering side, or on policy side, or on the business side.

Kim Zou:
Ended up falling through more of a business track. Was part of a student-run venture firm at Hopkins, which is the university I went to. Also started like a sustainability hackathon as well called Green Hack. So always really loved intersection of how do we address the climate crisis with innovation? And did your typical banking experience just to develop those skills. But then when I was there, I was thinking about, "How do I refocus back on climate?"

Kim Zou:
And the idea occurred to me that the best way to do that is actually to write a newsletter about it. And to share that information with everyone. Especially because, as you know, it's so easy these days to start podcasts and start newsletters but I think the angle is how do you make it differentiated? How do you make it additive to the existing conversation? And it seemed like there had already been a lot of podcast, newsletters, media about climate change itself-

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
The science of it, the policy of it. But there hadn't been anything about the innovation behind it or the solutions behind it. And if you look at the venture world and the tech world, there's all of these newsletters about VCs, there's all these newsletters about crypto and biotech, and all these different verticals, but none focused on climate.

Kim Zou:
And so, fortunately or coincidentally, I think Sophie and I actually started Climate Tech VC before the whole phrase, climate tech, blew up or the whole world of hype happened. But I think we saw the writing on the wall, which is the climate crisis is happening. It's closer than anyone expected. And people are now starting to think about solutions, and buckets of areas of innovation. And there needs to be coverage of that, rather than just coverage on the doomsdayer stuff. So that's how Climate Tech VC started. And then Sophie can take over, in terms of how it really began.

Quinn:
Yeah, and I want to know how you two found each other, to get that going as well.

Kim Zou:
It's a good story.

Sophie Purdom:
[crosstalk 00:15:11] Share of it. Well one man. One man put us in touch, Cary Krosinsky. Shout out to Cary the connector. And I'll backpedal quickly on my story of how Cary loops in and then we'll tie it together.

Sophie Purdom:
So I feel like in lots of ways, this newsletter was always meant to be for me. And that it's combined all of the pieces I've been working on, across my entire career, in one place. So to make that sound less grand, climate's always been first for me. Studied it as a theme throughout everything I've ever academically been interested in, and helped set up an institute at Brown University to bring in a whole bunch of interdisciplinary professors to push forward conversations and research in this space. And I worked at the investment office on setting up an ESG. So, environmental social governance, as I'm sure your listeners are familiar with, fund. Which was first of a kind at a university of its size.

Sophie Purdom:
And along the way there, intersected with a highly prolific author and teacher who wasn't at Brown yet, though he was teaching at Yale. And his name is Cary Krosinsky. And so I wrote curriculum for a course on sustainable investing that I thought was missing from the Brown undergrad educational opportunity set, and it was approved. I was a student, so I wasn't supposed to teach it. So I helped Cary come enter the Brown ecosystem. We taught it together. We became best friends, and we've done a whole bunch of stuff hand-in-hand ever since, including writing a book on sustainable investing and working with a whole bunch of institutional asset owners. So my path into climate really came from the ESG side.

Sophie Purdom:
I took a stint through management consulting. I'm sure you've heard that story before. Left that to go start a climate tech business, but we didn't call it that at the time. We called it an agricultural technology business. It just happened to also sequester carbon. That business is called Kula Bio and we make... The simplest way to describe it is that we make a fertilizer, an ammonia fertilizer. But we do it using biology and microbes instead of pretty complex and energy-intensive chemistry with a whole bunch of fossil fuel inputs and greenhouse gas emissions through the Haber-Bosch process.

Sophie Purdom:
So I was setting up Kula. Rubbed shoulders for the first time with these venture-capitalist folks that I had never really engaged with much, and learned a bunch of lessons along the way about how to sell part of your company and partner with these folks. And through that process, wanted to spend more time supporting other companies that were in the climate space to accelerate their growth through venture capital. And started working with a host of venture funds on that. And gradually shifted more of my time over to that side, and missed what Cary had taught me about using writing and using teaching to really spread the message.

Sophie Purdom:
And Cary put Kim and I in touch. And she had set up the blog. And I think Kim, was it that you had some conflict of interest or something with your banking folks, and needed to put a different name on it or whatnot. And that was the hook, line and sinker that got us working together. And then the pandemic hit and it was pretty easy, frankly, to pick up the phone and talk to anybody at the beginning of the pandemic, right? Because in-person meetings were canceled. So all of a sudden you could holler at anybody across the world, and they didn't necessarily care where you were sitting, or how old you were, or exactly what your background was or who had put you in touch.

Sophie Purdom:
And that helped us accelerate the first, maybe 10 or so interviews that we did. And everybody was thinking about climate in a pretty intimate way that they might not have before the pandemic, of what's the air that I'm breathing like going into my body? What's the food in my refrigerator like, and where does that come from? How do I want to spend my time? What's my physical environment like? Wow, nature. Gee whiz, nature's pretty nice, right?

Sophie Purdom:
I'm being silly there, but climate really picked up steam at the beginning of the pandemic and those confluence of things accelerated the growth of our [inaudible 00:19:19]. And I also like to think that Kim and I are pretty good at doing good content, but also stepping up nice structures to accelerate the products behind the scenes as well. So it's not just us, there's a whole quality team. Entirely, we're all volunteer based, right? That are all in this for the same mission of wanting to push the narrative of climate tech forward and that opening doors for us personally, of course, as we're leveling up ourselves and leveling up the field in conjunction.

Quinn:
I love it. I love the way you each came to this and found each other through necessity. It seems like Kim, so you didn't break the law. Which seems to be becoming a theme here. That's awesome. That's awesome. So, talk to me about... Because every time I get something from you guys, all I think is, "They put so much work into this." Like you said, there's so many newsletters out there. I've got one of them.

Quinn:
I'm sure like you guys, I receive so many of them. And there's some incredible essayists out there, and some creative stuff in the tutorial. And there's incredible... For instance, Amy Westervelt, who on the investigative journalism side, the work she puts in, it's very upsetting. Clearly she has a time-turner. It's preposterous. But not everybody puts in that much work like she does or like you guys do.

