Climb By VSC: Episode 26

Published April 26th, 2023

Amy Francetic is the founder of ⁠Buoyant Ventures⁠, a new woman-owned venture fund in Chicago that invests in digital climate solutions. Her journey began at ⁠Evergreen Climate Innovations⁠, where she co-founded and led the company as CEO, before moving on to ⁠Energize Ventures⁠, a $165 million venture fund that propelled cutting-edge digital technologies to optimize energy equipment and infrastructure. She has a BA from Stanford University, and has over 25 years experience in the energy and high technology sectors, including the founding of two companies.

We Do This Work For Those Who Will Inherit The Planet In The Future

Jay Kapoor: Welcome to Climb by VSC! Today I am so excited to have on with Amy Francetic, who is a managing partner at Buoyant ventures, a Chicago-based firm that invests in digital climate solutions. And as I take one of the largest female funds that have been raised outside of the coasts. Amy, I want to hear all about that process too from one fund manager to another. But thank you so much for joining me on the show today.

Amy Francetic: It's such a pleasure to be here. Jay. Thanks so much for having me. And I love what you guys are about. So thank you for your interest.

JK: Absolutely. Well, let's start, you know, with your varied career going all the way back to starting out in the worlds of consumerism with games and toys, selling a company to Lego, to now having founded and built multiple VC firms. Tell me about that initial pivot to climate innovation. And whether there's even been a through line from your days in consumer that informs what you're building today.

AF: Sure, sure. Yeah, definitely. I began my career at Electronic Arts early on way before it was really the, you know, the BMS in the gaming industry. And I was in the Bay Area, and I was working after I had graduated from Stanford there, but I grew up in the Midwest and so came back to the Midwest to raise my family. I live in the northern suburbs of Chicago. And so the firm is headquartered here. But I spent, you know, the early part of my career in consumer technology and digital solutions, working mostly in software as well as some hardware, and that theme of digital technologies has carried through to my climate work. But when I pivoted to climate it was very intentional. It was after I had had a little bit of a health scare, and it was also after the birth of my two daughters. And I sat down with my husband and I said, you know, I really want to go back to work and I really want to work in something that I care deeply about. And I care deeply about the environment and nature and I've been a runner my whole life. So, nature and the outdoors are like my medicine and my therapy. So I wanted to do what I could, you know, with my remaining life to try to make things better. And because of my digital experience and focus there and my technology experience, I thought I could help on sort of the innovation front like trying to come up with solutions that could help address climate change, and hopefully make the world a little better for my kids and their kids and try to leave things in a little bit better place than we found them or that I found them in my life.

JK: I love that, I love finding this sort of personal connection into the work that you're doing and as an avid outdoors person myself, you know, I was a Boy Scout back in the day and you know, spending spent a lot of time on outdoor hikes and camping and all this stuff to find that personal connection with the work that we do, I think is always so special, you know, given how technical some of the solutions that you know are being proposed are out there being funded that we look at are how do you approach those? Do you come at it from sort of a technical and engineering lens? Do you come at it from a business focus lens? Yeah, talk to me a little bit about sort of how you bridge the business and investing side with the really hard technical science side of climate investing.

