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‘How We Survive’: Journalist-turned-VC Molly Wood on climate tech

When it comes to the climate crisis, we need to explore all available solutions, even those that aren’t ‘perfect,’ says long-time radio journalist and podcaster Molly Wood.

Molly Wood, GreenBiz 22

Journalist and investor Molly Wood in conversation with Dylan Siegler, senior analyst at GreenBiz. Photo by Louis Bryant III/GreenBiz

Perfect cannot be the enemy of good. That’s the motto by which journalist-turned-climate-tech investor Molly Wood makes investment decisions.

Last month, during a keynote conversation at GreenBiz 22, in Scottsdale, Arizona, Wood talked about how her experience as a multimedia business journalist covering technology, economics and the climate crisis led to her pivot to work in venture capital. She is managing director at Launch, a VC that invests in early-stage climate solutions. 

"I am leaving media to become an investor working with all the climate tech that I have gotten so obsessed with over the past three years," Wood announced in November when she made the switch. 

Wood is known for incorporating the themes of climate tech, climate justice and resilience into her reporting. The "How We Survive" podcast with Marketplace gets into the economics, tech and human stories behind climate adaptation. She has also co-hosted some episodes of This Week in Startups alongside the show’s founder and CEO, Jason Calacanis. Wood said she really wanted to take the approach of reporting on climate tech by talking about solutions, which started about four years ago.

The motivation to get involved in the climate tech VC movement was personal. Wood said her hairdresser introduced her to climate scientist Inez Fung, who essentially has been saying, "We’re to the point where we have tipped on some level" when it comes to this climate crisis, and we need new tech solutions now. This was when it clicked for Wood that she wanted and needed to do more about this problem beyond keeping people informed with her reporting. 

How we survive with lithium batteries 

Wood describes herself as a solutions-oriented girl who doesn’t like to talk about problems; instead, she gets down to fixing. Her long-form podcast "How We Survive," which encompasses eight episodes, breaks down how tech solutions will affect the climate crisis, the possibility for change and obstacles that could come up. The narrative focuses on batteries specifically, including lithium mining and the lithium supply chain in the United States. When Wood was researching renewable energy, many roads led to lithium, so she followed the topic in a way that would be appealing to the mainstream media.

"I’ve been obsessed with batteries for several years because they seem like kind of a big deal in the transition to renewable energy," Wood said. "Yes, it’s a podcast about lithium and batteries, but it’s about Indigenous rights, eco-terrorism, crazy business espionage stories and it’s about the communities that are impacted or desperate for these solutions in various ways."

As we think about formulating solutions, we have to be very honest about who’s impacted, what that means and how we communicate and talk about that.

As she explored this topic, Wood said what struck her the most was "how human humans are." What she means is there are always reactions to peoples’ actions. She also said creating real solutions to address climate change requires more honesty and making hard choices. 

"As we think about formulating solutions, we have to be very honest about who’s impacted, what that means and how we communicate and talk about that," she said. 

Some of those hard choices include the possibility of lithium extraction in the United States, Wood said, which could be labor-intensive and not the most environmentally friendly practice. 

Wood’s shift to the climate tech VC space

Solar and renewable energy are some of Wood’s primary interest areas for venture capital investing. A lot of potential inventions will be game-changers, she said, but she’s looking for the ones that will have the most impact on consumers and behavioral change.

"There will have to be Silicon Valley silver bullets. That is a part of our solution matrix. A matrix that includes everything, we need it all," Wood said. 

What will it take to get us to where we need to go? 

Wood concluded her "How We Survive" talk during GreenBiz 22 with a call to action: We need to get to work now. She said companies creating tech solutions to address the climate crisis need to be brutally honest about what could be wrong with their solutions — and then still share those solutions with the world because they can help in other needed areas. 

"Perfect cannot be the enemy of the solution," Wood said. "If there is an answer, we need all of them."

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