Quinn:
I mean, they're so dense but readable, and useful, and valuable to folks. What do you feel like... You talked about you've got a team of all volunteers that are just trying to move the needle. What is still missing from what you guys work on? So let's tell people, you said it comes out twice a week. Tell people what that is, what that structure is and how it operates behind the scenes, and maybe not what's next, but what do you feel is missing, because of the structure of the way this thing is set up?

Kim Zou:
Yeah, that's a good question. And definitely something we think about all the time is, where our gaps and how do we want to keep improving? So where we are right now and where we've expanded to over the last two years, we have our Monday issue, which we do think of is more of the weekly update. What do you need to know? And that consists of, we usually write about a news headline. What was the biggest thing that happened last week? And then what are kind of the key takeaways, especially thinking about it again from that climate innovation hat. What are the key takeaways for either innovators or investors in this space as they think about building solutions?

Kim Zou:
And then we have our deals of the week, which I can say from an investor perspective, I think people definitely love as a way to just aggregate all of the really interesting climate solutions that have happened in real time. So we talk about the deal. We actually do a lot of the backend insights and tracking. So we have a really cool database of all this info we can leverage that we've been doing over the last two years.

Quinn:
It's invaluable, by the way, to anybody out there. It's truly... What you've put together. Again, the weekly updates are great, but it seems intuitive to have said, "Well, why don't we just put this all there?" Or vice versa. But for it to be public-facing and usable by everyone is truly, again, one of those things that's going to help move the needle. So, continue.

Kim Zou:
Yeah. So we do the deals and that's a really big value-add that we provide. Along with basically a similar thing, but on the news side. So all of the main headlines that you should know about. For me, it's really useful. So instead of having to read every single newsletter, it's almost an aggregator of all of that in a very synthesized form.

Kim Zou:
And then on top of that, we do events, opportunities. We launched a job board on Pallet. If you're a candidate looking for a job, or a company that's looking to post a job, you should definitely check it out. It's a great platform to see who all the best climate companies are and what kind of roles they are hiring for. And so that's been, I think, particularly useful for people who are trying to work on climate and transitioning over.

Kim Zou:
So that's the Monday issue. And then our Friday issue is where we generated our own proprietary content. So, Monday is where we synthesize all of the things that we've seen on the deals and the view side. Friday is where we generate our own proprietary content, whether that's through interviews with founders and investors, we've interviewed people like the founders of Solugen, which we're really excited about.

Kim Zou:
This last Friday or this morning, actually, we put out an interview with Dan from Region Ventures, because he just launched his first fund and it's all focused on what is regenerative investing? What does that entail? So if you're interested, you should check it out. That's one facet of it. On some other Fridays, we also publish what we call market overviews, or features. I think we're calling it insights now. So that breaks down into sometimes we write a market overview on a specific space that Sophie and I are really excited to dig into. So we've done a lot, actually, on the carbon tech side. Whether it's how do you remove carbon from the air? Carbon to value. How do you convert CO2 into a useful material? We did one on sustainable seafood, heating and cooling. A bunch of really interesting insights that you can kind of break down now to the primary buckets of climate tech, like energy, transportation, industrials, and digging through the pockets of innovation.

Kim Zou:
And we do these really cool market maps as well, trying to track all of the different startups that are working on these solutions. And then recently we launched a new type of feature, that is more around guides. So realizing that most of our audience are either investors or founders, I think those are kind of the two voices we speak primarily to. On the founder side, so much of what we've heard is, "The only capital we can access is venture capital." And there's a lot of pros to venture capital, but there's also a lot of cons. It's very expensive. You have to give up ownership. You can't really only finance your company with venture if you're building a factory, or building multiple factories, because it gets too expensive.

Kim Zou:
And so this is a problem we've been thinking a lot about. Just as investors on a day to day basis. And we wanted to create a comprehensive guide for founders. And does the full climate capital stack look like? What are all of the financing options that are out there? From it being an idea, pre-seed stage, all the way to exit. Your IPO-ing or your getting acquired. So what are all of the different financing options that are available on the venture side, on the debt side, project, finance grants, all of these things. And as Sophie and I were writing this, we realized there's so much more here that we want to dig into. For example, on the government funding side. There's a whole world there. There is a ton of capital, but just no one knows how to access it.

Kim Zou:
So these are very tangible things where it's not just covering the news, but it feels like we can unearth a lot of these pockets of capital or innovation that people haven't really been paying attention to just yet. And now we have the platform to do it, too. So that was a mouthful, but I think that's where we are today. I don't know if I missed anything. Sophie?

Sophie Purdom:
Great overview. I'll just say that's the current state. We've been doing it for two years, so we haven't been doing it exactly that way all along. We've evolved. And the way that we've landed on this product assortment is by being data-obsessed and paying a ton of attention to feedback, and interviewing and listening to our customers who are our readers. So we know them intimately. We talk with them constantly. We have an extremely active, open set of feedback channels across a bunch of different platforms.

Sophie Purdom:
We are obsessed with clicking into the backend data of who engaged with what? Where? When did they engage with it? How does our title affect open rate? What kind of different readers read different pieces? What happens if we stack different types of content to build on each other, rather than sprinkle it across, et cetera, et cetera. Where we're going is, we've been obsessed with quality content consistently, as a way to build trust with and grow our audience to a pretty significant base.

Sophie Purdom:
I think we can safely say we've done that. We're confident with that now. Where we're going is helping folks reference older content as a resource, because some of it is quite evergreen. Not the Monday issue that's news based. But the Friday content is and folks are engaging with us and going back and asking if we've ever written something about XYZ topic. And so we're reorganizing that, packaging it with the data insights that are extremely proprietary and have really high click-through rates. And our jobs board, and starting to talk about this suite of offerings more as a platform or a package rather than quote, just a newsletter.

Sophie Purdom:
But emphasis, emphasis, emphasis. Two years of writing this content twice a week, right? To get to that stage where now we're thinking about repackaging it. And I think we've seen so many folks come out, guns blazing with their thoughts on a perfect newsletter and you can't keep that up. Kim and I have sacrificed, and the team has sacrificed a lot to put out these issues. I can't remember what number we're at, but close to more than 200 pieces of content, all of which we hang our hats on and whatever, sacrificed other things that we could be doing to put out there.

