Posts from climate crisis

The De-Carbonization Of The Economy

Over the last decade, the Gotham Gal and I have moved away from oil and gas in our homes and have installed solar panels for electricity and heat pumps for heating and cooling. It has gotten less expensive to do this swap out as solar and heat pump costs have come down. My partner Albert told me that when you factor in the financing costs of this swap, the average home in the Northeast United States could save $1000 to $2000 a year by doing this swap.

What this means is that homeowners can and should go to the bank and borrow the money to remove oil and gas powered boilers and replace them with energy efficient heat pumps and put solar on their roofs to power them. They should do this not just because it is good for the climate, but because it is good for the bank account. That’s a big deal.

I saw this chart in Azeem Azhar’s excellent Exponential View newsletter this week:

Electricity generation and consumption in the US has stabilized over the last twenty years and the use of coal to generate electricity is plummeting. In another twenty years this chart will have a huge amount of green and almost no red in it.

The de-carbonization of the economy is a megatrend that is already underway and is highly investable because the unit economics of renewables and energy efficient electrical equipment is now superior to the unit economics of carbon and mechanical equipment. We can see this in cars (EVs>Gas) and heating/cooling systems and many other aspects of our economy.

The narrative somehow has been that addressing the climate crisis is going to hurt our economy. I believe that is plain wrong. I believe it will power a huge economic boom that will look much like the boom that powered the carbon/mechanical/industrial economy from the late 19th century to the late 20th century.

So let’s get on with it.

#climate crisis#VC & Technology

Entrepreneurship And The Climate Crisis

Vinod Khosla penned a fantastic blog post this week outlining how a few entrepreneurs have made a material impact on clean energy and reducing our collective carbon footprint in the last decade and how a few more can move the needle even further in the next one.

Vinod starts off with this statement:

12–15 entrepreneurs, driven by entrepreneurial energy and passion for a vision, and a little bit of luck, could change the climate crisis into societal transformation

This is music to our ears as USV has started to back climate-focused entrepreneurs. I hope that we can back one or two of these 12-15 innovators in the coming years. That would be great for society and great for USV too.

#climate crisis#entrepreneurship

Location and Work

I am confident this pandemic will end. At some point, we will have a vaccine, therapeutics, and/or broad based immunity. When that will happen is less clear to me. I believe that at some point, we will be able to resume living and working as we did prior to the pandemic.

However, I am also confident that we will not resume living and working exactly as we did prior to the pandemic because some of the things we have adopted to get through this will reveal themselves as comparable or better than what we were doing before.

One of the places this is happening is knowledge work which is a growing percentage of the workforce in the US. What we have seen in this pandemic is that knowledge workers have been able to be comparably productive working from home and that has caused many large (and small) employers to consider different work/location options.

Yesterday, Twitter told their employees that most of them can work from anywhere going forward:

A number of our portfolio companies have made that decision already as well:

I can imagine large and small banks, law firms, accounting firms, media and entertainment companies, and other knowledge based businesses making similar decisions.

I am not saying that remote work is ideal. There is something very valuable about being able to be in the same physical space as your colleagues. USV will likely keep an office for exactly that reason.

But it is also true that USV is operating incredibly well during this pandemic and we have not (yet) missed a beat.

What this means for large cities where many companies that engage in knowledge work are centered is an interesting question.

I saw this chart this morning on Benedict Evans’ Twitter:

That compares two of the most expensive cities in the US (and world) to each other. And as bad as NYC is on the affordability index, SF is way worse.

So when you combine these two situations; large knowledge work hubs getting prohibitively expensive and remote work normalizing, it would seem that we are in for a correction.

What is less clear is where knowledge workers who can increasingly work from anywhere will choose to live (and work). Will cities remain attractive for the quality of life they offer (arts, culture, nightlife, etc)? Or will the suburbs stand to gain? Or will more idyllic locations like the mountains or the beach become the location of choice? Or will second and third tier cities become more attractive? I do not have a crystal ball on this question. I suspect it will be some of all of the above.

But this may become a big deal. Like the “white flight” that happened in the 50, 60s and 70s in a number of large cities in the US. Wholesale movement of large groups of people can have profound changes on regions.

Like many disruptions, this is both bad and good. Affordability (or lack thereof) and gentrification have been a blight on our cities. If we can reverse that trend, much good will come of it. This may also be helpful in addressing the climate crisis which remains the number one risk to planet Earth. So there are reasons to be excited about this. But wholesale abandonment is terrible. We should do whatever we can to avoid that.

It is early days for this conversation. But it is one we are going to have all around the US, and possibly all around the world. So it is time to start thinking about it.

#climate crisis#Current Affairs#economics#employment#NYC

Video Of The Week: Albert And Fred Talking Climate At The Upfront Summit

Video of the week is back. This is the first video of the week post since we launched AVC 3.0. I don’t plan to do this every week, but I will do it some weeks.

About a month ago, my partner Albert and I took the stage at the Upfront Summit and talked to Erin Griffith of the New York Times about USV’s developing interest in companies focused on tackling the climate crisis.

For those reading via email, if the video embed doesn’t show up, you can find the video here.

#climate crisis

USV's Climate Thesis

My partner Albert wrote a bit about how USV is investing in the climate/sustainability sector today.

The high-level summary is “not very differently than we have and are investing in other sectors”. At USV, we like certain businesss models, go to market approaches, and product types and that won’t change as we add climate/sustainability to our focus areas of wellness, knowledge, and capital.

Albert’s post mentions the two investments in climate/sustainability that we have made so far and they will look familiar to those who have followed USV’s investments to date.

