This was an experiment using a new app Talkshow, which is a live discussion broadcast via twitter where listeners can text questions as we talk! Today's guest was Clay Dumas from Lowercarbon Capital, to talk about what they are up to with the fund and their newly opened roles! It is also always great to talk shop with Clay on everything climate change. Enjoy!
This was an experiment using a new app Talkshow, which is a live discussion broadcast via twitter where listeners can text questions as we talk!
Today's guest was Clay Dumas from Lowercarbon Capital, to talk about what they are up to with the fund and their newly opened roles! It is also always great to talk shop with Clay on everything climate change.
Clay is a partner at Lowercarbon Capital where he invests in startups and research organizations developing technology to reduce emissions, suck carbon out of the air, and cool the planet. He is also a partner at Lowercase Capital. Previously, Clay served as an Executive in Residence at the Pramana Collective, a strategic advisory firm in San Francisco. Before that, he was the Chief of Staff for the White House Office of Digital Strategy, a team tasked by President Obama with connecting people with purpose. In 2017, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. At the start of President Obama’s second term, he served as an aide in the Chief of Staff’s office. Before joining the White House, Clay worked on President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. He graduated from Harvard in 2011.
In today’s episode, we cover:
Links to topics discussed in this episode:
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
Enjoy the show!
Jason Jacobs: Clay, you there?
Clay Dumas: I'm here.
Jason Jacobs: Man, I'm so psyched and shocked that you agreed to have this discussion.
Clay Dumas: Why are you shocked? I feel like we've done this. I feel like we've actually done this talk about 15 times in the past, so I just hope it's as interesting as the, the last, the last few times we spoke.
Jason Jacobs: Well, I think the the reason I'm shocked is that I've known for a while what you guys are up to and have been really impressed with the thoroughness of your approach and commitment to tackling these issues. But I know you've been kind of going about it very quietly and although I haven't taken a quiet approach, I think one thing I've appreciated about your approach that does align with mine is that it's been a, a patient and thorough approach and it's great and so excited. And I mean that you guys are finally not only making moves with the fund, but getting, you know, getting more active externally and telling your story.
Clay Dumas: Yeah, definitely. I think, I mean from the, from the outset, I think and this, this speaks to Chris and Crystal's personality, but also mine. We I think we, we recognize it as a lot more that we didn't know then what we did and we wanted to make sure that we were you know, getting smart and credible on a lot of these issues. Because they're complex and it's not just, you know, looking back at the history of, you know, clean tech investment or the last two decades and realizing that there are a lot of pitfalls. But also just looking at the complexity of the types of things that we're investing in on a lot of hard tech and it requires a little more chemistry and physics and college of energy systems than any of us had when we got started.
But also just, you know, drawing on the insights of so many other people. So I think we want to take our time in both developing, you know, a comfort with the issues and and the subjects even before the, the companies. Because ultimately this is a really long, this is a long road for us. This is not a two to three year project. This is anything what we're working on for the rest of our lives. And so you know, taking that perspective and being able to seed kinda down the field meant that you know, taking a couple, a couple extra months, a couple extra beats to, to compose ourselves and, and speak with a little bit more credibility was, was going to be worth it in the end.
Jason Jacobs: So when doyou guys first get interested in doing things in this area?
Clay Dumas: Yeah, so I mean, I think I would start by saying in our own ways, we've been working on these issues for a long time. You know, Chris intersected with climate and energy issues going back to his days at Google and it was a part of his investing over, you know, a decade at Lowercase, building the most successful early-stage fund of all time. And for me climate and energy had been an area of passion. I had a couple of jobs and I was super young and it was a part of my time within the Obama campaign administrations, but for neither of us was that our sole focus. And almost three years ago you know, almost to the day I was coming out of the Obama administration and asking myself some pretty foundational questions about what I wanted to work on next.
Clay Dumas: And there were a lot of issues that were calling to me, but at the very top of the stack was climate. That happened to to coincide with a very similar conversation. And I think Chris and Crystal Sacca were having, obviously we were very different career stages. You know, they were coming up on a decade of, of, of founding and running the most successful early stage fund of all time. But also knowing that going forward on among all the other issues that they wanted to work on, that climate was at the top of the list. And I think, you know, really to their credit when we got started, we didn't want to make there would've been obvious to just go into early stage investing in climate. As a world they knew really well. You know, they, their reputation proceeded them.
