Many investors look at promising new climate solutions and say, ‘Great, come back to me when you have traction.’ Azolla Ventures is more likely to say, ‘How can we help you get there?’
Azolla, launched in 2021 by the nonprofit Prime Coalition as a follow-on to its 100% catalytic climate Prime Impact Fund, just clinched $239 million, combining $80 million in philanthropic capital with $159 million in impact-aligned investment capital.
Prime was an early supporter of startups such as Lilac Solutions, a developer of novel lithium extraction technology that went on to raise $170 million from investors including Breakthrough Energy and T. Rowe Price. Azolla, which blends both catalytic and commercial capital, aims to de-risk solutions with big decarbonization and commercial potential. “We’re really trying to peel back the layers and find those diamonds in the rough and the climate verticals that are falling through the cracks,” says Duffuor, a general partner.
The daughter of immigrants from Ghana, Duffuor grew up in Philadelphia. She earned a master’s degree in migration studies at Oxford University and an MBA at The Wharton School. She consulted on supply chains in London, ran an early stage social venture accelerator in Southeast Asia, and, as a renewable power banker, helped residential solar provider Sunnova conduct its initial public offering in 2019.
The tug of early stage companies and mounting concern about climate change brought her to Prime Coalition, first managing the Prime Impact Fund and then co-founding Azolla Ventures. “I wanted to work with thoughtful people who were intentional about doing things differently,” she says. In addition to blending capital, Azolla lowered the entry point for catalytic funders; some contributed just $10,000. “We wanted to play a role in democratizing access to impact investing.”