Sophie Purdom:
And only now have we really earned the right to expand out with that deep reader trust. So it takes a while. It takes a while, and learn along the way. But content's no joke.

Quinn:
Hey, it's Quinn, I'll make this quick. Sifting through the news is a slog. Finding the signal in the noise? It's near impossible. And if you do, what can you even do about it? I'll tell you what you could do. Literally. Every week, I'll tell you the most impactful thing you can do. In just 10 minutes a week, you can get smarter, feel better, and make radical change. For yourself, your family, your investments, your company, and for the world. Join tens of thousands of other leaders and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at newsletter.importantnotimportant.com. Get the most vital science news, exclusive analysis, and action steps for free. That's newsletter.importantnotimportant.com or just click the link right in your show notes, back to the show.

Quinn:
Content? That might be the title of this podcast when we put it out is content's no joke. Content done well is no joke. And it's clear besides again, if you're just someone who runs across a single issue, whether it's Monday, or later in the week, or one of the tools. Kim, as you were alluding to, your exploration of and then the service you provided with publishing the capital guide, essentially.

Quinn:
Was that last week? I can't keep track of anything anymore. But just how many people instantly responded? I watched it happen live going, "Holy shit, this is so useful." And I can't imagine anyone else who... Again, because this thing is growing so fast, and obviously there were some false starts in the past 10 years, but it's growing so fast for real this time. Out of necessity, out of opportunity, out of innovation. But you've spent two years, there was no one else in a better place to have done something like that. Much less to do what you guys are doing, week to week. So-

Sophie Purdom:
Eh, I'll jump in there real quick.

Quinn:
Yeah, please.

Sophie Purdom:
I think actually, I don't actually think we were the best positioned. Granted, Kim hung up a shingle that said Climate Tech VC, and that was basically it. And it's not like we came into this with funding or a platform, or whatever.

Quinn:
Sure.

Sophie Purdom:
I think it's again, the trust and the ownership, and the consistency piece. And then not getting distracted along the way. There's been a lot of folks that have come in, and I think it's great, right? There should be lots of new starts in the space. But sometimes just sticking to the core helps you get there. And we've seen, not just folks that are writing Wednesday, Tuesday, newsletters by themselves, solo, from anywhere on the world on platforms like Substack. But we've seen the upsurge in entirely new platforms over the two years that we've been doing this from new rolling funds, right?

Quinn:
Yeah.

Sophie Purdom:
Which are basically a form of content in themselves-

Quinn:
Sure.

Sophie Purdom:
To a ton of different podcasts. To the acquisition-of, to the closure-of, to Canary Media is new, as of-

Quinn:
Yeah, they didn't exist six months ago.

Sophie Purdom:
Even Kim's close colleague like [Shale 00:32:08] and the Interchange, that's an institution and that's shifting over leads now, and voices go onto different platforms. And it's always constantly changing. So I guess just sensitivity to, we weren't endowed with this.

Quinn:
No.

Sophie Purdom:
And it will keep changing. Our platform will keep changing. But it's that obsession with the customer.

Quinn:
But to make it meta though, having some experience on the investing side, it's nowhere near my day job like it is yours, though like myself you have four day jobs, to make it meta, what you did as let's say I'm approaching you as an investor. You took both of your individual, your varied backgrounds and perspectives and your lived experiences, and combined those again, out of necessity, because Kim was going to go to jail if she published X or Y. And you saw a hole in the market. And in a market that, again, could be among the biggest of all time. Measurable. You've got two founders who not only know it well and have worked in it in a variety of capacities, and outside it in an indirect way.

Quinn:
But you are obsessed with the data. And you are practical and proactive about how you use that data. Kim, I liked the moment where you were like, "Is that what we're calling that section now?" Because you're constantly tinkering with it. And you don't want to always do that, because then your readers are like, "Where's the things I'm used to finding?" But that's where the data can help you. Because if people aren't clicking on it, or only certain segments of people are clicking on it, or they only do it once a month. Maybe it's too often, whatever it might be, those are the things that make this not only popular but make the engagement something that people come back to over and over again. It's not just they clicked on one guide and found that useful. So it's a recurring engagement, but also valuable to people.

Quinn:
But also again, if you're being meta about it and looking at investors, those are two... The biggest market of all time, you were smart enough and thoughtful enough to have seen a hole. And you're so dedicated to it. Those are, as you know, when you're looking at should I invest in this company? You're checking lot of boxes for something that goes, this makes a lot of sense. This is something I would want to get behind.

Quinn:
So here's my question to you. How sustainable, to steal a word, is this endeavor from a volunteer standpoint? Because you said you've got this whole crew and Kim, you said at the very beginning, it's your day job and your night job, and I fully get that. I fully get that. How sustainable is this? And if there's discussions, or thoughts, or ideas you don't want to share, that's totally fine. Just generally, thinking about it, thinking about all of those things and where this thing's going. Because the train's not slowing down anytime soon. What you do doesn't become less valuable over time. You're part of the institution now, so.

Kim Zou:
We're part of the institution Sophie.

Quinn:
For better or worse.

Kim Zou:
No, definitely. I mean, yeah. What I'll add to the points before, too, is Sophie and I didn't come into this knowing what Climate Tech VC was going to become. I think we knew what we wanted to create, and we knew what got us excited. And fortunately, I think that's what has gotten our readers excited too.

Kim Zou:
So whenever we think about creating content, both Sophie and I have to get excited about it first. Like this is something we would want to read. For example, the climate capital piece we just put out. Sophie and I have been thinking and toying with that idea over the last two months, because everyone around us has been talking about, what are other financing solutions out there? And we wanted to just get all of our thoughts on the paper and really do that guide justice.

Kim Zou:
So a lot of our high quality content stems from the question of, "Would we want to read this? Would we get excited about this?" And I think that's how we've been able to put out content that other people are also excited about. In terms of sustainability, it's been two years now. It's crazy to me that it's been two years. Because to some extent it feels like we just started this thing, and we still have so far to go with it. And it is also Sunday nights when we're pressing publish for Monday morning. And then I also have our weekly investment committee meetings at 8:00 AM. It definitely sucks sometimes. Where Sophie and I are both on flights at the same time and have to coordinate who's hitting publish or who's going to take the final edits.