Clay Dumas: And yet from the outset there was kind of a recognition that there might be other more impactful ways for us to get involved. Maybe we should just be focused on philanthropy. Maybe we should be accelerating early stage or basic research. It's been overlooked by you know, academia or the climate establishment for too long. Maybe there's some aggressive things we should be doing on the policy side. And so from the outset, we spent a lot of time just speaking to people that have been doing this work for awhile, reading journals, looking up, academic speaking with philanthropists and, and, and as well as investors and entrepreneurs who are, who are doing this work to try to understand where, where we fit in and where we could have the most impact. And so that was really the start of the journey. And that's part of the reason going back though, you know, why we were, you know, I think a little bit more restrained in talking about our work is it, it took us a lot to figure out exactly you know, where we could have, where we get out of maximal impact.
Jason Jacobs: So what's a while, how long have you been really diligently focusing on this area?
Clay Dumas: It’s coming up on three years now where it's been kind of a core focus for us and there's still other issues that we worked on were, you know intently focused on trying to help restore democracy and, and take back the white house [inaudible] opportunity. But but I think for, for all three of us, climate is sort of the, the bulk of our work at this point and takes up, you know, more than 90% of our time and energy.
Jason Jacobs: And given that you're three years in, what are some of the key takeaways so far in terms of both nature of the problem, but also some of the highest leverage things that we can do to solve it?
Clay Dumas: Yeah. So, you know, when we got started or you know, at least speaking for myself here, I, I had kind of a, an establishment set of assumptions around climate and environmentalism and it's not so much that I had to like reset those, but we did have to sort of go back to first principles and I think where we net it out after, you know, a lot of conversations, a lot of reading, is we you know the highest level we see the world in kind of three buckets.
Clay Dumas: Bucket one for us is reducing emissions. This is the most urgent task for everyone working in this space. How do we go from about 43 gigatons of CO2 emitted and in 2019, I think insulate this number to zero as quickly as possible. And that's also the space that for for a while has, has attracted the most investment capital, government funding philanthropic capital as well. Although we need a lot, lot more that spaces, you know, in, in reducing emissions. But we realize is that, you know, this was an area where, where we could definitely have some impact, especially focusing on hard to decarbonize sectors of the economy. But when it came to energy generation and going, you know, getting to a hundred percent renewables pushing wind and solar those were areas where doors smarter people than us deploying different types of capital, working on project finance.
Clay Dumas: And so we realized is that while this is the, you know, in a lot of ways this is where it all starts, is reducing emissions. That, that our focus would be on the kind of harder to decarbonize parts of, of the economy. Things like chemicals and transportation and cattle. And and, and other sectors that you know, represent consistently high emissions. But don't, you know or haven't historically been been recipients of, of a lot of funding. Bucket number two is, is removing CO2 from the atmosphere. I mean, this is something that you've talked a lot about on the, on the pod, but you know, this was kind of a key learning for us. And, and today CO2 removal I think is a much more widely accepted accepted path then than it was even when we got started three years ago.
Clay Dumas: I think a big turning point was the IPC report last fall, our [inaudible] in the fall of in the fall of 2018. But when we got started, it wasn't so obvious. So it wasn't a, at least as as commonly acknowledged that they were moving CO2 was was so critical. But I think as, as we started to kind of do the math for ourselves, realizing that over the coming century, we have to figure out how to remove, you know, conservatively a trillion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. That, that was one of the most inspiring, you know, kind of a turning point for us realizing this is an area that kind of uniquely uniquely called for a portfolio of solutions that we really didn't know how to do it today. And that we were starting to see a lot of, a lot of innovation on, on the research side, but also also obviously on the startup side.
Clay Dumas: So that's bucket two, that's reducing emissions and then
Jason Jacobs: Removing CO2, right?
Clay Dumas: Yeah. Sorry, sorry. That's right. We're moving CO2. And on that front, you know, we're doing you know, we're doing everything from how to plant trees faster and modern ecosystems to soil carbon removal to enhanced weathering and you know, sucking CO2 straight out of the air with a big vacuum. So, so again, it's everything, you know, it's, it's technological solutions, it's natural ones. And I think we have to take a really broad view because we don't really know what's gonna work and what's going to scale yet. And then bucket three for us is buying time. You know, this is everything from reflecting sunlight to brightening clouds and finding other ways to actively cool the planet, to give ourselves a little bit more breathing room to succeed in buckets one and two, when I got started you know, working with Chris and crystal this was an area where I was a lot more skeptical than, than Chris.
Clay Dumas: And it took me a little while to get to a point where, where I realized that from an environmental justice standpoint, this is maybe the most important work that we do. Today we only invest in, in, in nonprofit and an academic research in this area. And I hope and I, I believe that there will never be a, a profit motive associated with this type of work. But this is also what we worked on that has the greatest potential to save human planet, animal life. And so you know, it's a, it's a kind of a really critical pillar for us, but those are the, those are the three. Those are the three buckets, reducing emissions, removing CO2 and buying a little bit more time. For, for the people on the front lines. And yeah, and so over the last few years, we've, we've built up a portfolio that's coming up on, on, on 20, on 20 companies. And then a few more organizations that are, that are working across these, these areas.
