The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank created a significant void in the world of climate finance, but it’s now providing an opportunity for new support to emerge and for the industry to continue to grow and thrive.
As the dust is now settling and we take stock of lessons learned, three observations leave me optimistic about the path forward.
First, the crisis differs significantly from the bank failures in 2008, which were much larger and had objectively different root causes with correspondingly different implications for the startup world. The emerging companies in the climate space right now have real, fundamental strength. They are developed on top of scientific breakthroughs and engineering platforms that are proven and have quantifiable value for the energy transition.
While we can trace the collapse of SVB in part to high interest rates, the current financial climate also means it’s attractive to invest in companies building foundational infrastructure. Investing and developing breakthrough science is an efficient use of capital to create highly durable assets, which will hold their value through market uncertainty.
Given all this, it seems like new financial models and support will emerge, perhaps even from within the ecosystem itself.
Second, we saw the community pull together in the face of crisis. While the image presented on social media and television news may have at times seemed chaotic or misinformed, behind the scenes we had conference calls between investors to figure out how to best support portfolio companies, CEOs on group chats helping each other figure out the fastest way to open new accounts and seasoned chief financial officers volunteering their time to share their approach and best practices.
This kind of collective effort strengthens the ties within the climate community and reminds us that the energy transition is truly an ecosystem-wide, collective effort. If we succeed, it will be by working together.
Lastly, this crisis underscored the urgency of our mission. For climate investors especially, the weekend after SVB’s collapse was a weekend of work driven by a clear mental picture of the collective progress made across our portfolios and the founders who’ve worked so hard to get where they are now.
The public reaction — which has often been quite negative towards venture capital and “tech” — was also an urgent reminder of the real purpose of our roles. We need to, as a community, lift up and support founders in a dialogue about how their companies are creating solutions and a vitalized economy for everyday Americans.
With gratitude for the systems and people in the federal government who quickly implemented a solution (without any tax dollars spent or at risk), the climate and broader Tough Tech sectors can, and I believe will, use this “near-death” experience as a catalyst to redouble our efforts.