Kim Zou:
I think that's why it's been so nice to have a full team behind us. Again, on a voluntary basis, but everyone's really behind the mission of Climate Tech VC. We haven't monetized. We haven't put anything behind a paywall. And I think that's really core to what we're doing at CTVC. This is literally just facilitating and accelerating solutions to the climate crisis. So that's why we don't really want to cannibalize any of that.

Kim Zou:
On the how to make this sustainable front, I think Sophie and I have done a really good job of finding areas of the newsletter that we can automate. So at this point, the Monday newsletter, these updates, we've got that down to a T. It's almost like writing a startup, right? Like you want to always be improving on your operational efficiency-

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
Your cash burner, whatever you want to call it. That's what we're continuing to do at CTVC, except instead of cash, it's time. Time is our currency here. And so it's always improving that time efficiency metric. Bringing in people where it's helpful, for some of these larger lists, like the capital stack piece we just put out.

Kim Zou:
It's really leveraging our own networks and having an excuse to reach out to experts who know this space really well, jumping on the phone with them and attributing them, obviously, where relevant. But for the most part, it's bringing together all of these voices and these experts, and then drafting it up into a piece, synthesizing it, and sharing it to the world.

Kim Zou:
And I think that's what we've done really well. It's not like, "Oh, this information is just in our heads." Part of it is. But a lot of it is just connecting to the right people who are experts in this space, and finding a platform in which we can share all of that with everyone.

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
And within all that, trying to make it as efficient as possible.

Quinn:
Go ahead, Soph-

Sophie Purdom:
It becomes self-reinforcing in lots of ways, right? If it's high quality, higher quality folks read it. And they have higher NPS, therefore, they're excited and willing to hop into a dock when you've only got five hours before you've got to publish the thing, and they're game to put their comments in directly. You can start calling those favors and building it collaboratively.

Sophie Purdom:
It's another reason why we didn't, maybe sell is too aggressive of a word, but we've had opportunities to merge or change or... Absolutely, certainly have folks start paying for it, or put things behind paywalls. And we said, over and over and over again, including to some pretty attractive potential buyers, nope, not now.

Sophie Purdom:
And I'm proud of us for doing that. Because I think that you don't know early, what the future potential opportunities from a monetization, or an acquisition, or a partnership, or who knows what potential is, until you've really broken out and you have some serious velocity.

Sophie Purdom:
And so I'm proud of us for not actually hindering our growth by trying to turn on monetization. Because at the end of the day, it's a big question of, "Well, what does money in the bank actually allow you to do better?" And it wasn't clear that money in the bank or a partnership would allow us to do higher quality or more consistent content. And those were our two variables that we were going after. So yeah, it's cool to reflect back on.

Quinn:
I love it. I imagine, and maybe not because you seem to be all powerful, but at least for me, there are times where I go... I know objectively, what we do is worth it. But there's times where you go... It's a lot, either emotionally or just the work, or logistically or this, or like you said, you got a deadline in five hours and you're going, "I got to, somebody's got to read this."

Quinn:
It can be a lot. But I imagine also, and again, please correct me if I'm wrong. There's this phrase in the tech world, I'm sure you're both familiar with; dog-fooding. And you can tell basically when, for instance, an app developer or something, whether they're using their own app. Right? There was always this thought for about 10 years that no one inside apple was actually using their software, because it was just so obnoxious to use, but they felt like they had to do it anyways.

Quinn:
How much has CTVC actually informed your own work? Especially, not just philosophically, but how much is it actually an asset to the work that you're doing as Kim, you're actively doing this and Sophie, you're trying to build your own thing, as if you guys don't have enough going on.

Sophie Purdom:
Of course. This is how it, quote, pays out. Right?

Quinn:
Right.

Sophie Purdom:
It is the thesis. This is us learning in public about what we then go put into practice with capital elsewhere. Though, to be very clear, there is a serious whatever you want to call it, Chinese firewall or something between the journalism component and the investing component, and feedback is very welcome about how we can continue to do that better. Please hit us with feedback there.

Sophie Purdom:
But we asterisk the crap out of anything where we have a conflict of interest, and put on different hats and use different accounts when we're doing investing versus doing anything that looks like journalism. But of course, that's how it pays out. This is us learning in public and sharing our theses that we then, independently... Kim and I are different people and we're deploying different types of capital with different theses.

Sophie Purdom:
But this is us sharing our learning in public, that we then run with, and hopefully profit off of and build awesome businesses with. So they're inextricably linked and when we first started out with the newsletter, there were not many examples of folks doing that connection between content and investing, in particular.

Sophie Purdom:
Now it's a different ballgame. There're tons of examples, right? From obvious ones being like Lenny with all of his offerings, and Packy with... God knows how that guy keeps everything together with... And Jason Jacobs with the My Climate Journey rolling fund, which is not rolling. It's whatever is 10 times faster than rolling. I'm not sure.

Quinn:
It's obscene. The other day he put out a tweet about he's investing in 10 to 12 things a quarter, and it's just like, but how? Who has time for that?

Sophie Purdom:
Yeah, totally. But if we step back out, right, this concept of content and capital deployment being in partnership and individuals, whether you call them solo capitalists or whatnot, having a legitimate value-add to companies that they invest in because of their platform, when wielded carefully. And getting differentiated access to it. And also having some public service, I think is a particularly novel potential hat that you can wear in this extreme bull market.

Quinn:
For sure. You know I thought of... I was thinking about it today and these are two people. One of whom does a version of this, and the other one does not, but they're definitely inextricably linked to each other. Not the two people, but their two jobs.

Quinn:
I'm not sure if you're familiar with Food Tech Connect. This woman, Danielle Gould has been running it since 2009, and it's effectively even less analysis from your Monday version and more a curated version of this is everything that's happening in the food tech world. But her day job is still investing. And it's very easy to see how over time, again, that's an area that's growing so much like you were talking about. It started off as ad tech, and now ad tech is just climate tech. You know, how those things have informed her life.

