Image credit: Elemental

Elemental Excelerator is seeking applications for its 9th climate-tech focused cohort

February 20, 2020

The non-profit program backs growing companies solving key challenges in agriculture with up to $1 million in funding — apply by March 26!

Elemental Excelerator is now accepting applications for its 9th cohort of startups that can help meet the environmental, social, and economic challenges brought on by a changing climate.

With 99 companies funded to date, the program selects 15 to 20 startups each year (Seed to Series C) that fit its mission and provides up to $1 million to improve systems that impact people’s lives, including food and agriculture. Today, 87% of its portfolio companies are generating revenue with 10 exits.

Given Elemental’s track record of success, the competition is fierce. Last year, 800 companies applied, according to Danya Hakeem, Elemental’s Director of Agriculture and Circular Economy Innovation. Considering that the program focuses on more mature startups than many accelerators, most contenders bring a strong package to the table: a proven idea, a working prototype, and some experience marketing its technology. This, of course, makes selecting the finalists a titanic feat.

Fortunately, over the last 10 years, Elemental has learned quite a bit about what makes a successful company.

“What we are really looking for in companies — aside from an exciting technology or novel business model — is the team, commercial validation, the partners the companies have worked with to date, and some level of customer success. They must also be solving a key challenge for their customers. “We’re particularly interested in working with companies on transformational aspects like expanding to a new geography, a new customer segment, or a new business model,” says Hakeem.

In addition to helping companies with custom coaching and a peer-to-peer learning model, Elemental focuses on funding project deployments that have the potential to address challenges in the program’s key geographic areas. In Hawaii, for instance, Elemental is working to increase food self-sufficiency given the state’s heavy reliance on imports. In California, on the other hand, a key challenge is reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural production, distribution, and waste.

Evaluating the people behind the project is a key to selecting successful applicants, Hakeem says. That’s why Elemental looks for individuals who are eager to learn, open to feedback, and understand that the road to entrepreneurship takes you down unexpected paths.

But what Elemental companies receive in exchange for their open-minded approach to bringing their business to the next level is a partner who is in it for the long haul.

“We fund projects and we want them to be a success. Things can take a long time in agriculture and highly-regulated industries like renewable energy or water. You need to be willing to be active participants and advocates over time to see the success of companies and to have impact locally with growers and other customers,” she adds.

Elemental does not require relocation to participate, and funds companies in three tracks:

  • Demonstration Track — Up to $1 million in funding for transformational project deployments in Hawaii or Asia-Pacific
  • Equity & Access Track — Up to $1 in funding for project deployments that increase access to innovation in California’s frontline communities
  • Go-to-Market Track — $200,000 in funding and highly customized coaching around market intelligence, sales and growth, operational scale-up, and fundraising

One new area of interest for Elemental this year is soil health and quantifying carbon sequestration, as well as technologies that can incentivize carbon drawdown. Reforestation projects are also high on the list. Both areas are ripe for innovation, according to Hakeem. Although they’ve seen a large number of applications proposing sensor-based data technologies, standout applicants in this realm need to have strong differentiation or provide a unique opportunity like measuring carbon sequestration.

Other areas of interest for this cohort include:

  • Food safety & traceability
  • Waste reduction & diversion
  • Alternative proteins
  • Technologies that reduce or combat deforestation
  • Supply chain platforms that support increased access to food, resources & land
  • Solutions that reduce energy use, toxic synthetic inputs & the overuse of water

Interested startups can apply here by March 26.

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