Jason Jacobs: And so when you talk about these areas, that's where you think that your opportunities are from a domain standpoint or not necessarily the opportunities, but where you think there well, opportunities to have impact I should say. So I, I have a couple of kind of buckets I'd love to dig into if it's okay. One is yeah, what one is for those buckets, where does innovation sit versus the other things that you could do, like like policy you know, like grassroots advocacy et cetera. And then the other piece is within innovation in those buckets. How do you spot, you know, how you spot opportunity and what's investible ?
Clay Dumas: Sure. So I think that across all three of those buckets there's, there's a lot of work that needs to be done. On the innovation side, there's a lot of work that needs doing on the policy side. There's a lot of work that needs to be done on the kind of activism and just you know, building a, building a movement of, of people and you can't those things are inextricably connected. That said, our focus while, while we do a little bit of, of all three of those are focuses that for me on the innovation side because like today, even if even if the rules changed with respect to things like carbon and move on, we had a price on CO2. We just don't know how to do it very efficiently. And so you know, I, I, I don't think that we can be too concerned with doing one at the expense of the other.
Clay Dumas: We have to do them all. But but, but for us, innovation is, is where it starts. And I think, you know, the ten year timelines, we'd start, we'd, you know, we'd see companies and entrepreneurs come to us with pitches that said like, Hey, we're developing direct solutions and, you know, we'll know within two or three years, not seven to 10, whether this is something that can scale. And in some cases like this is hard science, right? It's not always going to get there. But but we're working with, with the bridge timelines and the kind of you know, the, the, the kinds of pressures that you see in, in startups and in plenty of other sectors. And so that's, that's where we've been trying to push things along.
Jason Jacobs: And how much of your innovation focus is because you believe innovation is the highest leverage area versus the highest leverage area for you given this specific expertise of the firm?
Clay Dumas: It's a great question. I, I, so I think like it's a, it's a really high leverage area. I don't have a very precise formula for like, you know kind of globally exactly what percentage of our, of our budget should be devoted to innovation. Although I'm sure that there are some folks out there, very smart, had done that work. From our standpoint though, I think what we realized as we were kind of doing the analysis to figure out, you know, where we could have the greatest impact is that innovation was just the most natural fit. These were the communities that we had relationships to. These were the, this was the area where you know, where I think the Sacca name and and the, the lowercase reputation had the biggest signaling power. And frankly, it's also the place that we were just most inspired by.
Clay Dumas: I mean, it sounds some level, I mean, I think this is part of your story to Jason. Like just realizing that this is what we wanted to wake up and do every day was a really, really big factor. You know, we, you know, we were really privileged to work on, on you know, just an incredibly rewarding set of issues, you know, co with companies that were building technology to you know, to increase civic engagement and win elections to fix voting to, you know, reduce the you know, reduce the populations of people who are, who are in prison. And and then of course all this work on climate. And at the end of the day, you know, with everything that's happening in the world, the, the, the place that we kind of, that we kept wanting to come back to because it was such a fount of inspiration where the entrepreneurs that are working working on climate. And so, you know, I, I could, I could give you a, a kind of a long winded rationale for exactly how we arrived at a measurement of like, this was our ROI, our leverage. But at the end of the day, this is, you know, this was the work though, was most inspiring and that we realize, okay, this is something that we can really dig into and have an impact, you know, that we can measure over the course of decades.
Jason Jacobs: So if I look at the types of capital that are going to coming into the space on the one hand you've got traditional VCs and with traditional VCs, what I've typically heard from them is we are we are a profit profit focused and we are here to optimize profit. We believe that there is opportunities here. And by the way, it's nice that we're in area that can, you know, do good for the world, but we don't necessarily have, you know, specific metrics or thresholds that we're measuring against. That's kind of one type of capital. And that's more of like traditional venture capital. Then on the other side, you have people like breakthrough energy ventures and they say Hey, we have a gigaton threshold. It needs to be a half a gigaton in order for us to even look at the opportunity that it has the potential to remove a half a gigaton of carbon from the atmosphere. But once it passes that filter and they have a whole formula and team devoted to doing those calculations and doing that analysis. But once this passes that filter, there's just like an another fund for profit motivated. What is the Lowercarbon ethos in this regard?