AF: Yeah, it's complicated, right? And we like to say, you know, Climate and Energy investing is not for tourists. Because you need to really understand so much about the systems that these solutions are being delivered within you need to understand about policy and how that can create headwinds or tailwinds. You know you need to understand markets and energy markets because what is going to be cost-effective, what is going to compete and be able to scale up and be commercially viable, you have to have some sort of deeper understanding, but across some pretty complex categories. And so, although I am not an engineer, I do like to say that I am a science junkie. So I love science. I love scientists. I think I wish I was a scientist. I love being in the labs and learning and watching what scientists do and love reading about it. And I think because of that just natural curiosity and sort of respect I have for science I felt like my contribution could be on the business front and so a theme throughout my career has been working alongside scientists and engineers to commercialize their ideas. And whether that was at the startup that I built and sold called Xiao Wei. It was a high-tech toy company but it was funded by Paul Allen and it was part of a think tank that he funded that brought together scientists, engineers, business people, and artists, it was a little bit like an MIT Media Lab almost. That was birthing, you know, ideas and companies, and my job was to help commercialize, you know, some researchers' ideas. Then we turned that into a product that we sold. A company that we built around that that we sold to Lego. But then I also worked at Stanford Research Institute and my job there was to commercialize the research that Stanford Research Institute had conducted and retain the commercial rights so a lot of the research was federally funded, but as is the case and research the the entity that has performed the research retains the ability to commercialize it. And so there were people like myself, whose job it was to figure out how to do that with the scientists and I worked on what was an early version of Siri. So it was a voice recognition technology combined with search. And it was really exciting to be part of that in the very very earliest days. But I think that you just have to really read a lot and have that natural curiosity and then over time, develop sort of systems for understanding how all this works together. And I often say to people that are trying to get into the business of climate change if they're not, you know, able to invent a technology themselves, but they want to work alongside these folks that all these skill sets are needed to build a company right like that. The scientists and engineers and inventors need good business people and marketers and salespeople and folks that can help do what I do for you know what I have done, but to do that, alongside these, you know, these great inventors to help them figure out how to bring their product to market and, and so I think that there's a need for all kinds of skill sets and so, but you do have to have, I think a propensity for feeling uncomfortable with what you don't know. You have to be okay with that and then also just this you know, when you learn something new, like being able to sort of stretch your brain and fit it into your, you know, your understanding of the world and not be intimidated by a new idea, just because it's new or somebody's trying something very ambitious. There are a million reasons why these new crazy ideas won't work. And, you know, there's a few reasons why they will and, you know, as an investor in these ideas, we have to believe that some of what this person is saying and wants to do this entrepreneur can happen and when we're making that sign that you know, the team and the approach that it can really, really happen. But knowing that there are a lot of obstacles along the way. So it was a little bit of a long-winded answer but yeah, that's what I love about that.

JK: Amy, the thing is especially at the end there, which is that you know, it is really all hands on deck, right? If we look at what's happening in the macro environment right now with a lot of the large tech companies that are doing layoffs, are people leaving for one reason or another? The biggest category of companies that have seen interest from these employees has been climate tech and climate is very broad, right? You can say energy or you can say alternative materials or you know, whatever you have you. But the thing that I think is really compelling and what you said is that it is across the board. And so for listeners who you know, thinking about, hey, what do I do with the next decade in my career, where do I want to go to build it? You know, if you're in sales, if you're in marketing, if you're in recruiting, there is an opportunity for you to go build in this space. And that's sort of one of the three lines of what we do on the show, which is, you know, really trying to inject a little bit of optimism in the conversations of climate gloom and doom. The thing that always makes me really optimistic is how many people you know in their 20s and their 30s want to go and dedicate their careers to going and working in this and it doesn't have to be just the engineers so I'm really glad that you mentioned that.

AF: Yeah, no, I mean, I always like to say young people are gonna save us, you know, like because they just have the most at stake, right like they have the most to lose. Yeah. And, and so they are the most motivated but they're also creative and they're committed and they're living their lives aligned with their purpose and their values, you know, and I think that they, they absolutely will save us and it's just, I think also a complete recipe for health and longevity to be constantly inspired by young people. You know what I mean? Like you just have to, like, you haven't got a kick out of it. There's one certain day a week for our team call where we run for our whole pipeline. And I just love hearing what everybody's doing. Like we all have something to add to that or we've all talked to them. We kind of like comparing our notes. And our junior team members are doing a lot of the screening and I just love to hear their descriptions like, what is it going to be today? You know what, I can't wait to see what it is because of the surprises and the creativity and the ingenuity you're just like oh my god like we can do this. We can absolutely do this right. We've got this crazy talent and motivation and it's more of you know, for me is like can we do it fast enough? That's really what I get concerned about and why my fund is focused on digital solutions because software and simple hardware can be scaled up pretty quickly. And can get to market pretty quickly. And also happens I think to be a better fit for venture capital because venture capital has a shorter return lifespan, right? Like we have a 10-year fund but we're really looking to return capital like when we make an investment we're hoping to get it out in sort of five to seven years, right so that's really hard. If you've got a technology that's going to take a decade to commercially mature or be prepared for a commercial scale-up. I think what we're doing at buoyant investing in software and simple hardware is buying some time and sort of laying the groundwork for some of the more ambitious scientific breakthroughs that people are working on that are going to take longer to ensure they could have absolutely way more climate impact way we're emissions reduction benefits, but we can't wait for them. You know what I mean? We have to go now, we have to put everything we had in the ground now to make a difference today. And then you know, we just have to keep figuring out how to make these improvements every day. So that's why we're focused on these digital solutions because they're capital efficient, they can scale up pretty quickly, you know, you can get pretty far to a minimally viable product in the software space and get customer feedback, you know, on and on a very, very small amount of money. So that gives you an advantage so we can talk to early customers, pilot customers see some early revenue traction. That gives us something to be diligent about.