Quinn:
And there's another one. There's a gentleman named Abhishek Gupta, who runs a group called the Montreal AI Ethics Institute. They put out a newsletter, it's very well thought of, and he's doing that research work every day. But like you said, it's also a public service. What they're putting out, and they've got an operation like yours, where they've got some events and they've got some partnerships and things like that. But it fills a hole, right? It provides a service to the industry, but it also benefits you as well.

Kim Zou:
I was just going to add on that point. Yeah, there's definitely a ton of venture investors. A ton of consultants, other kind of business people, in these different spaces that have outside content and newsletter on a... Inbound marketing as what Sophie just messaged.

Kim Zou:
But yeah, there's a bunch of people that do this. I think we didn't go into... I don't think Sophie and I went into starting Climate Tech VC thinking that this would be inbound marketing for our day jobs. Particularly because both of us were not investors when we started Climate Tech VC. So maybe it was a funny coincidence, maybe it was fate meant to happen. But I think, like she said, it's inextricably linked where if we're interested in digging into a sector, we have the newsletter as a channel to do that.

Kim Zou:
One good example of this is we wrote a feature on concrete and cement, because two of the winners that the carbon XPRIZE competition were concrete players, Carbon Pure and CarbonBuilt. And through that, we spoke with the founders of both companies. Got to speak with this guy, Eric at Breakthrough, who is an expert on concrete. And so it's just given us, a lot of intangible value-add, to the people that we've been able to meet and talk to. The founders of companies that we've gotten through the network.

Kim Zou:
It's also in a way forced us to, on top of being an investor in the space, but covering it, we've had to stay really on top of the market in terms of what are the deals that are going on right now? How do we think about the amount of funding that's pouring in? All the new funds that are raising? We are literally tracking that data every single day, week to week.

Kim Zou:
And so in terms of being a venture investor and knowing what's going on in the market, we are doing that through the lens of the newsletter on a weekly basis, in a structured format. So yeah, I think Climate Tech VC is very personal to Sophie and I, because it's literally so much of our thoughts. So much of how we think about climate tech is all through the lens of the newsletter. And that also the shows I think, in our investing lives, as well.

Sophie Purdom:
And I'll say a watch out, which is the day that this becomes a marketing tool, for either Kim or I, or anybody, or a single fund, is the day that Climate Tech VC starts to die.

Quinn:
Sure.

Sophie Purdom:
This only works because it's a learning tool. And it's not supposed to be puff-piecing or overly promotional of any personal, what's the word? There's not supposed to be any individual personal benefit to it. We sense-check and have church and state, between the two of us, and between the team, and shoot down each other's ideas and boost other ideas all the time. And we allow our readers to influence that, and would never publish something if it wasn't for the good of the reader. So that's one way that this is... It will be interesting to watch how for example, definitely not picking a fight here, so don't get at me. But like Andreesen for example, right?

Quinn:
Sure.

Sophie Purdom:
They run a giant, exceptionally operationalized, giant media function. This is not that. It's not for our individual funds, it's for our thesis development, essentially.

Quinn:
Sure. I mean, look what they did with Clubhouse, right? They literally built a media ecosystem around that, to launch it. And it's very... I feel like the word self-serving is going to take it too far, but like you said, it is intentional inbound marketing in a lot of ways. Where yours seems to be intentionally provided as two things at once that compliment each other, a learning tool for yourselves, but also a public service in that you're learning these things in public and not just sharing them, but taking the time to think about them and present them in a thoughtful and valuable way to everyone else.

Quinn:
Because again, when you really come back to it, this entire thing exists because we have to do these things, right? You didn't create a newsletter, I guess we can't really call it a business. We can't call it nonprofit either. But this newsletter project, for lack of a better word, because you're really into social apps or chatbots, right?

Quinn:
This is something we have to do. And it is this enormous opportunity, of course. And a lot of folks are going to make a lot of money off of this transition, but at the same time you are doing it as this public service. And if it doesn't affect the quality and it doesn't affect the consistency in a positive way, then it doesn't belong. And even that, sometimes means addressing your church and state issues.

Kim Zou:
Exactly. And I think the way that we're framing it is, at this point we've gone past a newsletter, we also have a bunch of resources on our website for founders.

Quinn:
The tools are amazing.

Kim Zou:
Yeah. We have a bunch of databases of climate tech. The most active climate tech investors in this space. The most active climate corporate venture firms in this space. We just added one on accelerators and incubators, specifically targeting climate tech companies for earlier stage founders or wannabe founders. And so we've actually transitioned from thinking about Climate Tech VC as just a newsletter, to almost like we call it, the leading source on climate innovation. So not just a newsletter, but really a resource in the format of a newsletter, these databases and the job board, and some other kind of other projects too that we're working on within that. And so platform, resource, whatever you want to call it-

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
But essentially the mission is always to help accelerate climate solutions.

Quinn:
Yeah. I mean, again, we can throw around marketing terms all day, right? Toolkit, resource, platform, it's all those things. And you can say the newsletter is the top of the funnel, whatever. But it has become this comprehensive thing, right? And in such a thoughtful, intentional way. So I don't want to keep you guys forever, and clearly it's four in the morning where Sophie is. The bunny is probably sound asleep.

Quinn:
I want to talk about specifically these action steps that that folks can take. Because again, we have listeners across policy, and academia, and journalism, and investing, and founding and scientific labs from clean energy to public health, and digital health, and biotech, and all that stuff. How would you advise other current investors or current journalists who are making a lot of lateral leap these days? Or media types? Or folks that don't do either yet. Maybe they're a student or there's someone that's in corporate VC or whatever it might be, and want to make a leap to get into something like this.

Quinn:
I've seen one of these... Because as you guys know, we can talk about climate agriculture. That's actually a tree of 75 different things, right? When we're talking about fertilizers, or water, or soil. We can get into it all day. There's a lot of spaces to fill. Are there any guidelines or things that you have learned in these two years that have felt like a hundred years to all of us, that you would provide to folks?

Quinn:
And then I guess secondarily, to get more specific, are there any particular articles or tools you've built and you're proud of at CTVC, and I've probably got 10 of them bookmarked, that would be universally helpful to folks out there? Either as specifically something to use, or as a tool to say this is the sort of thing that might apply to your vertical, as well.

