The Voltpost team.

Photo courtesy of Voltpost and Google.

Thursday marked the third demo day for Google for Startups Accelerator: Climate Change program, where startups in the program presented the status of their startup, with a limit of 10 weeks programming and mentoring from Google’s robust network of internal expertstraining and credits for using Google technology.

This year, the 12 companies mostly fell into three broad categories: artificial intelligence, electric vehicle infrastructure, and giving companies better data to reduce carbon emissions in their operations. There are a couple of exceptions: e.g. Sesame Solar are carbon-emitting disaster response efforts, and Bodhi improves the customer experience for home solar installations.

Google’s startup accelerator programs are all focused on using artificial intelligence, and some have industry themes like gaming or cloud economics, particular geographies like India or Brazil, or underrepresented founders like Black founders or Latino founders. All programs are equity-free, meaning Google takes no stake in the companies to participate, and so far 1,100 startups have participated since the programs launched in 2016.

For this latest cohort, all participants needed to be somewhere between their seed and Series A investments, already generating revenue or with an established user base, with five employees or more, and with the potential to leverage Google’s cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities .

Soupid Roy Chowdhury, founder of Eugenie AI

Photo courtesy of Eugenie AI and Google

Matt RidenourHead of Startup Ecosystem at Google in the US, told CNBC that he finds a sense of purpose in supporting climate change startups.

“I care about climate engineering for many reasons, but most personally, with three young children, I often think about the world they are inheriting. When I read the headlines about the dangers of the climate crisis, I feel a personal obligation to be part of supporting innovative climate solutions to scale,” Ridenour told CNBC. “This is one of the greatest gifts I think I can give to my children and future generations.”

The programs are also good for Google’s business because they get early-stage companies using the company’s technology, giving it an early edge over competitors like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

“Google sees value in supporting the best startups and founders around the world. When they work with our people, products and tools, we mutually benefit. And supporting early-stage companies triggers further innovation in the ecosystem, providing additional opportunities for developers to build their businesses on Google products – like Cloud and Android for example, Ridenour told CNBC.

Google has hosted three climate change startup accelerators for North American companies in the past three years, and all 33 participants are still operating, a Google spokesperson told CNBC.

The Sesame Solar team.

Photo courtesy of Sesame Solar and Google.

Using artificial intelligence to fight climate change

Alphabet-owned Google is itself in the midst of a company-wide push to focus on improving its product range with artificial intelligence. Many of the companies in the latest climate change accelerator are using AI and machine learning to help with tasks as varied as monitoring farmland, decarbonizing commercial buildings and improving the textile recycling process.

“Teams are leaning more deeply into developing AI and ML models to address climate change,” Ridenour told CNBC. “By partnering with emerging technologies like these, startups can have an outsized positive impact, developing solutions and innovations faster and more precisely than ever before.”

Agrology helps farmers adapt to climate change by providing field-level data on smoke, drought, irrigation optimization, microclimate weather forecasting from extreme weather, pest and disease outbreaks. Agrology also has a soil carbon monitoring system to help farmers quantify the carbon sequestration they achieve with regenerative farming practices and, if interested, participate in carbon credit markets.

The agrology team works on a farm.

Photo courtesy of Agrology and Google.

During Google’s accelerator, Agrology made its product more precise.

“Through mentoring, they got into the accelerator, Agrology was able to build a new, more efficient API that uses integrated Google machine learning products, increasing their training and testing dataset by over 400% and reducing their error rate by 4x,” Ridenour told CNBC. “This will help them deliver more accurate data to farmers so they can grow better and more sustainably.”

Another fresh start within the cohort, Cambiouses AI to help companies reduce carbon emissions in large commercial buildings.

“Once companies have made their climate pledges, they are finding that data tracking and carbon emissions across all properties, whether owned or occupied, is the most difficult part of their sustainability journey. Implementation remains a black box.” Stephanie Grayson, co-founder of Cambiosaid on Thursday during the demo day.

Cambio provides a baseline carbon footprint for a building and then uses AI based on previous building projects and recommendations from leading building researchers and data scientists to provide the customer with a path on how to get that building to zero. “The bottom line is that we’re democratizing best-in-class construction science across the industry,” Grayson said.

Leia de Guzman and Stephanie Grayson, co-founders of Cambio.

Photo courtesy of Cambio and Google.

“During the accelerator, Cambio was able to connect with Google’s real estate team to get direct product feedback and discuss the topic of building decarbonization,” Ridenour told CNBC. “Armed with Cambio’s ML models, managers can map out an entire real estate portfolio’s path to net zero, a short-term requirement for publicly traded companies as part of the SEC’s recent carbon transparency proposal.”