JK: That is helpful. Yeah, no, I'm glad you jumped into it because I wanted to hear a little bit about the sort of origins of it. This is not the first one that you have founded. So what Tell me a little bit of, you know, what you were doing with energize, and then how that has informed, you know, round two of braising and building of fun, and maybe how those two differ for you now.

AF: Yeah, for sure. Well, I think an important learning that I had was when it was energized. I had started the Clean Energy Trust, which is in Chicago, and it still exists. It was renamed evergreen climate innovations because we wanted to broaden outside of energy, but also because we have a unique funding structure. We're a 501 C three nonprofit, and we fund companies with money that we raise and then we recycle the returns and so there are no LPs to pay out. So it's an evergreen fund structure. One of the reasons we did the name change. But one of the key learnings there was seeing how many amazing ideas there were being birthed out of the labs and universities. You know, our focus was still the geographic Midwest. And so looking at, you know, what the scientists were doing at Argonne National Labs and, you know, the University of Illinois and Northwestern and Purdue and Michigan and all these great research institutions. And just seeing also that there was very when we started there was very little early stage capital to find those ideas. And so the company organization existed to put right those first checks to get those companies like some traction, some revenue traction, to help them advance the development of their solutions so that they could eventually attract venture capital down the line. And the organization still does that. But I learned so we just had two major success stories come out. One is there are two companies that we invested in, ironically, that have been out at Northwestern University. One of them was called what was called Nano graph and it's been out under the name sidenote, and they're working on a new battery chemistry battery material, and anode to make batteries more, perform better, and sort of last longer and easier to charge. And they 360 $5 million. We invested in that company originally in 2012. Okay, so like now it's 20 2311 years later, they're reaching a scale of investment and they have some big contracts with the federal government that are gonna buy their battery materials, which is really fantastic. But it took 11 years, you know, from the birth of that business to get to this stage, and then another another great company is called new matte technologies, and they have nanotechnology that can be used for all different kinds of purposes. And they haven't disclosed the dollar amounts, but they just raised a very, very large round and we funded them at the same time in 2012. And they're now manufacturing they're going to be opening a manufacturing facility on the west side of Chicago. And they've got some very big global customers. But again, you can see just how long it takes, you know, for these businesses to really go to market so that learning was really valuable to inform the focus that we have on digital both at energize and endpoint so energize is focused on software and digital solutions. And that was our focus when I started that fund and ran it and is carried over to buoyant because of the reasons I kind of described which is these are the technologies maybe most easy or easier to fund with venture capital and may be able to go to market a little faster scale a little faster than some of the more breakthrough very exciting, scientifically exciting ideas, but ones that will take more time and money to develop.

JK: I'm just enjoying learning from you so much. So do you think the LP base is the limited partner base for those of our listeners who aren't familiar with that term? Does that have to change when we are thinking about climate tech? There's a population of people that are looking for that sort of, you know, more near term return from venture capital, versus what we think you know, the hard hardware, the hard scientific breakthroughs that could be north of a decade. Like, is there a Do you speak to different LPS in that case? How do you make sure that there's capital for both of those, you know, the near term and the long term as well?

AF: Well, I think I think that we saw what happened with clean tech 1.0 When investors realize that a lot of the investments that didn't perform circa 2008 - 2010 that were made in the biofuel space, you know, in some of these production-heavy scientific heavy in other categories that were complex, you know, solar cells and other things. A lot of you investors got burned and it takes a long time to come back after you've lost a lot of money and maybe you're on the investment team and you lost your job, you know, maybe like I can't even raising boys and for the most part, I would say that there's a lot of LP interest in climate and it's exciting time to be investing and, and so I think that there's, you know, that's why so many funds in the climate space have raised so much money up until now over the last couple of years. But the idea that you have to match the risk you know, to the investment activity, and I hope that the LPS that are coming back into climate or are new to climate, have a good experience because I don't want them to run away again, you know what I mean? Like we just really want them to stay. And I think if it's if it's a fund that's making riskier bets, that hopefully they've communicated that risk properly to their LPs, and that's also probably why folks like Breakthrough Energy ventures, which does a lot of more science-based investing has a 20-year life on their fund right there. They're not trying to deliver these returns in the short term. That is more typical of a venture fund. So they have I think, you know, successfully communicated that to their LPs by extending the life of the fund and just like, we're doing stuff that's going to take a long time, you know, so, but I'd say for the folks that are new, some of the family offices and other folks are doing this because they have a long term view, too, right? They're not, you know, they're making decisions as a family, or they've just known that this is like something that they want to have an impact with their money over a long period of time. So I think that they are more patient than some of the folks that are institutional investors that have to answer, you know, to have some level of oversight at their endowment or their you know, their bank, right? They're going to have folks that are going to put pressure on them to deliver results. So I think that the family offices have a little bit of a longer view on this and that's helpful too. And so we have a lot of, we have some wonderful LPS in buoyant and very excited about it. But we do have a lot of individuals and families that I think came to us because of that climate alignment with some of their interests and values.