Clay Dumas: Yeah, totally. And by the way, I would, I would put one more kind of approach out there, which I think is important because I think it's super innovative. There's a fun in, in, in London called Future Positive, which have actually tied their carry as, as GPs to their sustainability outcomes. And you know, that's taking it a step further than that. I think even where we're breakthrough and breakthrough have obviously been and remarkable leaders in this space. What, what I would say from the standpoint of, of lower carbon is I, I w I would answer that question in two ways. To succeed. We're going to need to attract so much more funding into this space. And fundamentally to make that happen, it's going to have to be a space that traditional venture funds who are, you know, in it because they're greedy are going to have to be able to justify to their LPs that these investments will make them money.
Clay Dumas: And this is not just like a, you know, a fancy form of impact investing. So that, that all has to be true about this space. At the same time from our perspective. I mean, and you know this story, cause we've talked about this so many times, but we arrived here because it was the place where we could have the biggest impact. And what we realized about investing in, in climate tech is that the, the impact and the financial returns were inextricably linked. In not every case is at exactly one-to-one, but there's a bunch of companies where it's going to be very close. If I'm investing in a carbon removal company whose success as a business, as a function of how efficiently they can suck CO2 out of the sky then their impact is really hard to dissociate from from, from their financial performance.
Clay Dumas: And that's one of the, that's honestly one of the virtues in this space is that you can come here because and start doing this work because you are, you know, wake up every morning terrified of the future that awaits us and you want to desperately change the worlds for the seven to eight billion people who are going to be impacted by a changing climate. Or you can do this because you just want to get rich. I think, you know, one of the one of our fellow travelers in this space and a fund that had been just absolute leaders Fifty Years Fund Seth Dannon recently outlined the Mr. Burns test for investing in, in climate tech and a bunch of other hard tech areas. And his point was you have to be able to sell all these investments to you know, the most hardened greedy least empathetic person in the world.
Clay Dumas: Because that's what's going to take to succeed. And and I think that's you know w we, we, we can, we can spend a lot of time thinking about like why it's disappointing that that's the, that's a threshold we have to hit. But I think, but I think that the more important thing is that we're seeing a lot of companies that, where the investment can easily be justified on that basis. And that's really exciting to me. And again, that's, that's why we started doing this work as we were seeing, you know, such a broad range of companies across a bunch of sectors that, you know, in a lot of cases were more exciting and stuff we're seeing in the kind of Lowercase portfolio. And so it's, it was became at a certain point, like a no brainer to start working in this space.
Jason Jacobs: So, so I hear that and, and I think it's great. And I agree with all of it. But I guess one point of clarification I'm looking for is that on the mission side impact, you walk me through a really thorough thought process of the buckets that you're focused on. There's reducing emissions, there's removing CO2, there's buying time right. And then, and then within those areas you think there's opportunities for impact. But then there's another lens which is the profit. And I get that there's a profit motive and that that's important. And again, I think that's great and agree. But, but within that profit motive, you can invest in seed stage equity. You can invest in growth equity, you can invest in project finance, you can invest in capital light businesses, you can invest in hard tech businesses, but lots of science risks. You can invest in stuff with a bunch of regulatory risk and that, you know, needs to be actively working in DC and with state governments. So when you like [inaudible] you go through and you determine, here's the areas where we think there's the biggest impact. But do you, did you do a similar thorough pass as ways to where the biggest financial opportunities are and how focused are you guys versus generalist in your approach?
Yeah, so that's a really great question and I think that the answer here is that as we're kind of beginning to to evaluate this space, one of the things that we saw or was it kind of one of the kind of foundational beliefs that, that we developed over time, was it some of the most valuable companies the next decade are going to be working in climate tech and they're being built right now like as we speak and in the, and then the couple of years to come. And so from a return profile it, you know, like investing early and beginning to build up this space, which is still very nascent, right? There are very few companies that are in you know, that are ready for, you know, series B even fewer than are series C or series D stage. And so I, I could definitely see part of our investment focus evolving over time as, as some of these companies grow.
Clay Dumas: And, you know, depending on, depending on what traditional or generalist VCs you know, how their perspective on this space evolves. You know, maybe we, maybe a few years from now, we're more focused on, on, on series a and series B. But the fact is that you know you know, in, in, in a lot of ways that, you know, the economics that were driving us here, the same economics that drove Lowercase to be a venture, you know, to be an early stage fund in the beginning, which is just, you know, this is where the biggest multiples were and this is where we could show people that that, that not only was there like, you know, really fascinating technology that was gonna, you know, change, change the face of the world that was being built. But it was gonna make a lot of people really wealthy in the process.
