8 Principles for Silicon Valley’s Role in the Post-Hydrocarbon Economy

Civilization is at a crossroads about the post-hydrocarbon economy. We have a unique window in the next 2 years during which every effort has 1,000x ROI that same effort 2+ years later. Here are 8 principles for Silicon Valley’s role in the Post-Hydrocarbon Economy:

  1. Climate change is an opportunity
    Elon Musk says “sustainability isn’t some silly hippy thing — it matters for everyone”. We see climate change as the biggest financial opportunity civilization has ever seen — to build new systems for food, energy, water, air, transportation, and manufacturing. A new civilization, the likes of which the world has never seen. We know that in the uncertainty lay immense challenges and enormous opportunities.
  2. A backdoor to civilization-scale
    Big corporations have the resources and infrastructure that make up our civilization. But they lack the innovative ideas and leadership. This is our opportunity to expedite a new world. What if we could truly pair the new ideas of tiny startups with the resources and infrastructure of big corporations.
  3. Right problem, Right Place
    We need to create opportunities for real world testing to bring in entrepreneurs around the world to the locale where the opportunity is most present – whether it’s food, energy, air, water, or manufacturing. For example, new clean manufacturing methods could be prototyped and tested in an industrial center like Shenzhen, China. A new agricultural startup could escape a coworking space in San Francisco and get their hands dirty in the fields alongside California’s farmers than being stuck in a coworking space in San Francisco.
  4. Do Good While Doing Good
    Our most valuable resources must be directed at our biggest challenges. Top tech, engineering, and science talent today lack opportunities to tackle world’s important problems. We believe that for significant civilization scale impact, the for-profit model must be present.
  5. It’s Already Happening
    There are already hundreds of entrepreneurs pursuing climate opportunities. We put together a database of 262 hot startup companies working on sustainable tech in just a few hours. Every few days we see articles about climate change on tech sites like Engadget and HackerNews. Connect the dots and we’ve got a trend.
  6. Startups first
    Startups represent a unique commitment to the future – quitting a job and leading a team into the unknown. Protect the ideas, strategy, and mission of a startup, while helping them to interface with the outside world. This is currently suboptimal. As my friend Sandro said, there are many dances between elephants and mice, and it is only the mice who ever get hurt.
  7. Lean Pilots
    Real-world testing can close the gap between a striving startup and corporate caution. Something something walk before you run. For example, we can’t have startups footing a $15k legal bill for engaging a corporate partner on a nebulous partnership that ends up going nowhere. That stuff hurts.
  8. Dreams + Discoveries = Inspiration
    Highlight the dreams and discoveries of innovators in the field to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.

We seek technologies, partnerships, and business models that are past humanity’s horizons. Working with outliers from startups, governments, and corporations, we are building a toolbox around 6 core technologies:

  1. Food: Precision agriculture and freight farms to produce 2,000 calories anywhere in the world, dynamic time machines that can recreate the growing conditions of any time and place on earth
  2. Air and Water Engineering, including engineering filter mechanisms, Earth terraformation, bioengineering, and new currencies for pollutants
  3. Sustainable Transport on electric airplanes, cars, and freighters
  4. Sustainable Manufacturing – cradle to cradle manufacturing processes, logistics, autonomous factories
  5. Energy capture from the fusion reactor in the sky and next generation storage to make every joule count
  6. Energy consumption tech for living buildings, decentralized microgrids, and dynamic provisioning

P.S Would love your thoughts on this. Your help is welcomed!

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscars 2016 Speech on Climate Change Turned My Life Upside Down

(Leo is on stage for a 2017 Oscars segment so I wanted to hit publish)

All my life I’ve been hearing about reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve been hearing about droughts and hurricanes on the news. I’ve been hearing about climate change and how important it was.

I was under the impression that the scientists and the governments of the world had this climate change thing pret-ty well taken care of. So I didn’t pay much attention to it.

Until last year when an actor named Leonardo DiCaprio, who had been trying to win an Oscar his entire career, got up on stage having finally won an Oscar.

Instead of talking about how wonderful it was to be in film, he felt so compelled to talk about his personal experiences witnessing the ravages of climate change as they were taking place in Patagonia, because they could not find snow to do their filming.

An actor got up and started talking about climate change. And that got me wondering.

I thought that this was taken care of. I thought we were going to be fine. And I realized maybe I hadn’t been paying enough attention. Maybe the scientists and the governments who I thought had a handle on this, well maybe they didn’t have a handle on it, maybe they needed help. I myself would wake up every day and work on biotechnology projects to enable other scientists. Maybe somehow I wasn’t clued in to what was going on.

So I looked into it, and now we’re here a year later. I have been so compelled by what I’ve found that I quit my job and started a company whose sole purpose is to enable other companies who have climate changing technologies that help halt climate change or help reverse climate change. My entire purpose is to help those companies get adopted at a massive scale so we can get to the place where we need to be.