JK: Yeah, I think your point about aligning the time horizons and maybe I'll add to it, you know, communicating those time horizons. That was the biggest lesson for me as we were raising our fund, which is, you know, letting folks that maybe hadn't had a lot of exposure to venture capital. Maybe they came from private equity. They had a lot of experience there or real estate, you know, really sharing with them Hey, the power lies real in this business. It takes a long time for us to see those breakouts, and, you know, even the categories that we invest in, as I mentioned, you know, we do three work wellness and world across those themes. Each of those categories has a different profile, right? And from that perspective, as you know, the global lesson for the founders that are listening is, as you're putting your cap table together, you have to communicate those time horizons for your goals, much in the same way that we have to communicate those time horizons to our LPS so that you get the right folks on board. It can be very easy to sell somebody on a near-term return. When you know, in reality, that's not necessarily what your Fund is designed for. So I'm glad that you talked about those time horizons and aligning them maybe to build on that a little bit. You know, what has been the biggest difference that you've seen from green? Tech one Dotto to call it climate tech and climate innovation today? And what sort of stands out to you as the biggest differences?

AF: Well, I think we have a global consensus that climate change is real and we want to do something about it. Okay. So I think that there wasn't a global consensus with clean tech 1.0. I think that we absolutely had a science. I just don't think we had a political agreement on it. And I think right now you could easily say there's no even if, even if, even in the oil and gas industry as you've seen like these folks in the oil and gas industry, except that climate change is real and that humans have been contributing to it. And we have to figure out ways to decarbonize to address this and slow down the warming of the planet. And so I think that's a major difference is that we do have some global consensus, we have motivation. I think that the pace and the amount of innovation are much higher than it was back then. I just see an endless stream of companies getting funded. And, and, and spinning out of labs, universities, you know, doing some of the hard tech stuff, but also many that are trying to take advantage of the market disruption that undercurrent is undergoing right now. And trying to figure out how to help big pools of trillions of dollars going to be invested over the coming decade around climate like helping to provide sound investments for that money, but also insights and data to help people make better decisions about how to invest that money in that capital. And so I think that that is that's a big change too, is there's just the amount of investable companies has just exponentially increased as well, and then you look at the pools of funding there's been so much with $70 billion raised last year globally for climate VC, or the that was a year before I think, the year before last year, but a lot of money going into funds and a lot of new funds that are getting raised. And so I think we have, you know, a lot more venture capital coming in to fund this, you know, why a variety of companies, and then we have some very big funds. One of the big things too is we've got some later-stage funds with a lot of dry powder. We're going to be looking to deploy that capital and we didn't really have that and clean tech 1.0 Like you'd have like the accelerators and the angels would get a little bit of money to get the company started and then it would kind of fumbled around looking for a Series A or Series B investor and then there was like nobody at the end of that, like, you know what I mean? Like there was nobody doing C and D and kind of a mess, very, very little money, even the loan program, right, that funded all of these companies which have been re you know, reauthorized and expanded now and they're putting out a lot of capital. But other than that, those programs are very few funds that we're doing at a later stage. And now we have a lot of, you know, roughly about $20 billion in later stage capital that has been raised to fund businesses that are really growth stage and approaching profitability in the space and so that's super exciting because that means, you know, for you and for me, when our companies grow, there's going to be somebody to catch them at the other end, like they're not going to fall off a cliff. They're gonna there's going to be some investors that are looking to fund those very good businesses. And there's, you know, not all the companies are going to make it to that point. So you hope that you have one of the Winning Solutions, and I think that but it's good at least that there's, you know, money available, which is great.