Jason Jacobs: So if I've got a startup that fits in one of these areas and I'm evaluating whether to take money from a lower carbon versus Sequoia or USV or Prime Coalition or Breakthrough Energy Ventures or, or Prelude or Congruent or any of these other players I guess who are the, like who do you most aligned with there and are you competitive? And those deals are complimentary and if you're complimentary, what's different?
Clay Dumas: Sure. So I think the first thing just to point out is how many different funds you just mentioned. A lot of them are kind of entering this space very recently and that's unambiguously a good thing. It's, it's just a strong indication of the quality of the companies that are being founded, but also that there's a, a kind of where I think we're at the, at the, the beginning part of a sea change in the industry. Look, each of those funds has a slightly different focus. And I don't expect that funds like USV or Sequoia for that matter are going to completely, you know, rewrite their DNA in, in, in connection with the opportunity they see in climate. They are just going to, you know, in the same way that, you know, kind of, you know, tech took over the world.
Clay Dumas: And it touches every single industry today. I think climate will in a lot of respects as well. And so I think that that at a certain point it's going to be incumbent upon all funds to begin to think about, you know, where does climate intersect with our investment thesis, whether we're, you know, focused on hardware and robotics or we're doing enterprise software or or whatever else it is that, you know, that, that your fund is, is focused on and specialized in. I think up until this point, you know, we've tried to be as complimentary as possible. You know, I'm not a scientist, neither a Chris or Crystal. You know, part of a is, you know, we're beginning to expand the team and bring on a little bit more technical knowledge, but the places that will, where we can add value are not going to be you know, in, in, in tinkering with with, with a prototype to you know, with you to, to succeed to out of the sky.
Clay Dumas: Like we add value in different ways and a lot of it is going to be more around storytelling and talking to traditional investors. And I'm beginning to refine you know, a media plan is companies are beginning to think about how, how they tell their story to consumers. And so in a lot of cases we found that, that that's really complimentary to what other funds can offer. And and I, I, I hope and I think that our, our the companies in our portfolio would tell you the same thing. But I, but I think as, as you just, you know, as you outline the, the, the, the funds that are beginning to work in this space, I think that the really important takeaway for everyone is that like, this is a good thing for the companies. You know, this is to this today, this is a super collaborative space.
Clay Dumas: You know, when, when I see something cool, I've, you know, I sent it to you and you send it to me. And I think that that's kind of broadly reflective of what happens among the set of investors and family offices and angels that are working in this space. Everyone, as much as they do want to make a great investment, you know, and, you know, I end up on the Midas list. We're mostly motivated by, by a desire to, to make the world a better place and, and, and to begin to address the climate challenge. And so I think that that, that makes it a little bit easier for people to be kind of collaborative and and, and really develop partnerships in a way that maybe is not quite as quite as evident in, in traditional venture investing.
Clay Dumas: But that said, as the space does become more competitive as there as there is a little bit more El willing to try to get into deals, that's unambiguously good thing for the founders and the companies that are being, that are being formed. It helps to keep the whole space a little bit more honest. It gives founders more options. And, and over time it's going to bring, it's going to bring in, attract more, more capital into this space, which you know, there's, there's there's a lot of, there's a lot of different facets to the climate problem. And in private capital, you know, there are limits to what private capital will be able to achieve, but there is no doubt that in the next few years and over the course of the next decade, we need to attract a lot more investment into this space.
Jason Jacobs: And is is your thesis and profile in terms of a stage of investment, typical check size that, that kind of thing. Is it is it very well defined at this point or is it intentionally loose with this first vehicle to try to maximize learning and then chart your next move
Clay Dumas: I think that we've tried to stay pretty flexible. And part of that is just a reflection of the fact that when we got started, we were investing somewhat opportunistically as we were beginning to get to know the space. And you know, the people that were the people that were in it we don't have a super rigid view of precisely what percentage of a company we need to acquire and every round to, you know, to meet our, our, our expected returns in a decade. Which isn't to say those are bad things, but just that we've tried to be more flexible and responsive to the needs of the actual partners, the entrepreneurs and companies that we're partnering with. You know, we've, we've written checks in the low, in the low six figures and we've written checks in the millions and a lot of that has to do more with, with the specific needs of the company and the stage that they're at.
Clay Dumas: And you know, what they need to, you know, finish the next prototype or begin to build a pilot facility than it does with kind of a specific desire to carve out to carve out a, you know, a, a target on the cap table for ourselves. And and you know, of course, I think as time goes on that that will, you know, tend to solidify itself a little bit more. I think the space is also really nascent and, you know, no one really knows exactly what you know, what's, what's required. And so you know, it's an evolving process and I think we'll, we'll continue to get better. But I guess the message I would leave you with or I would leave an entrepreneur with is to say, you know, let us know what you need. And, and to the greatest extent possible, you know, we're going to, we're going to try to help you succeed.
