TS Update WK510: Tech optimism
“Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.”
– Douglas Adams
Maybe people are less optimistic about tech? A16Z, in an effort to confront this assumption, recently shared a techno-optimism manifesto. But they listed some odd enemies of tech optimism, like sustainability. Oy. The manifesto foreshadowed the headline-making antics at ChatGPT-maker, OpenAI, where dueling visions of tech came to a head.
Declining techno-optimism seems to be less about tech and more about the people who have real or perceived influence over what gets built and funded. When capital was cheap and plentiful, what did we choose to fund and build? Not much we’ll remember in a decade.
But right now, we’ve never had more promising tech on the verge of delivering better, faster and cheaper for a lot more people, and for the planet. And what makes us most optimistic is you; the LPs, investors, founders, early customers, who are all working to make sure this tech has the best possible chance of working.
Speaking of optimism. Lithium-Ion Battery Pack Prices Hit Record Low of $139/kWh. There was a brief pause in battery cost declines last year, but we’re back on track to year on year declining prices per kWh. This means electric vehicles will keep winning more. And solar plus storage will win more too, now even beating out natural gas peaker plants. Uruguay ran on 100% renewables for four months straight. And when energy shocks rippled around the world from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Uruguay wasn’t impacted at all.
Even when the tech is ready, it’s often not enough. Lots of other details matter from design to policy. Ebikes might be the success story we read about the least, but they’re a fantastic combination of tech alongside thoughtful urban planning and policy. In fact, the world’s 280 million electric bikes and mopeds are cutting demand for oil far more than electric cars. On the other hand, somehow in the US, we’re continuing to mess up non-Tesla EV charging. And sometimes there are harder to decipher failures like free mass transit leading to increased traffic?
Luckily government spending on energy research is at a 50 year high with hydrogen beating out nuclear and energy efficiency is finally getting its moment in the sun. And it’s good to see the world’s 2 largest economies getting climate cooperation back on track. Oxford Said Business School surveyed 140 climate tech practitioners (including investors, entrepreneurs, scientists and policy-makers) over twenty countries to provide the latest perspective on how to better support climate innovation in The Climate Tech Opportunity.
Here are 5 companies for your consideration.
Arbor is building the digital energy platform for modern consumers. They automatically lower our users’ home energy costs on an ongoing basis, while providing personalized insights and recommendations for energy products and services to save even more.
Circuit provides 100% electric microtransit – on-demand, last-mile shuttle services in multiple cities in CA, FL, NJ, NY, TX
Climate Robotics develops robots designed to efficiently generate bio char to sequester carbon and improve soils, starting with urban land.
Gradient makes beautiful heat pumps that you can install yourself.
Resonant Link is delivering fast, cheap wireless charging from industrial trucks to medical devices.
Currently in the Third Sphere portfolio, there are 76 companies with 292 open opportunities.
Appropriately, as the last few weeks saw a few startups in the Third Sphere portfolio making news for unlocking a wide range of non-dilutive finance, Zeev shared our Design for Climate approach at Greentown Labs.
Great shoutout for Suleman and the team at Swell Energy in the New Yorker. Also great to see distributed infra getting more of the credit it deserves. Suleman uniquely combines experience at Citi in Finance and then at Tesla before building Swell.
Grayson talked with NPR’s Marketplace about how Resonant Link is accelerating electrification of transport. The trick is enabling easy wireless charging, just like our phones. Listen here.
Environmental Tech Lab has selected Near Space Labs as one of eight companies for a collaboration with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, focusing on infrastructure resilience and environmental monitoring.
ReynKo founder, Justin Beroz, explains the unique mathematical insights at the core of what ReynKo does, applications to aid decarb and adaptation, and how ReynKo plans to commercialize this math. Watch here.
P.S. The title of each of these updates is titled with the number of weeks we’ve been writing these updates in partnership with you and the rest of our community. This email marks 510 weeks since our first update, or nearly a decade. Thanks for participating.