Leading a climate tech company from inception to IPO is no easy task. A plethora of inputs must be considered, such as how to create an actionable business plan, or how to approach funding. That’s why I sat down with Jack Fritzinger and Schaffer Ochstein, co-founders of Climate Founder (previously Climate Tech Careers). Climate Founder is a site that compiles helpful information for any entrepreneur seeking to found a climate company.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Leah Garden: What led you to found Climate Founder?
Jack Fritzinger: First, the climate space is incredibly broad. Climate is not an industry — it is an economy shift, through which every industry will need to find more sustainable ways of operating. And that’s exciting, incredibly exciting. It’s also very overwhelming and very confusing for folks that are navigating this space for the first time. What does climate tech look like? How can you work in it? How can you build companies in it? And so, that was the kind of motivation for Climate Tech Careers [the company’s original name]. And through my previous work — running programs that helped entrepreneurs, job seekers, investors and policymakers … push their work forward in the climate space, I got exposure to a lot of the different organizations that are out there and doing amazing work. But I found that … those organizations were not easily accessible to folks that were new to the space — either first-time founders in the climate space or job seekers in climate. So Climate Tech Careers was an attempt to consolidate, curate and recommend resources for folks that are just beginning to get into climate, but have a bunch of experience maybe elsewhere.
Garden: Within the climate space, were there any specific sectors that were motivating you to do this work, or was it more of a broad approach?
Fritzinger: It was pretty broad … as broad of a lens towards [the climate sector] as possible. And anything that gets us closer to a sustainable planet and a net-zero economy is a good thing. And that can look like arts and media, that influences the way people think, as well as hard tech [and] carbon removal companies. The goal wasn’t to focus on one area in particular, but rather create a map and kind of a guide for folks [to] navigate the existing resources in this space.
Garden: Looking specifically at your website, one of the first buttons I see is ‘pre-ideas.’ What should one expect to see in that category? What about the other buttons (programs, capital, hiring, etc.)?
Schaffer Ochstein: It’s for people just starting out, [saying] "Hey, I’m interested in starting a company in climate. Where do I even start? What sectors [am I] interested and passionate about? [Which sectors] need the most help, and are underinvested in?" So [the pre-ideas button] is a kind of an education to, maybe pre-seed and Series A … less so those later stages. [The other buttons] are a consolidation of VC resources that exist, accelerators that exist — capital that’s out there.
Garden: Once a company has its foundations, has its business plan and is ready to scale, is that when you think they’re graduating out of Climate Founder’s resources?
Ochstein: Yeah. I think there’s still resources like the capital page, for example, [that] would still apply to Series A companies, but I think our main focus is pre-idea. Just getting started to, "OK, we have a team; we have an idea. Now we need to go raise," or "Hey, what software tools should we be thinking about?"
Garden: So you launched Climate Founder around a month ago. How do you keep your information and opportunities up to date?
Ochstein: When we post on LinkedIn, [we receive] comments like, "Hey, I work at X organization, it would be great for women entrepreneurs, can you add us to the site?" And … we didn’t want to be an open source, where anybody could edit, but we still want the community to provide that [kind of] feedback. So we can curate and add the things we think will benefit our target audience.
Fritzinger: Yeah, the goal is exclusively climate, so they have to be focused on supporting climate companies or climate job seekers. We are constantly iterating and updating the site, probably every couple of weeks. I have had a few people reach out, offering to pay to be on the site. We so far have turned down those opportunities. It’s not really the ethos behind the site to monetize it. In some ways, we see the value of what we’ve created here, in that it’s truly based on the merit of these organizations and their ability to impact change, not on their ability to pay.
Garden: Was part of the reason you started Climate Founder to increase equitable access to the climate marketplace?
Fritzinger: Definitely a big part of the goal. Networks, resources, and connections are more available to certain populations than they are to others. And that’s one of the beauties of an internet site like this. Theoretically, it’s accessible to everyone. I think there’s still plenty of room for us to grow there. We’ve talked about the reach that we got through sharing it with our networks, on social media and elsewhere. But again, that’s reaching our personal networks. And it would be amazing to see it spread to areas that are more traditionally underserved, where folks don’t get the same access to resources to start climate companies or to identify and pursue jobs in the climate space. That would be the dream, for sure.