Jason Jacobs: And how do you feel about additionality? If a company passes the Mr. Burns test, presumably it could be raising money from lots of different market-based capital profit-seeking places. So you know, in the, in that, in that scenario is, is Lowercase trying to earn its way onto that cap or Lowercarbon rather trying to earn its way onto that cap table or, or would you pass them and, and let the, you know, more purely financial oriented investors take those opportunities?
Clay Dumas: Yeah, that's a really great question. I think it's something that, that anyone who's been into invest in space has to grapple with. I I take great pride in the fact that up until this point, we've invested in a lot of companies that today I think past the Mr. Burns test, but that at the point when we decided to, to write a check warrants such an obvious an obvious winner. And part of that is because, you know, they're perceived as being in the, you know, in the climate tech space or in some kind of sub sector. And as a result, we're just kind of less attractive to traditional funds. But this is a kind of a new problem. So, you know, again, you know, the last two years like proving additionality wasn't that hard. Because in a lot of cases, you know, we, we're kind of really, you know, hustling to put, to put rounds together.
Clay Dumas: And I think as some of these companies begin to to have really competitive series A's and B's we're, that's a, that's a question that we're going to have to grapple with. And it's, you know, a question not just for us, but also as we, you know, as we think about, you know our LPs and, and how, and how we want to bring people into this space, how we, you know, how to, how to provide a sense of confidence that this is not just impact investing, but in fact this is, this is this is a sector that's going to see a lot of growth over the coming decades and the creation of a lot of a lot of value. So I, I think it's a, it's a strategic question, not just for us, but for, but for other funds in this space to make sure that we're that we're you know, both helping to actual, you know, foster innovation that's, that's actually required to solve the problem as well as bringing people along and creating confidence and excitement about, about investing in climate tech.
Clay Dumas: So it is lower carbon at structurally. Is it a fund with outside LPs? Yes, we're a fund. It took us a little while to get to this point. But you know, but here we are, it's a separate entity from, from, from Lowercase Capital. Obviously a lot of the same folks involves, are in, you know, sitting around the table. But you know, what we're building now I think is a foundation for you know, for, for, for a fund that will grow and, and have many iterations in the years to come.
Jason Jacobs: And, and well first of all, let me just state for the record that I'm really glad you guys are here. And you know, although my questions are pointed, I know I mean, cause I've been kind of mucking my way through this myself.
Clay Dumas: We've been, we've been at it together, man.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. And, and I think, I think you just have to be comfortable with some degree of ambiguity to be coming into the market at this phase. And that's a fact. And I get up every day and I'm more excited about this market than anything, both because of its importance for the world, but also selfishly because of the opportunities. But it's not going to be like, well defined in a box with a bow on it. Right? I mean, there's going to be some kind of bushwhacking to, to figure it out.
Clay Dumas: Totally, and I think we've talked about this a little, which is, you know, this really deeply felt if somewhat vague sense that we're sitting on the, on the precipice of an opportunity. It's, you know, bigger than the Internet was. Even if the exact contours aren't precisely clear to us today. And so it, like you said, it requires you to sort of get comfortable with the fact that, you know, some of this is still going to be defined. And you know, that it's, that it's on us, on the relatively still relatively small communities, people that are working in this space to define it in a way that can be successful. Because that's, that's not a sure thing. But that if, if we succeed that that, that the opportunity is, is, you know, obviously financially really attractive, but also in much more importantly it's, you know, to, to keep the world livable for billions of people and animals and plants and ecosystems.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. And I, I know that's the place where you guys are coming from. I think there's going to be, you know, a bunch of dollars that are coming this way, very much that way. Some of which that are more purely profit motivated and everything in between. And and I don't know.
Clay Dumas: And we welcome, I love it. I mean, you know, it's, you know, I think, I think we're both investors in, in Carbon Engineering. And you know, that's a company and a sector direct capture that. I have a lot of hope about. And yet I know that and a lot of, you know for, for Carbon Engineering and for other direct air capture companies in the, in the future some of the big equity checks and business partnerships are going to come with fossil fuel companies. And you know, there's an instinct definitely to want to be somewhat, you know, punitive toward those industries and to feel like, Hey, you're the reason why we're in this mess in the first place. And I get that. And a lot of that is very warranted. At the same time looking forward. I mean, you know, Roger AINS and, and Jennifer Wilcox and a bunch of, of really fantastic scientists and policy experts in California, just put out a plan to get California to net zero and 2045 to do that means we're going to have to draw on the dollars and expertise in those industries to build the pipelines, to get the oil back in the ground and and to, and to advance the technology to a state where it's, where it's competitive on price.