JK: Yeah, I mean, your point is so spot on about there actually being an ecosystem around it now and you know, us at the early stage, being able to be confident about our investment and you know, knowing who those folks are at the next stage, knowing their names, knowing their focus areas, I think it matters a lot more than just sort of going in there with the assumption that, hey, if you, you know, hit a certain traction threshold, there'll be more capital one day, and I think, you know, hope is not a strategy. So I'm glad that you mentioned that and then you know, even to build on that. There have been, you know, publications that have dedicated climate desks now. There are innovation arms inside of large corporations, specifically dedicated to Hey, how are we, you know, greening up certain aspects of our business? That to me, I'm gonna get and have not been in climate as long as you have but that to me feels like a real, you know, systemic change, as opposed to being something that is, you know, cyclical and trendy and fatty, which I think is positive to see for people who care about this. Give me an example of a company that got you excited in the joint ventures portfolio, and maybe, you know, use that to help our audience understand, you know, what, what gets me excited about a climate tech company? What are the sort of criterias and things that you look for when you say, Hey, this is the right kind of company for my portfolio?

AF: Well, I thank you for the opportunity to talk about my portfolio because I love all of our companies and I think I won't try to play favorites and say this is the most my most favorite or my most excited but how it was our first one. So let me talk about our first investment Mr. Also made it the most mature of any of our portfolio companies, because we invested in this company raptor maps in mid-2020. As we were raising the fund and even before we had a close of the fund and so we made this investment and we put investors into a special purpose vehicle. And we invested in the series A of Raptor Maps, and it's a solar software company that was created by two MIT graduates that befriended each other while they were at MIT. And they started out by analyzing drone footage that was captured by flying over large solar farms and identifying the need for repairs, vegetation management, cleaning, and other things that would improve the production of those large solar assets. And they've since then built a number of software features that help automate and improve the efficiency of the operations and maintenance of the equipment but also help to track the performance of the equipment in an independent database that can be used. If there's ever a problem with the equipment and one needs to file an insurance claim or when there's a change of ownership. They can be this independent source of truth of how this acid has performed and what the health of that asset is. And they raised a series B that closed in early 20 2002. And we invested in that as well. And just with the growth of the solar industry, like the need for sort of digital solutions to improve the management and maintenance of the asset, but also to figure out ways to like you know, these are very big investments for these investors and they want to make sure they're getting as much output and energy as they can from that investment. And so even the kinds of improvements that can happen by analyzing the performance and making recommendations through the software tools that can improve production, you know, to three percentage points, and that's very, very meaningful to folks that have invested in these assets and are looking for them to produce as much as possible and to last as long as possible. So we're pretty excited about rapid maps. They're in a variety of different countries. So they're expanding, you know, geographically now and their business has grown really nicely. And space is getting quite competitive, too, because the solar business was a little slower to adopt digital technologies in the oil and gas industry. They have been using digital technologies to do a lot of this stuff to manage production, and refine the transport of molecules. And this is now like, been a relatively newer thing that in the last sort of 510 years, the solar industry has been looking for these kinds of tools to improve the performance of their investment in the energy sector, and we're just super excited about the space like there's room for multiple winners here. We think for sure, and folks that are doing it slightly differently. But there's, you know, with the Inflation Reduction Act, there's going to be investment, a lot more investment in solar power, the tax credits have been extended and reauthorized. And then just looking at the growth, you know, internationally like the other countries and other parts of the world are investing pretty heavily in solar as well. So we're very bullish on solar and very bullish on rafter mass.

JK: Yeah. I'm curious to hear because one of the things that I struggle with sometimes with you know, the sort of soft, pure software kind of companies in the space, is that with so much capital, you know, in and around climate tech, climate innovation, so many companies that are getting funded, like moats and defensibility is always like a big challenge to me with some of these companies. How do you think about that, as you're evaluating businesses that are you know, software only or sort of you know, software with light hardware components, where there isn't sort of off the jump a lot of defensibility, especially at the early stage, and there's so much capital where somebody tomorrow could go raise 50 million and try to build what you're building. How do you advise your companies in terms of building those moats and having some defensibility?