Sophie Purdom:
Yeah. This changes a little bit on using your career and your time to have impact, asterisk, asterisk. There are tons of other ways that you can have an impact on climate, through your voting and your purchasing and et cetera, et cetera.

Sophie Purdom:
But if you're going to use your time for influence, then we're seeing two distinct and Kim correct me, this is a thesis in the works that Kim has not signed off on, so please critique me live here. But I see, I suppose Climate Tech VC doesn't yet see, but two distinct groups of talent entering the climate tech space.

Sophie Purdom:
One, climate-first individuals who tend to be millennial or younger, mostly gen Z. Actually that have, quote, always been thinking about climate change. Maybe they didn't want to, but they've been forced to from just their generation, but regardless of their functional area or seniority, they want to work on a climate problem. And that comes first.

Sophie Purdom:
The second group are expert-level folks in specific functions. Whether that's marketing or sales or technology, et cetera, that are now realizing they want to pivot to work on climate. It's super fascinating watching those different groups approach this problem because they're coming at it from different ways.

Sophie Purdom:
For the functional people, things like our jobs board or climate spaces, aggregation of a bunch of different jobs, or another shout out to MCJ and a big shout out to Work on Climate for example, I'm sure I'm missing 10 other platforms. Just get on there and socialize around, and get a sense of what jobs and what companies jump out to you. But know that there's absolutely no right answer. There's no one perfect place to work on climate. So get that out of your head now, You're never going to find the most impactful place with the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. It doesn't exist.

Sophie Purdom:
So figure out what you're optimizing for. And I would nudge folks to lean in on your functional area of expertise as you're transitioning into having a greater climate impact position, and probably think hard about the stage of business that you want to work in. Because at the end of the day, when it's Friday at 9:00 PM and you have to send that email out and it's a total grind, then it's most important that you're in the right structure with the right people in the right run organization. And I think the climate impact piece comes second.

Sophie Purdom:
And so luckily, there is tons of excellently run organizations to find that. But don't be too idealistic, I guess. If this is a waste recycling business, that is going to be the best job for you, still approach this as a proper job search.

Quinn:
Sure.

Sophie Purdom:
And understand what you're trying to optimize for from a having an impact perspective. Or go the approach of having multiple careers at once. There's a ton of ways that you can work on climate on the side, or in addition, and start to shift your time resources over a longer duration of time.

Quinn:
I love that.

Kim Zou:
I do agree with what you said. I've never thought about it that way, but I like that. And I think that's right. And it's almost like... Some people have... Not yelled at us, but some people have been like, "Climate tech isn't... You can't call climate tech a vertical, right?" Because climate tech is everything. It's food, it's energy, it's water. You can say cybersecurity is a vertical, but it's hard to say climate tech is a vertical because it's literally everything.

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
And so people say like climate first, or I'm working in climate tech. But you can be working at a battery company or you can be working in an alternative protein company and it's still a climate tech.

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
And you're doing completely different things. So all that is to say every company at this point hopefully, is starting to be more climate oriented. Be more climate first. Or at least think about it as a priority versus something in the background or some marketing ploy to check the box.

Kim Zou:
And there is more opportunities out there. You can literally have any type of role. You can be on the finance side, you can be on the engineering side, you could be on the design side and still work in climate tech. So there's opportunities for everyone. In terms of resources that we put out that I think could be really helpful, if you're looking to just understand the market, and so far, at least on the innovation side, the data. We put together this half year report, you can just check our website, but it's something like $16 billion mid-year report.

Kim Zou:
So a lot of really interesting data charts on the amount of funding that upon into startups, what buckets of climate tech have been the most active trends over time, that sort of thing. Another really helpful resource that a lot of our readers have given us positive feedback on is our running list of climate tech VCs. So we have on our website, a list called under capital stacks, there's a dropdown of climate VCs. And these are the most... Who we think are some of the most active venture investors deploying capital into this space.

Kim Zou:
It's not only for those that are trying to work at VCs, because speaking from someone in VC, there's only so many jobs there, but if you actually look at their portfolio, all of the companies within all of their portfolios, there are so many and exciting companies. And you can sort it by, "Oh they do... This is an energy VC." You look at their portfolio, it's obviously going to be mostly energy companies, but depending on what area you want to go and work for, that's another really cool sourcing or company-sourcing strategy is to just look at these VC's portfolios.

Kim Zou:
So yeah, those are some of the... And then obviously I keep talking about the feature we put out last week, but for founders, I think the climate capital stack is an awesome resource to think outside of the box on different ways to finance your company. Besides just the very traditional path of taking venture equity, which as a VC investor, you definitely should take venture equity at some point, but founders can and should be better informed on when and why you should take venture equity. At what point in the life cycle of your company does it make sense?

Kim Zou:
So that's one we were really excited about. Look out for more resources and guides that Sophie and I will be putting out, especially targeted towards founders. Like I said, non-dilutive sources of funding, I think is a really cool avenue. Others guides too on how to work on climate, how to get into climate, that sort of thing. Sophie I don't know what...

Kim Zou:
We might cut this out, but one other thing if you're interested in working in climate is, we're actually looking to hire a chief of staff. And we're about to publish that role on Monday, which I think this podcast will go after that. So I think it should be fine to say, but would love and invite everyone and anyone to apply for that role. Obviously, to your sustainability question, we want to bring on someone who's super talented, really motivated, climate first and just as excited to build this thing with Sophie and I, and the rest of the team, and bring someone as a chief of staff on to help with that. So a little bit of a shout at the end of the podcast.

Quinn:
Yeah, no, absolutely. I fully get that and I've thought about the same way. I've dicked around with a job description for someone where I was just like, what is the word for you do all the things that are keeping me from doing... How do I frame that? How long can I actually make this list? Because it is essential, and because you guys need to be able to do the thinking for a lot of these things. And it helps to have someone who's awesome and excited to do that, now that you've spent two years defining so much of it, at least the fundamentals of it.

Sophie Purdom:
I'd put it as, come do the fun stuff. We'll keep the business going. You help grow it.

Quinn:
For sure. Yeah.

