Day One Ventures — which, among other things, invested in Superhuman, Truebill, DuckDuckGo and others — is bringing on ClassPass co-founder Sanjiv Sanghavi as a partner focusing exclusively on climate tech.
Sanghavi represents a goal for the fund to deploy 20% of its $50 million fund into early-stage companies focusing on solving climate issues. The firm has already invested in some climate-focused companies (including BluumBio and Living Carbon). Day One invests at the earliest stages of companies — pre-seed, seed and Series A — and the “smart money” part of the equation is that the firm has deep PR experience, and helps the companies it invests in by supercharging their communications.
“I think a part of my career has always been just when I’ve seen the next opportunity for personal growth, I’ve been a bit selfish. And I think I’ve taken that opportunity. And I’ve been really, really well rewarded for that in terms of just my own personal growth. The last stop I had was as the CPO at Arcadia, which is focused on energy transformation. We thought a lot about climate change holistically. When I joined Arcadia, I wasn’t the climate activist I am now,” explains Sanghavi, Day One Ventures’ newest partner. “Climate companies need to scale like technology companies. Day One is a generalist fund, for the most part — and by not being a climate-only fund, there is so much to learn from the rest of the portfolio. Lessons that we can bring to our portfolio companies.”
The focus on climate runs deep within Sanghavi, who points out that a lot of the conversation is about a 1.5 degree increase in average temperature, and the disastrous effects that would have. His take is that that number is a bit of a red herring.
“If we hit 1.4 degrees of global temperature rise, it’s not like nothing happens. Right? A lot of the impact of climate change is already happening. We’re seeing more fires and all kinds of damage to our planet,” says Sanghavi. “Agricultural protection, fire prevention, climate migration… It’s all front of mind. I mean, if we can’t migrate a small group of refugees easily, how are we going to deal with all of Miami, all of New York? How are we going to migrate?”
Day One typically writes $300,000-500,000 checks at the pre-seed and seed stages. The firm rarely leads rounds.
The timeline to a climate disaster event horizon is getting shorter and shorter, and Sanghavi believes that we are getting close to the time horizon where venture capital typically operates — typically in the 10-15 year range.
“And that’s an area where I think venture capital can help. Many of the smartest people in the world have not worked on [the climate change] problem before. I have a book here that was written in the 60s about climate change,” says Sanghavi. “What I’m saying is that this is not a new problem. People have been working on it for their full 50-year careers. What venture capital can do is bring more-naive people like me to the problem, so that they can combine their skills with those who have been working on it for years.”
We’re seeing a number of changes across the climate investment community — more funds are taking a longer-term approach, and more limited partners (the organizations and high net worth individuals who invest into VC funds) are shifting their attentions from purely financial return, to a triple-bottom-line approach. The general idea is that yes, profit is important, but it cannot be considered a “win” if it comes at the cost of people or the planet.
“I think we all know that climate change is happening now. And it’s going at a rate that it could be really bad for us. I think what’s really important is that we’re bringing a lot of talent into the space. If anything else gets solved, and climate change doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, right? So I don’t know, maybe I’ll say this: Anybody that’s working on anything should be working on climate change. And I can’t imagine why anything else could be more important.”