Clay Dumas: And so, you know, I guess you know, obviously I would love for everyone to to wake up tomorrow morning and feel as passionately in burning, really motivated to work on this stuff as, as, as I do. And it's so many others who came before us do. But, but I welcome, I welcome every new dollar that comes in that that's going to help solve this problem because at this point we just don't have the luxury of, of, of getting on a high horse.
Jason Jacobs: Well, I just did a quick time check and given that there's no way we're going to cover everything we want to cover today and hopefully this is like my audition tape to convince you to come on and do long form a real episode on, on my climate journey where we can do a fun one. Yeah. Yeah. Well we can really get into that. But I want to leave time for a couple of things. One for you to talk about. You know, the roles that you're hiring for. And the other is we've had a bunch of questions that I've been ignoring to not muck with my active listening as we've been going, but it'd be great to maybe pick off a few of those as well if you're down with it. Let's do it, man. Cool. So tell me about the roles you guys have, three roles that you opened up to you know, what, what are you looking for and, and and what kinds of profiles, what are you looking for, what kinds of profiles do you need and how should people get in touch with you? If you're interested?
Clay Dumas: Definitely. So I mean, you know, I think one of the things that we realize in 2019 is we were getting really active is that we were sort of brushing up against the limits of what, of what the three of us as as non scientists you know, could accomplish in this space. And and so it came time, it came time to start growing the team. I just, you know, just the, the deal flow, the diligence the relationship building in this space is, requires I think a few more people to cover all that ground. And so we're hiring, like you said, for, for three different roles. I think you know, the, the one the one I would particularly direct to members of this audience is the principal role for, for lower carbon capital. We're looking for someone with with the science and technical background to help lead technical diligence to source investments to, to parse through, to parse through research and generally to join what is a small and pretty scrappy team.
Clay Dumas: And you know, I mean, go on the website and lower carbon.com/jobs or lowercarbon.com/principal where you can see the job description. The truth is like, you know, and you've seen this, you've seen this from, from some of the conversations you've had, but this specific set of, of of experiences that could make sense for this role are so broad that we're not trying to get caught up in, in checking off every single box. We've, we've outlined a few of the areas that we think could be really relevant. I think having an experience and background in investing could definitely could definitely give someone a headstart, but by no means is it a prerequisite. From a science standpoint, you know, there are a lot of, there are a lot of potential. You know, sets of trainings that that would make up there would make a lot of sense here.
Clay Dumas: And no one's going to be an expert in all of them, but whether it's you know, physical chemistry or physics or an engineer, someone who's an expert in energy systems or is focused specifically on carbon removal, any of those can be relevant. I think the most important thing is is, you know, is someone who has a lot of versatility and and is going to be able to, you know, to jump in with, with entrepreneurs and quickly get to speed. And then we've got two other roles that we're hiring for. We're hiring for an analyst role which will be 75 or 80% focused on lower carbon. But also help us out on, on some of the legacy portfolio stuff from, from lowercase capital as well as some of the democracy and criminal justice reform portfolios that we've developed over the last couple of years.
Clay Dumas: That's, you know, that for, for some, for someone out there that is, that is the greatest job in the world. It's going to give exposure to the fields of venture capital. And philanthropy and democracy and climate change. And and you know, you're the person who wakes up scrolling through, you know, like climate doomsday on Twitter and you know, the rollback of our democracy and you're just thinking like, I wish I could do something about it. Like, this is a job for you. And then we're also hiring an ops lead, I think, you know, part of part of the beauty of, of lowercase capital is that it achieved everything it did for 10 years with with very little overhead. But but now just given the complexity and the, and the number of different areas that we reach into got to bring an obsolete on to, to help to help us get a little bit organized.
Clay Dumas: All these jobs are, are, are based in New York. You know, there's a lot more, there's a lot more online. The thing that I would really emphasize is that, you know, we, we arrived at this particular area of focus because, you know, we wake up every day, you know, we're barely made a dent in 20,20 quarter of Australia's on fire. You know, we're, we're still recovering from from the fires in California last year. There's, you know, parts of the world are, are flooding. We're, you know, just on, just on the verge of, of another hurricane season in the Southeast. You know, news out of the Arctic is terrible and this is the one place where every single day reliably I can, you know, go through a pitch stack, catch up with one of our founders and just be inspired and feel like at, you know, as, as, as dark as things might seem like, you know, these are the people that are working on direct solutions to make you know, to, to lessen the effects of climate change and give us a fighting chance. And so, you know, if that speaks to you, even if the, you know, there's a particular aspect of a job description doesn't quite make sense or you think you're in, might not be a good fit. Reach out to us. My email address is Clay@lowercasellc.com. Drop us a note. And let's have a conversation we're looking, you know, for, for, for motivated and inspired people who you know, who want to work hard and and, and hustle to, to get all this work done. And so you know, definitely reach out with any questions.