AF: Well, it's hard to patent to, you know, software, it's hard to patent. It is possible and so like we also really encourage our companies to look for ways to decree create some a moat around their IP, which is difficult but you know, is better than not having it especially if you start to get some competitors intruding on your space, to be able to say we have a patent in this space and we have a viable business already. Like, that's helpful to deter competitors. And it's also helpful if a large company is looking to grow and acquire they want to make sure that they're not going to be acquiring something that could have some legal liability to it as well. So I think you kind of have to, even in software, look at ways to shore up your intellectual property. Is it really important, but then, you know, one thing that I think we're always looking for is like, you know, is this a vitamin or a painkiller like that's often you hear this, you know, saying, right, is this something that's kind of a nice to have or is this something that's like, oh, no, this is going to really save my business or make my business work or just, you know, solve this giant problem I have in my business. And, one thing I'll mention is a more recent investment that we made, and it's kind of similar I like to say to wrap your maps but it's in the land-based aquaculture space, and it's a company called real data, and they're in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and they have artificial intelligence that they use with some hardware that has a camera attached to it. That can help automate the feeding schedule. For fish that are produced in tanks on land. And why is this important? Why is this important for climate change? Because sustainable food production is really important for the future and we've overfished our oceans and the way that we're producing fish on a mass scale today is in pounds off the coast of you know, these countries in the ocean, and that's creating a lot of environmental degradation to the coastline. And so the countries are starting to clamp down on that and taxing the producers, the fish producers that are using their real estate of the country to do this. And so folks are looking for ways to, you know, produce fish more sustainably. So, big tanks on land that can also be closer to where they're going to be, you know, processing the fish and then distributing it saves carbon both from an environmental degradation standpoint, but also the logistics and transportation of the fish. product. And so if you can figure out how to feed the fish more efficiently, the cost of food is one of the highest costs of producing fish on land. And so if you can reduce that cost, you actually can make that investment in those tanks and those fish way more profitable. And so that to us is like really a painkiller like that's making their investment in this system, this tank system and the fish that they bought and invested in it makes that investment more profitable and more viable and ultimately kind of helps the whole business around land-based aquaculture work properly. So that's an instance where yes, they're clever. This team is very clever, and they're using software and hardware combined to do this, and there are not too many competitors yet because this is an emerging category. And the ones that even are emerging are kind of focusing on pens that are off in the ocean so like they're the real data solution is really tuned for tanks, fish tanks, so I'm really excited. I get to go see it in April, I'm gonna go to one of their largest customers and I get to like seeing it in action. I can't wait. I'm like, I got it. I gotta get my hands on it. I gotta see exactly how they do this. You know, like, it'd be really fun to get a visual on how all this works.

JK: At first. That's actually a company I'm definitely gonna check out and learn more about pivoting a little bit because you know, a lot of the conversations we have in the show are really about helping our listeners scale and build companies and coming from you having built and scaled and sold companies one of the things I read that you said is, you know, hiring is one of your superpowers. And I always, always love to hear these perspectives because, you know, hiring especially for first-time founders can be a really challenging experience. You know, maybe they've managed people before in the context of a bigger company, but convincing somebody to come to work for you and spotting really great talent to come to work for you can be so difficult. So what are some things that a founder listening to us today can do to develop this great eye for talent and become better at hiring?

AF: Yeah, I think it is really hard to and I think, you know, until recently with all of the layoffs that have happened, especially in my the kinds of companies that we invest in, that are digital companies, where they're hiring a lot of folks that have software skills and development skills, they couldn't compete with the salaries that were being offered by these big tech companies the last two years, right. Like there's just like, oh my god, there's no way we can do that we can't afford to hire you have to go take that job at Google and have them pay you twice as much as we were gonna pay you and have them give you a signing bonus and have all those perks like we can't match that but now because of other layoffs that have happened, it's getting a little bit easier. I know that people are still holding out hope that they could get a job for the equivalent salary that they just left but they won't, right just like the market like the companies aren't going to raise at the same valuation that they were looking at. Even six months ago. They have to adjust to the market reality but I think you know, hiring is really about casting a wide net and then trying to really kind of churn through and find the right mashes right it becomes like a matchmaking process. So you can find somebody who's got not only the skill set, but it has somebody that's got the experience, but who will also want is a good fit culturally at your company, right, who's going to come in and be really additive to the culture, who's going to bring something you know, special to kind of upskill other people's skills at the company who's going to make everybody better? And I think that the great thing for a lot of these companies in the climate space is that people want to work at these businesses. You know, like this abuses the kind of places they want to go, especially if they're a little bit disenfranchised from working in other categories that haven't had so much personal meaning to them, or whose kind of long-term benefit to the world is not as clear. So I think that the fact that these climate companies can offer workers to be part of a cause that they can feel really good about and proud about, I think is a real benefit. And then I think in terms of casting the widest net, we care a lot about diversity and inclusion with our fun being a fund as 100% owned by women. My partner Allison is in Denver. And so we are the manager, the fund manager, and we want to make sure that we can find diverse founders as much as possible as well. And we ask all of our companies to make a commitment to implementing a diversity inclusion policy and then really try to evaluate a wide, diverse pool of candidates for the jobs as well. And we just think that makes them better overall as a company, right? Because they're going to look outside of just their own reality and their own networks for these workers and bring in the diversity of thought and background. We think it makes every company better and stronger. And then once you do that, it sort of has that network effect of like now you suddenly like to broaden your network, you know, like, instead of just being oh, here's a company that my friends and I started and we all work together. There's one other company and we're hiring people just like in our geography now with remote working, you can hire really across the country. And you can start to diversify your workforce, you'll get more and more access to talent from all different categories. So we think that that's super important as well is to be very open, and to cast as wide a net as possible.

