2030 Finance | August 28, 2018

PRIME Coalition sets three climate-tech startups on path to commercial capital

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, August 27 – Opus 12, Mallinda and Lilac Solutions are the latest tech startups to join PRIME Coalition’s portfolio, boosting PRIME’s portfolio to nine ventures and philanthropic capital allocation to $17 million.

  • Opus 12 is developing a “reverse combustion” process that can recycle carbon dioxide into useable chemicals and fuels;
  • Mallinda is creating new, fully recyclable composite materials for the automotive sector, to reduce vehicle weight and therefore, improve vehicle fuel efficiency; and
  • Lilac Solutions is developing a new method of mining lithium from sources that current technologies cannot cost-effectively harvest.

Early Traction: PRIME Coalition Investments Bridge Capital Gap for Early-Stage Climate Solutions

PRIME Coalition was started by Sarah Kearney to rally philanthropic dollars to support nascent but potentially game-changing climate technologies that were too risky for traditional venture capital. The Boston nonprofit has emerged as critical early link in the climate deal pipeline.

Its philanthropic partners range from corporate foundations like the Autodesk Foundation to celebrity foundations like the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation. PRIME coordinates the partners to make traditional and recoverable grants and program-related investments for its portfolio startups.

In all, 56 organizations have backed PRIME’s nine portfolio companies. Past investments include desalinization tech startup Anfiro; ConnectDER, which is helping households and utilities connect solar power to the grid; and Rebound Technologies, which is developing energy-efficient food storage technology. One of its earliest investments, Quidnet Energy, which turns old oil wells into energy storage vaults, was one of two ventures backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures leads with energy-storage investments

The three latest additions to PRIME’s portfolio are among a handful of the 2,200 startups PRIME screened and put before its 12-member investment committee and technical experts last year. “We undertake this process annually and present [the finalists] all at once,” PRIME’s investment committee Matthew Nordan told ImpactAlpha.

PRIME’s investment committee, which is comprised of impact venture capitalists like Nancy Pfund of DBL Ventures and Dipender Saluja of Capricorn Investment Group, screens startups based on three criteria: that they have the potential to save at least one gigaton in carbon emissions; they be able to eventually raise commercial capital; and they be unable to raise alternative funds at their current stage of development.

“Our committee effectively makes anti-investment recommendations: they look at all the reasons they couldn’t invest through their own funds,” Norden says. “They also have to look at if the risk were retired, would they consider [these ventures] later.”