Plugged In | November 10, 2023

Plugged In: The opportunity in local climate innovation with VertueLab’s Aina Abiodun (video)

Dennis Price
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha, Nov. 10VertueLab in the Pacific Northwest isn’t out to be “the Harvard” of climate accelerators. Accelerators that gather and serve the world’s elite “are not necessarily building for the people that occupy the lands that we live on here,” says Aina Abiodun, who joined the nonprofit earlier this year (see, “Agent of Impact: Aina Abiodun”).

Instead, the question that occupies Abiodun’s thinking is, “what is the best innovation that’s going to serve the people who live in the Pacific Northwest?”

Abiodun joined Plugged In host Sherrell Dorsey to discuss the opportunity in “local” climate innovation. 

VIDEO: Watch the full replay of Sherrell’s conversation with VertueLab’s Aina Abiodun.

Conduit to communities

Climate money from the federal Inflation Reduction Act has started to flow. The problem is not so much getting the money, says Abiodun. “The bigger challenge is actually deploying.”

VertueLab’s Just Futures Climate Labs works with communities to help them overcome political, technical and equity challenges associated with the transition.

“Is it fair? Is it good for us? Should we be deploying this technology? Should we just do it because we have the money? Do we need it or what do we need?” she says. “That’s the work.”

De-risking local climate tech

Rather than push local entrepreneurs to pitch their project to venture capitalists, Abiodun is bringing new types of flexible capital to entrepreneurs.

“Our market is our entrepreneurs. They’re diverse. They’re underserved. What do they need?”

Abiodun is an advisor to Candide Group’s $36 million Afterglow Climate Justice Fund, a new “catalytic debt” fund. VertueLab’s own philanthropic investor-backed Climate Impact Fund provides “slow capital” to help local startups grow. The National Clean Investment Fund is set to deploy $14 billion for green energy and resilience projects.

Says Abiodun, “Now there’s all these tools that are going to be derisking businesses at different levels.”