JK: I'll close with a question I'd love to ask. A lot of our guests when we close. There's a lot of doom and gloom out there in terms of climate and you know, call it the climate panic and things like that. But I always love to hear from our guests. What they're optimistic about when it comes to this fight against climate change. So what is something that gives you a lot of optimism when we talk about climate innovation or this fight against climate change?

AF: I think I think you know, it's not any one particular technology because there is no silver bullet right? It's kind of gonna take every kind of technology applied to every industry right you know, energy transportation, you know, industrials, you know, consumer, everything agriculture, like it's going to take real investment across the board. I think it's the quality and volume of talent that's coming into the companies and graduating from some of these programs. We hired two people to our team, Jacob Gleason and Laura Dyer. And they both worked with us for a period of time before we hired them. And Laura graduated from the University of Michigan's dual Master's of sustainability and MBA program and a lot of the top universities are creating these very specialized master's programs that combine sustainability or energy climate with business skills and the training they're getting is outstanding. So if like back to the beginning of that conversation, you know, if you're looking to get into this space, and you don't have a background in climate and you and you can afford to go to school and get this very excellent education, you will graduate with such good skills and training that you will have no problem finding a job. And Jacob graduated from Northwestern Kellogg's school, and he's been really terrific he had a banking background before he went into climate and worked with us as a means of gaining some climate experience before he went back to business school. But I think the determination and intention of the talent that's coming into the space, the young talent, I think, is super inspiring. And so that, you know, back to my young people aren't going to save us if these folks can find their way into these innovative companies. They will absolutely be a part of, you know, creating a winning business that can have a measurable impact. And then you know, the elected officials and all the other folks can't let them down. You know what I mean? Like they have to, we can't waste any more time you know, arguing over stupid things you know about it, we have to accept the reality that we're in and then really look for solutions and scale up solutions. And I think the Inflation Reduction Act is a really exciting opportunity to sort of advance the US global leadership on climate issues as well as to fund a lot of really exciting projects and businesses so and you know, many of which aren't ventures but are things that are really ready to go today. So it's just going to bring a lot of capital into electric vehicles, renewable energy into some of these more ambitious, new technologies. I think that's super exciting. And that gives me some hope as well because we're already seeing like Europe is like a little that they were like global leaders and then the US came out with this amazing piece of legislation that I think was a surprise to everyone when it happened. But I think Europe is responding with an increased commitment, you know, to funding innovation because the stakes have been raised, which I think is really exciting. That's back to this kind of global consensus. I think it's never been a better time to start a company or raise capital in the space, which is super exciting.

JK: That is a wonderful place for us to leave our conversation today. Amy Francetic, I'm so grateful. For your insights, for your energy, and just your passion for building in this space. And we're excited to follow all the great work that Bouyant Ventures is doing, and hopefully, we'll find something to invest in together.

AF: Thank you for the opportunity to have me here today and for all the funding work that you guys are doing in the category too, and just trying to you know, bring stories forward to other folks who might use that information, or somebody's experience to create a company or raise a fund. We need all hands on deck. So thank you for what you're doing.

Thank you so much for reading our latest update from VSC Ventures Fund I. We're in the early days of our long and healthy partnership with all of you, so please reach out to us with additional questions on anything above. Thank you again for your support for our vision and our fund!

Vijay Chattha & Jay Kapoor

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