Last week, Investible hosted an event focused around the question ‘How can Australia better accelerate climate tech?’
This event was part of City of Sydney’s ongoing Visiting Entrepreneur Program, an annual event where international entrepreneurs are invited to connect with the local startup ecosystem. This year’s theme is Future TBD, dedicated to questions about what the future will look like for cities, technology, and innovation.
The evening kicked off with a fireside chat between Unravel Carbon founder Grace Sai and Investible co-founder Creel Price. Next, a panel consisting of local founders Peter Manettas (ShoreTrade) and Josh Dunford (PostHarvest), and experienced Director and Advisor Rob Fitzpatrick.
Grace drew upon her experience with the Singapore startup ecosystem - rated 14th in the world - to dissect how Australian corporates and governments can better support climate tech startups in commercialisation and growth.
Grace shared perspective she gained participating in the renowned Y Combinator accelerator. Referencing an observation from YC Founder Paul Graham, Grace noted that “increasingly, the best founders and investors are all working in climate tech.”
“We need the best brains to be applied to solve climate change, full stop. Is there any more important problem to solve?” she added.
Grace also spoke on how companies like Unravel Carbon can take advantage of the global hiring programs offered in Singapore.
“It’s hard to hire people with PhDs in Artificial Intelligence. If Australia could bring all this talent in AI and machine learning, we would, no questions asked, be the face of climate tech.“
Following the fireside chat, Grace and Creel were joined by founders Peter Manettas and Josh Dunford as well as Rob Fitzpatrick, who supports numerous startups and scaleups as an advisor.
Discussion was pointed at the hurdles startups face with commercialisation within Australia and their experiences with corporate procurement processes and government support.
Rob expresses that, “as a nation, we've been hooked on the drug of export income from iron ore and coal. No rational leader is going to move us off that until they've got a replacement strategy. Australia is obliged, in my view, to build out the solar industry as hard and fast as we can, so that we can eliminate fossil fuels and help save the planet.”
In reference to a question on the potential of AgTech in Australia, Josh shared some of his learnings from PostHarvest. He emphasised that over 50% of fruits and vegetables that are harvested end up as waste.
“Australia can only grow apples three months of the year, but consumers expect them to be on the shelves twelve months of the year. That consumer demand is what, what creates all of the waste, because to get the apples on the shelf 12 months of the year, we have to create an oversupply of them,” he commented.
Rob held no punches weighing in on the debate happening amongst tech leaders like Elon Musk and Atlassian co-founders Mike and Scott about the role of an office. Addressing remote working, he encouraged prospective talent to lean into the physical world.
“If you want a job, work remotely. If you want a career, come into the office because you cannot build culture online,” he said.
Peter Manettas has spent the last few years expanding his company in Australia and overseas. He spoke to the importance of having a vision and his early encounters with Investible co-founders Creel Price and Trevor Folsom.
“In my early seed days, Trevor and Creel told me I had the worst pitch deck they’d ever seen. I told them if that were true, and this is where our business is today, it’s no accident. A guy might be terrible in an interview, but if he's got the drive, and he really wants it bad enough, he’ll make it happen.”
When it comes to the driving factor behind getting involved in the space, it was focused on building a better tomorrow. Grace shared a revelation gained from her experience as a new mother.
“When my daughter turned two last year, we had to write our will. We were writing down the material wealth or assets that we would pass on to her, but then the wake up call happened. What is the point of all this stuff, if the planet that she will live on is burning?”
While it’s a stark way of putting it, we agree. The climate crisis must be addressed, and we believe that technology will be at the centre of the solution. This is why we’re working so hard to invest in a more sustainable, resilient future, and the founders who will lead us there.
The Visiting Entrepreneur Program continues through July 1.