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3 thoughts on India’s climate tech ecosystem from William Bao Bean of SOSV

Written by Moulishree Srivastava Published on     3 mins read

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India and Southeast Asia are just two to three years behind the US and Europe in terms of fostering climate solution startups, Bean believes.

New Jersey-headquartered SOSV—the early-stage VC firm behind accelerators like HAX, IndieBio, Chinaccelerator, MOX, and dlab—is an investor in roughly 150 climate tech startups around the world. SOSV has emerged as the most active investor in climate tech globally since last year, having done 47 deals between January 2020 and August 2021, according to PitchBook. In an interview with KrASIA, William Bao Bean, general partner at SOSV, said the firm invests in 20 to 25 companies each year in India. He expects around five of them will have a positive climate impact.

The following interview has been consolidated and edited for clarity and brevity.

KrASIA (Kr): What kind of climate tech companies are you backing in India?

William Bao Bean (WBB): We are focused on transport, supply chain, logistics, and agritech. India has a lot of small restaurants that make trips back and forth to the market to buy hundreds of ingredients. We have a company like SupplyNote, which connects restaurants directly with suppliers and automates their supply chain. Transportation accounts for 15–20% of global emissions. Cutting trips to markets is one way to create impact.

Power outages are a big problem in India. Most residential and commercial buildings have generators. Many people buy loose, adulterated fuel, which makes those generators inefficient. We invested in a company called Deliverfuel last year that tests the fuel to ensure it is unadulterated and delivers it on demand. They also deliver biodiesel that comes from plants grown on land that cannot support any crops, which makes it better than what is produced in overseas markets.

We recently invested in grocery delivery startup Zasket, which connects farmers directly with consumers. When you cut out middlemen, it reduces food waste and transportation.

Their stated goals might not be climate change, but they have a positive impact.

William Bao Bean, general partner at SOSV. Courtesy of SOSV.

Kr: Which climate solution themes do you focus on globally?

WBB: Transport is one big theme. We have Neptune Robotics, which uses underwater robots to clean barnacles off the sides of large container ships. The more barnacles ships have, the slower they are, and the more fuel they burn. These robots make a huge positive climate impact by increasing the fuel efficiency of these vessels.

The second major theme is recycling. We have invested in an Indian company called Mobigarage that buys and refurbishes phones, laptops, and computers to resell them. It recycles and reduces electronic waste, which is dangerous for the environment.

Similarly, we have a company that reduces food waste, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Major food waste comes from the storage of food. Our portfolio company Wasteless monitors temperature and humidity through sensors for food retailers and alerts them if the stored food starts to rot.

We are also the most active investors in agritech, food tech, and synthetic biology. We are looking at electric mobility as well, but haven’t made any investments in this sector.

Kr: Do you see climate tech solutions taking hold in India?

WBB: We are definitely in the early days. Climate change doesn’t usually show up in pitches in India. Startups still don’t have a stated climate impact focus. But it doesn’t mean people are not investing in climate tech, they are just calling it something else like agritech or food tech. VCs are increasingly playing a role here by showing interest in climate tech. When money talks, startups start talking about it more. Investors’ appetite for climate tech is growing in India, but is not quite there yet.

It also takes focus from consumers. When consumers demand, companies follow. Due to the pandemic, people have become more mindful not just about their lifestyles, but also of the planet. Natural disasters every other week serve as a constant reminder.

We need entrepreneurs, consumers, and VC money for climate solutions to thrive. These factors are coming together this year.

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