Program will support diverse founders of climate tech startups

As the cleantech industry continues to expand and evolve, a new program and partnership based in New York’s Southern Tier region aims to advance diversity and inclusivity in the growing green economy.

In collaboration with Chloe Capital, a movement-driven venture capital firm that invests in women-led technology companies, Cornell has launched Diversity in ClimateTech with the purpose of recruiting, educating, inspiring and supporting capitalization in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and women founders developing startups with cleantech innovations.

Cornell impacting New York State

The new program is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and is designed to support diverse company founders with partners and programs in the region.

Cleantech innovation usually experiences slower adoption rates among customers and therefore slower revenue growth. Additionally, women and BIPOC entrepreneurs typically face more acute challenges scaling their cleantech startups, including limited access to, and attention from, investors.

“To solve the toughest climate and energy challenges, we need the best talent,” said Katie MacDonald, NYSERDA’s assistant director of technology to market. “Supporting this program provides recognition to women and entrepreneurs in underserved communities and will help bring their innovative technologies to market while helping New York state meet its nation-leading climate and clean energy goals.”

Cornell’s team at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) will identify and recruit diverse innovators with solutions in climate technology and provide them with training in early stage entrepreneurship skills including customer discovery, business idea validation and intellectual property generation. CREA will also connect them to mentors and potential customers and partners in the Southern Tier’s growing clean energy hub. CREA currently supports programs that empower founders from underrepresented groups including W.E. Cornell (Women Entrepreneurs) and the student-led BET (Black Entrepreneurs in Training).

“W.E. Cornell and BET are just two examples of the programs that identify and attract the preseed and idea-stage startups that we want to help train and nourish through the Diversity in ClimateTech program,” said Andrea Ippolito ’06, M.Eng. ’07, W.E. Cornell program director, Cornell instructor and Cornell Engineering lecturer.

“By supporting diverse founders from an early stage, we can help more of them succeed and connect them to the resources they need at each stage in their startup journey – right here in New York’s Southern Tier, a leading hub of clean energy innovation.”

Chloe Capital will also help recruit diverse founders from across the country to participate in its signature program, to receive coaching and connections to investors. In fall 2021, the venture capital firm will host a public pitch event in Ithaca to showcase the progress of its founders and introduce them to venture capitalists, private investors and potential customers.

“Investing in the growth of climate technology companies in the Southern Tier continues to make a huge impact,” said Elisa Miller-Out, managing partner at Chloe Capital. “Clean energy initiatives have created an awareness of the Southern Tier as a hotbed for cleantech innovation and spurred the growth of many startups – helping them to scale, create new jobs and attract more like-minded startups and investors to the area.”

Women and BIPOC founders with innovations that increase resource efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support the decarbonization of the economy and broadly reduce energy consumption are eligible for the Diversity in ClimateTech program. Founders can be based anywhere in the world, but they should have an interest in taking actions that will benefit the economy of the Southern Tier – comprising Broome, Delaware, Chemung, Chenango, Tioga, Tompkins, Schuyler, and Steuben counties – such as hiring, opening an office, manufacturing or piloting their technology.

Sara Baier is a marketing and communications specialist for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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