UPDATED, TUESDAY MARCH 31, 16:09 ET to notify of the extended deadline for applications. “As COVID-19 shifts the local and global systems in which we work, we recognize the need to give companies additional support and time to apply for funding. Therefore, we are extending the deadline to April 7 at 5:00 pm PST,” Ian Chipman of Elemental told AFN.
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 April 7.
Here’s a note Elemental CEO Dawn Lippert recently sent out about how the program is facing the COVID environment and will continue supporting startups.
During these challenging times, amid local and global shifts, we hope that you are all staying safe and healthy. And we are extra grateful for everything you do every day to take good care of your neighbors, our planet, and the places we call home.
More than ever, innovators will play a critical role in making our cities, streets, farms, utilities, and communities cleaner, and more equitable and resilient. We wanted to reach out to let you know that our plans for funding companies this year have not changed. As many startups face sudden and acute challenges, companies with impactful technologies will need support more than ever. We remain committed to investing in 15-20 new companies this year, across energy, water, agriculture, mobility, and industry.
If you are an entrepreneur working in our core sectors (or know of one that could use our support), we hope that you will join us.
We are proud to work with entrepreneurs and innovators who are helping their neighbors all over the U.S. and the world. In Atlanta, Goodr is serving meals to seniors whose bus trips to the grocery store have been canceled, hiring new drivers who have just been laid off, and announced plans to host pop-up grocery stores for the next five weeks. On Oahu, Farm Link Hawaiʻi is ramping up its home delivery service to get fresh, local produce to residents. They could use your help in finding a combined cold storage and packing space in Honolulu.
I just saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (feature films are rare delights in our baby-loving house), and a quote from Mr. Rogers has very much been on my mind: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
We are grateful to know so many helpers.