Leap is an API for connecting smart devices to the energy markets. Kind of like Twilio, Stripe, etc for markets like demand response and more.

Wren is a community and funding platform for carbon sequestration and more, using offsets as the incentive for consumers. Kind of like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, etc for getting carbon out of our environment.

I am excited about this extension of our thesis 3.0 and have been working with the USV team to identify appropriate sectors of this market for us and interesting companies to meet and, possibly, invest in.

#climate crisis

What Will Happen In The 2020s

It’s 2020. Time to look forward to the decade that is upon us.

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Bill Gates, is that people overestimate what will happen in a year and underestimate what will happen in a decade.

This is an important decade for mankind. It is a decade in which we will need to find answers to questions that hang over us like last night’s celebrations.

I am an optimist and believe in society’s ability to find the will to face our challenges and the intelligence to find solutions to them.

So, I am starting out 2020 in an optimistic mood and here are some predictions for the decade that we are now in.

1/ The looming climate crisis will be to this century what the two world wars were to the previous one. It will require countries and institutions to re-allocate capital from other endeavors to fight against a warming planet. This is the decade we will begin to see this re-allocation of capital. We will see carbon taxed like the vice that it is in most countries around the world this decade, including in the US. We will see real estate values collapse in some of the most affected regions and we will see real estate values increase in regions that benefit from the warming climate. We will see massive capital investments made in protecting critical regions and infrastructure. We will see nuclear power make a resurgence around the world, particularly smaller reactors that are easier to build and safer to operate. We will see installed solar power worldwide go from ~650GW currently to over 20,000GW by the end of this decade. All of these things and many more will cause the capital markets to focus on and fund the climate issue to the detriment of many other sectors.

2/ Automation will continue to take costs out of operating many of the services and systems that we rely on to live and be productive. The fight for who should have access to this massive consumer surplus will define the politics of the 2020s. We will see capitalism come under increasing scrutiny and experiments to reallocate wealth and income more equitably will produce a new generation of world leaders who ride this wave to popularity.

3/ China will emerge as the world’s dominant global superpower leveraging its technical prowess and ability to adapt quickly to changing priorities (see #1). Conversely the US becomes increasingly internally focused and isolationist in its world view.

4/ Countries will create and promote digital/crypto versions of their fiat currencies, led by China who moves first and benefits the most from this move. The US will be hamstrung by regulatory restraints and will be slow to move, allowing other countries and regions to lead the crypto sector. Asian crypto exchanges, unchecked by cumbersome regulatory restraints in Europe and the US and leveraging decentralized finance technologies, will become the dominant capital markets for all types of financial instruments.

5/ A decentralized internet will emerge, led initially by decentralized infrastructure services like storage, bandwidth, compute, etc. The emergence of decentralized consumer applications will be slow to take hold and a killer decentralized consumer app will not emerge until the latter part of the decade.

6/ Plant based diets will dominate the world by the end of the decade. Eating meat will become a delicacy, much like eating caviar is today. Much of the world’s food production will move from farms to laboratories.

7/ The exploration and commercialization of space will be dominated by private companies as governments increasingly step back from these investments. The early years of this decade will produce a wave of hype and investment in the space business but returns will be slow to come and we will be in a trough of disillusionment on the space business as the decade comes to an end.

8/ Mass surveillance by governments and corporations will become normal and expected this decade and people will increasingly turn to new products and services to protect themselves from surveillance. The biggest consumer technology successes of this decade will be in the area of privacy.

9/ We will finally move on from the Baby Boomers dominating the conversation in the US and around the world and Millennials and Gen-Z will be running many institutions by the end of the decade. Age and experience will be less valued by shareholders, voters, and other stakeholders and vision and courage will be valued more.

10/ Continued advancements in genetics will produce massive wins this decade as cancer and other terminal illnesses become well understood and treatable. Fertility and reproduction will be profoundly changed. Genetics will also create new diseases and moral/ethical issues that will confound and confuse society. Balancing the gains and losses that come from genetics will be our greatest challenge in this decade.

That’s ten predictions, enough for now and enough for me. I hope I made you think as much as I made myself think writing this. That’s the goal. It is impossible to be right about all of this. But it is important to be thinking about it.

I know that comments here at AVC are broken at the moment and so I look forward to the conversation on email and Twitter and elsewhere.

#climate crisis#crypto#economics#employment#entrepreneurship#Food and Drink#hacking energy#hacking finance#policy#Politics#Science#VC & Technology

Video Of The Week: The Game Changers

Our daughter suggested that The Gotham Gal and I watch this documentary on Netflix. We did that this week.

My New Year’s Resolution this time last year was to reduce the number of meals where I ate meat to less than half. It turns out that was not a particularly hard resolution to meet as I quickly realized I was already mostly there. But I did reduce my meat consumption in 2019.

After watching this film, I am going to keep on that trajectory. Hard lines don’t work well for me so I am not adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or any other diet. But I believe that I can reduce my meat consumption significantly without impacting my quality of life and I am on my way to doing so.

There are plenty of good reasons to reduce my consumption of meat but for me the environmental footprint of the meat production industry is the one that really moves to me to make this change.

#climate crisis#Food and Drink

Video Of The Week: Mike Bloomberg Talks Climate Crisis At MIT

This spring, Mike Bloomberg gave the commencement speech at my alma mater MIT. He talks about moonshots, engineers, and the looming climate crisis. It is a great talk and one that shows what kind of leader I would like to see in this country.

I start the video below at 3:24 in so you don’t have to watch the traditional commencement platitudes. If you want to watch the entire thing you can do that here. The video below is about 18mins in total and I strongly recommend everyone find the time to watch it this weekend.

#climate crisis