Another example is Recycledwhich uses spectroscopy and artificial intelligence to sort recycled textiles, remove buttons and zippers and send processed textiles to the recycling company best able to handle that particular batch of textiles.

Eugenie.AI uses artificial intelligence to help heavy manufacturers track their emissions, report that data for all relevant compliance standards, and reduce those emissions with recommendations on how to fix a particular problem.

Refiberd co-founders, Sarika Bajaj and Tushita Gupta.

Photo courtesy of Refiberd and Google.

Electric vehicle infrastructure

“As cars become more and more electrified, a host of startups are tackling the huge opportunity for the EV industry in creative ways,” Ridenour told CNBC. In fact, 14% of new cars sold in 2022 were electric, up from 9% in 2021 and less than 5% in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.

Battle Genieone of the startups Google chose for its latest climate change cohort was spun out of Venkat Subramanian’s lab at the University of Washington and uses software to improve the performance and efficiency of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in consumer electronics, electric vehicles and storage battery applications.

The battery management system, or BMS, in a lithium-ion battery monitors how much charge is left and regulates the charge. Batt Genie’s software aims to make the BMS system more efficient and productive. If a traditional electric vehicle battery lasts about six years, the same battery can last 12 years with Batt Genie’s improved BMS, CEO Manan Pathak said on Thursday.

The Electric Fish team.

Photo courtesy of Electric Fish and Google.

Another fresh start within the cohort, ElectricFish Energymakes an energy storage system that both charges electric vehicles quickly that has smart chargers that store cheap, clean power from the grid when it’s available.

“The current state of the electricity grid is fundamentally broken,” ElectricFish CEO Anurag Kamal said on Thursday. “We’re the only ones who understand that charging EVs is incredibly connected to feeding energy back into the grid itself,” meaning the ElectricFish unit can act as a backup power source.

Another company working to improve the EV infrastructure is Volt post, which turns lampposts into electric vehicle chargers. Voltpost has partnered with the New York City Department of Transportation to controls its lampposts in electric car chargers. And so is Voltpost is conducting a pilot at the Detroit Smart Parking Lab in Michigan. Under the accelerator, Voltpost reached out to the Google Maps team to discuss whether electric vehicle charging locations could be added to Google Maps or Android Auto.

Decarbonisation data and reporting

The third area of ​​focus for the startups included in the climate change cohort was improving the data companies use to track their own emissions.

“As governments require more reporting of carbon emissions, companies need better data to track their emissions. Startups are offering better analytics and tracking to help customers and consumers understand their emissions and get actionable recommendations on how to operate more sustainably,” said Ridenour to CNBC.

For example, Cleartrace provides auditable emissions data for companies.

“The issue is that the data around the electricity space, the energy space and the environmental reporting space is very hard to come by, very siloed, very error-prone,” CEO Lincoln Payton said on Thursday. Before starting Cleartrace, Payton was head of investment banking for BNP Paribas Americas. “I stepped back from that to address the biggest problem I saw, which is the quality data available in the transfer to the renewable energy world.”

The Cleartrace Team.

Photo courtesy of Cleartrace and Google.

Cleartrace has particularly focused on measurement techniques for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which are the emissions that come from sources that an organization owns or that come from its purchase or purchase of electricity, steam, heat or cooling. It is now working to expand its reach to measure Scope 3 emissions, the emissions associated with a company’s entire supply chain or value chain, which can be fiendishly difficult to track. It is also looking at helping companies certify how environmentally friendly their operations are, particularly for processes such as direct air capture of CO2 emissions and hydrogen production.

Another data-focused company is Finch, which assigns sustainability points to products to help consumers make more climate-conscious shopping decisions. Finch has a browser extension that works on Amazon and Target websites and gives products a sustainability rating between zero and ten, then suggests a more sustainable option if applicable.

“For most of the population who believe in climate change and want to do something about it, but don’t necessarily have more than seven minutes to research it online, this is a perfect solution.” Lizzie Horvitzthe founder and CEO of Finch said Thursday.

Finch sells the data it collects from consumer behavior to clients, including manufacturers and investors, Horvitz said.

“We can see who’s buying what and why — that women, for example, between the ages of 35 and 40 are twice as likely to buy aluminum-free deodorant as men of the same age and location,” Horvitz said.

This type of data closes what Horvitz calls the “say and do gap,” meaning the difference between what consumers say they will do in a focus group and what they actually do at the checkout.

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