Sophie Purdom:
We've got assets. Come help us figure out how to turn that into something of even greater value. Because we're at capacity, and so come in and help build a bigger and better machine. It's a really cool opportunity, because you get to inherit something that already works.

Quinn:
Yeah, no. But that takes both the hard work and the time and the data to show that it is working. But it also takes a self-awareness to look around and go, "Even though there's two of us, and there's this volunteer staff behind us, we're at capacity." You know, let's be honest about where we are, but also where we want to go, you know? And that makes a difference. Well definitely. I think we'll be maybe a week behind the listing, so shoot me that.

Quinn:
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Quinn:
Okay, last couple quick questions we ask everybody, and then we're going to get you out of here. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful? And that could be solo, it could be part of your sixth grade class, or a gymnastics team or whatever it might be. When was that moment when you were like, "Oh, shit. Look what I can do."

Kim Zou:
Yeah. I can kick off with this. It just popped into my head. I feel like throughout my life I've had this weird... I've never actually started a company, so I wouldn't call myself an official founder. But I've had a lot of these weird, "I see a gap here, and I want to start something." So obviously, Climate Tech VC is a really good example of that. Did that a bunch in university as well.

Kim Zou:
It's actually how I met Cary. I was thinking, I was starting a ESG focused fund, which Sophie coincidentally actually started at Brown. So that's a story for another time maybe. But I've always had these experiences where I just see something that isn't being done and I want to start it. And I think the first experience I can remember doing that was in high school. I started our environmental club, which at the time felt like a really big deal, starting a club in high school. Because we didn't have one.

Kim Zou:
We had a farming club or something. Like a school farm, but we didn't have one specifically focused on the environment. And that was around the time when Obama was president and he was shouting from the top about climate change. And I was like, "Why isn't I anyone doing this?" So my friend and I started the club, we got an advisor, we ran a bunch of pizza sales, or bake sales, or something and raised enough money to get a compost for our cafeteria. And so now-

Quinn:
Nice.

Kim Zou:
So now the high school cafeteria has a compost machine. So that felt like a really big achievement.

Quinn:
That's awesome. I love that. It is those little things we go, "Look, we got a compost machine now. Look at that."

Kim Zou:
Can feed the pizza from the pizza sale into it now.

Sophie Purdom:
That's awesome. Maybe to the chagrin of my parents, I think I've always had that sense of if not you, who? Kind of thing and how [inaudible 01:04:14] like in a full force. So I don't know, that runs deep for me. I'm also, you can't tell so much anymore. And probably can't tell like over this headset, but I'm British. And I moved to the US when I was pretty young, when I was about five. And that shapes everything for me, right?

Sophie Purdom:
We are true immigrants and very much puritan DIY ethic of if you don't build it with your hands, it's not real. And maybe that got taken a little far sometimes, of installing our own HVAC system, et cetera, et cetera. But I grew up running a business with my parents and you better believe that I was hiring, firing, and running the giant picker packer and shipper team for a huge e-commerce distribution operation when I was 13, right?

Sophie Purdom:
So you get early promoted into adulthood a little bit there, and that lesson, you can't unlearn that lesson, ever. So that worked well. Now that Kim and I have earned the right to do this and no one questions who we are, but when I was an analyst at Bain, for example, in management consulting that ethic didn't necessarily fit so well when you're hired to be a very specific thing.

Sophie Purdom:
So I'd say maybe maybe I, maybe we can take that a little too far sometimes. But it behooves us in this super entrepreneurial, open-ended, there's no right answers kind of experience with Climate Tech VC. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Quinn:
I love that. Two very different stories, but they matter. They got you here. Who is... And I'm going to put a stipulation on this, you cannot say each other. Who is someone in your life that's positively impacted your work in the past six months. This is just like a pay-it-forward type of thing.

Sophie Purdom:
Oh, so many.

Kim Zou:
Yeah.

Sophie Purdom:
I mean, everybody that we talk with from the newsletters, is an obvious one. And then I'm taking a giant, courageous or maybe crazy leap, and I'm starting a fund which is quite audacious. And I definitely feel unique in often being the youngest and almost always being the only woman and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And there have been so many folks that have supported me on this emerging manager journey. Too many to name. But I don't know, top-of-mind, in particular [Tommy Leap 01:06:51], for example, who is a good climate friend of basically everyone in climate tech. Was there for me before I even knew the word emerging manager. Right? And helped me set up my very first SPV, which is crazy. And through to today, I spent a lot of time with Scott Jacobs at Generate Capital, who is particularly good at taking talent under his wing and setting you free. Maybe that's a little too fruity, Scott will probably blush.

Sophie Purdom:
But look, the space is so collaborative. Hey, collaborative. Collaborative Fund, like Craig Shapiro has been a giant, giant promoter and given me the rope in the first place, to run with venture investing. Huge shout out to Craig. But the point is, the space is incredibly collaborative. I think it will start to have slightly sharper elbows moving forward. And that's okay. That means maturity in the space. But I do hope that we keep holding through this sense of pay-it-forward, and do it for the ecosystem. Even while you can still be cutthroat in getting your allocation or whatever. Recognize that this is ultimately for impact and let's not bicker over who's having the most impact. So let's keep that concentrated to the term sheet and just remember that we're doing this kind for the good of the world, as well.

Quinn:
I love it.

Kim Zou:
I totally agree with that. For me I think early on in Climate Tech VC, I actually, one of the... I think it was the second or third interview I did, was with Cassie who I work with at Energy Impact Partners. So it is kind of a funny, full circle story, but we interviewed her for the second newsletter. I thought Energy Impact Partners was a super cool firm, which I'm happy to talk to anyone about at another time.

Kim Zou:
But did the interview, a couple weeks later, I think she reached out or I reached out that they were hiring, and obviously it ended up working out. So pretty story on how I ended up at EIP and I think she had a really big role to play in that, especially because she just sold the Energy Impact story super well in that interview and got me really excited about it.

Kim Zou:
Another really important mentor at EIP is Shale as well. I've been listening to his Interchange podcast since when I was in college, and when I was really into climate change and no one else was really listening. And I thought he did a great job of again, framing the solution portion of it, and the tech portion of it. And was some part of the inspiration for starting Climate Tech VC, as well. So I think two of the colleagues I worked with at EIP definitely have been really important in shaping my career so far, on the investing side.