Jason Jacobs: Awesome. And then we got a bunch of questions while we were blabbering here, but I picked out three that run through quickly. So one is, what wouldn't you guys invest in within this climate broader climate tech umbrella?
Clay Dumas: That's a good question. I think there are a lot of, there, there are a lot of companies that I've been really inspired by that don't quite fit our kind of focus on, on, on hard tech. That I think are nevertheless, like really, really attractive. Businesses. There's, there's some stuff specifically in the, in the solar and renewable space. The deployment of electric vehicle fleets that I think is very investible, but just not for us. In the sense that it, it doesn't fit into the, like, they're really hard to decarbonize sector as the economy. It feels in some ways less additional to get back to one of your earlier questions. And so the, like the, the one exception on energy generation or electricity generation is that we've invested in a couple of fusion startups and we're psyched about those and you know, that works out and we have a fusion by 2030, then, you know, it makes a lot of our changes a curve on a lot of our other problems. But but we've mostly stayed away from electricity generation.
Jason Jacobs: Awesome. And then under the bias time bucket one listener asked about what you think about adaptation and resiliency and, and whether that's important too.
Clay Dumas: Yes, absolutely. And you know, I think our, our kind of adaptation focus has been on, on, on sunlight reflection because it's kind of the, the top of the stack from, you know, from a survivability standpoint. But but those are things that we absolutely look at. And I think there's going to be more, you know, I think our appetite to, to invest in that space and, and to support it through, through nonprofit and grants is going to go up and it should go up for everyone because I think it's going to be really hard to look away from, you know, from, from increasingly dire consequences and the in the coming years.
Jason Jacobs: And last question is just for people like you and I that are maybe, you know, you three years ago or me year ago or whatever that like are seeing the symptoms or reading the news or listening to the scientists, et cetera, and super concern. But, but, but like there's so much here and it's, it's so hard to just even like get your bearings on what's going on, let alone where the opportunities are. So looking back on the last three years, so those people coming in now, any suggestions for resources, podcasts or…
Clay Dumas (44:03): Listen to the pod?
Jason Jacobs (44:04): Yeah, yeah. Besides the My Climate Journey pod. I mean we love the My Climate Journey pod, but but seriously, what what's been most impactful for you as you've got yourself up the learning curve?
Clay Dumas (44:15): I mean, you know, there's not a specific book or podcasts that I necessarily want to point to because it really has been kind of the cumulative impact of, of, of all the reading and research that we've done. But I guess the message that I would give is like, don't let what you don't know, hold you back. Just start doing the work. And I think, I mean, that's to me like the beauty of the, My Climate Journey pod is you just started putting it out there and, and rolling with it. And there were times where you were caught off guard or maybe didn't know the answer to something and that wasn't going to be the thing that held you back. Every single person who's, who's listening today, you know, I'm not a scientist. If you know, every single person who's listening today has something to contribute to this work figure out what your superpower is.
Clay Dumas (44:58):
And inevitably, like one of the companies or organizations or, or nonprofits, it's working in this space will benefit from it. So, so just, you know, I would say take some time to reflect on, on, on what your skills are, which are unique you know, contribution to your company organization is, and, and go fund a company in the climate tech space that needs that cause they are out there, right? Like these, these companies can't live entirely off of, of, of, of engineers and, and, and physicists. They need people that are working on business operations. They need people that are, you know coding and programming. They're going to need people that are you know, filling ops roles. And so you know, just th don't be held up and jump into it. I mean, you guys this, this only gets more urgent every single day.
Jason Jacobs: Well I want to thank you so much for not only for all the work that you've done, but also for taking the time here to educate me and educate listeners about it. So I'm wishing you every success and hopefully this was a nice little appetizer before we, you know, do the long form episode and really kind of get into the guts on this stuff.
Clay Dumas: Yeah, next time in Boston, man.
Jason Jacobs: Sounds good. Clay, any parting words? Anything I didn't ask you that I should have or, or you know, final words for our listeners?
Clay Dumas: No, you are the consummate interviewer. You, you nailed it.
Jason Jacobs: Awesome. Well, thanks again. Talk to you soon. Bye.