Sophie Purdom:
Can I jump in real quick Quinn?

Quinn:
Yeah, yeah.

Sophie Purdom:
And say the framing of this, who supported you? I like that a lot. And I'll just to listeners, I used to think that you had to be 50 years old and have your shit really figured out before you could mentor anybody else. But that's not true whatsoever. So long as you can sympathize, and empathize, and put yourself in other people's shoes and help them reflect back, using yourself as a mirror, you can mentor people that are older than you, or more senior than you, or more experienced, or of course the other direction as well.

Sophie Purdom:
And so to me, that's a huge part of my life. And I carve out a ton of time on Fridays for back to back conversations, that are super lateral and don't necessarily directly benefit me. But it's crazy how many of those conversations come back now, I don't know, 8, 9, 10 years later of people from high school who are so glad that we were able to have that conversation that maybe changed the way they thought about something.

Sophie Purdom:
And now they read the newsletter and now they're working at a Climate Tech VC fund or whatever. And I'm just saying, no way am I unique in that. Anybody listening should go do that, assuming that they're adding value to the conversation, and support the community. And it will reward you in deep ways that you can never predict. So thanks to the people that have done that to me, to us. But go do it. Go do it to your neighbors. Go do it to your LinkedIn connections. Go do it to people in a college near you. You can, you can pay that forward.

Quinn:
Yeah. I'm such a big believer in mentorship. However you can provide it or seek it out, it makes such a difference. We had a wonderful conversation with a woman. I feel like you both would love this professor at Michigan State, named Beronda Montgomery. Wrote a book about what plants can teach us essentially, in trees and things like that.

Quinn:
And half the conversation was about her philosophies and methodologies behind mentorship and just like, oh, that person's going to impact so many lives so significantly. It makes a huge difference. All right, last one. What is a book you have read this year that's either opened your mind to a topic you hadn't that before, or has actually changed your thinking in some way? We've got a whole list up on bookshop, that folks love to shop on.

Kim Zou:
I have one off the top of my mind.

Quinn:
Nice.

Kim Zou:
I actually read this pretty recently, when I got COVID in September and I was like, "Well, now is a good time to catch up on some reading." But it's called, and Sophie, you definitely would know this book too. It's called The Alchemy of Air, which so many people have been recommending. We invested in a company called Nitricity-

Sophie Purdom:
Wait. You read it, Kim?

Kim Zou:
Yeah, I read it.

Sophie Purdom:
I didn't know that? Oh my God. OK. OK. [crosstalk 01:12:26] We should be affiliate marketers for this book, I must have got a hundred people to read this thing. All right, here come a hundred more.

Kim Zou:
We can go in on this together.

Quinn:
Perfect.

Kim Zou:
But yeah, we invested in this company called Nitricity, which short headline is, they're producing nitrogen fertilizer with electricity which can come from renewables, versus the current process, which is the Haber-Bosch process. Which is actually what this book, The Alchemy of Air, is about. It's about these two scientists, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, who basically put their minds together and came up with this system on producing synthetic fertilizer. And it's just a fascinating story. There's something in there for everyone. If it's history buffs, if it's like your science fiction, you got the really cool, mad scientist vibe. Climate, right. Because it's fertilizer, so it's related to ag.

Quinn:
Sure.

Kim Zou:
It's pretty emissions intensive, but that's another consequence of their invention, as well. I feel like I've already ruined a good amount of the book, but I just think it's so fascinating because it talks about the history of synthetic fertilizer, which doesn't sound cool but it's so interesting to just understand the biographies of these two scientists. How they came together. The amount of innovation and capital that was deployed into creating this.

Kim Zou:
It oftentimes, it feels like a climate tech startup in, I think it was the early 1900s. It's almost like the story of a climate tech startup, and these two founders in the early 1900s against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, World War II, and all these other different things. So it's really cool and I think pretty relevant to climate tech.

Quinn:
Awesome. I love it. I love it. Sophie, you got one?

Sophie Purdom:
I got one. Reboot by Jerry Colonna. I hope I said his last name right. I think the subtitle is Leadership and the Art of Growing Up. So it very much falls in that, I guess, pseudo self-help psychology, kind of fantasy, type of book I'm a giant sucker for.

Sophie Purdom:
But this one was sent to me by a friend who had just [inaudible 01:14:28] a business that he started. And I read it. I cried. I highlighted sections of it. I read it again. It's all about radical self-inquiry, I suppose, and recognizing that you can only really get far if you sort through your own emotional baggage. But it's less fru-fru than that sounds, and more highly practical.

Sophie Purdom:
Jerry is giant coach of top CEOs. So it doesn't name folks by name, but it's pretty, you can figure out that these people that he's giving lessons from are real deal folks in strong leadership roles. And would highly recommend, and I'll probably listen to it for a third time this year.

Quinn:
Awesome. I love it. Great, we will throw those both with on there, and I'll throw them on my personal list as well. I feel like I listened to an interview with that guy. Maybe Tim Ferris, something like that. Yeah, that sounds great. Sophie, Kim, I cannot thank you both enough for your time. For everything you're doing, you truly do provide a preposterous amount of value to people who are trying to do the right thing. Who are trying to make a dent in this thing. Who are trying to reinvent some, like you said, ancient industries that goes as far back as ag. You know, revolutions in themselves. So I really appreciate it. I loved taking part in it, and excited to have you guys on and share this with everybody. So thank you.

Kim Zou:
Thank you for having us. This was so much fun. Yeah. Really, really enjoyed this conversation.

Quinn:
Awesome. Thanks to our incredible guests today. And thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dishwashing, or fucking dog walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian:
And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter at important, not imp.

Quinn:
Just.

Brian:
So weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram at Important, Not Important. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So check us out. Follow us, share us, like us. You know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcast, keep the lights on, thanks.

Quinn:
Please.

Brian:
And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player, and at our website importantnotimportant.com.

Quinn:
Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music. To all of you for listening. And finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian:
Thanks guys.

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