So there’s this doom and gloom about climate change. That’s ok, but that’s not going to solve the problem. What is going to solve the problem is coming at this from an entrepreneurial, an innovative, and a business-minded, profit-centered point of view. Let’s enhance the scientific leadership, extend the government’s efforts, and cut a new path.

We need to be motivated to solve this thing instead of spanked into using less water, spanked into reducing our carbon footprints and driving less. The reality is people just aren’t going to do that. Humans don’t work that way.

So what can you do? You can prove out better solutions through technology. Solutions that are not only better options for individuals, but are better options for the planet – carbon neutral or carbon reversing because they’re easier, they’re better, they’re faster.

In the past year, I’ve talked with hundreds of people, leading technologists, economists, scientists and thinkers. I’m part of a team working on bringing new technologies to light, and have identified 4 key areas for climate change solutions: food, air, energy, and water. We’ve worked with one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies, aerospace companies, automotive companies, and connected with dozens of innovation labs and startups in Silicon Valley. Watch me.

If this interests you, please email me immediately with subject “Oscars 2016” to tito@impossiblelabs.io. Blank email is fine, or your thoughts.

(this post: many thanks to Dan Walsh who method-acted this whole post, Matt Inouye who provided structure, and Shova Ale Magar for listening and asking questions. And thanks to Jeff Mori for wanting to watch the 2016 Oscars, and Matt Walters for telling me I should write more)

HBR: Why Sustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation

Cisco, for example, had traditionally regarded the used equipment it received as scrap and recycled it at a cost of about $8 million a year. Four years ago it tried to find uses for the equipment, mainly because 80% of the returns were in working condition. A value-recovery team at Cisco identified internal customers that included its customer service organization, which supports warranty claims and service contracts, and the labs that provide technical support, training, and product demonstrations. In 2005 Cisco designated the recycling group as a business unit, set clear objectives for it, and drew up a notional P&L account. As a result, the reuse of equipment rose from 5% in 2004 to 45% in 2008, and Cisco’s recycling costs fell by 40%. The unit has become a profit center that contributed $100 million to Cisco’s bottom line in 2008.


Nice, published in 2009 though, wonder how their ideas have held up.

Engadget: White House fights climate change with data sharing


Hack the planet!

The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) will give organizations access to troves of environmental information so they can make their own plans to counter climate change.


Joint Declaration on Harnessing the Data Revolution for Climate Resilience (state.gov)

  • Organizations involved:
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Future Earth
  • Google
  • Group on Earth Observations
  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • World Bank
  • World Resources Institute

The Verge, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Climate Change

I’m a fan of the intersection of the tech world and “climate change”. Here’s a review from tech powerhouse The Verge on ❤️Leonardo diCaprio’s❤️ “Before the Flood”. Although the film sounds like the usual “gloomy” side of climate change, it’s nice to see the coverage by technology media. Tech Crunch announces a “enivornmental hackathon” yesterday, The Verge today. Leo getting involved is great too! Am gonna see about watching this.


Climate Labs Update #1

Thank you all for inspiring me this past month and beyond as I started working in the climate change/sustainable energy field. I wanted to give an update on the past month, and share with you the fascinating stuff going on.

2 big wins from this month:

– I’ve been accepted as a Fellow at Manylabs, an open science skunkworks funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (Moore co-founded Intel and coined Moore’s Law). Thanks to all of you who talked the app over with me and helped me get it together! The application pushed me to make a “project” out of this, so now there’s a plan (here’s my application). So what does all this mean? The big value is recognition — a “thumbs up” from Manylabs and the Moore Foundation that this idea is worth pursuing. In addition Manylabs offers a desk to work and a venue to host events
– 15 others and I are now part of the “Climate Change + Tech” Meetup in SF, check it out here: http://www.meetup.com/Climate-Change-plus-tech/ Thanks to Dan for help designing it and marketing it. This is a great way to meet more people in the space and learn about the big factors shaping the industry.
6 climate change terms that I’ve found from discussions and reading:
detect-analyze-attribute-1Detect, Analyze, Attribute: 3 types of climate change research studies. Detect and analyze is about gathering data ie temperature, sea level, to answer the question “is the earth heating up?”. Attribution studies are about figuring out the cause, “why?”, is the changing climate because of a hotter sun, zombies, or carbon dioxide from human causes?
Sustainable, Sequester, Adapt: this is where the action is — Sustainable is tech to speed the transition from the fossil fuels era to the sustainable era (for example, Telsa or Solar City), Sequester is about sucking CO2 out of the environment, and Adapt is about building seawalls, raising up houses
I’ve included 2 sketches that helped my understanding, thanks to Matt Inouye for the suggestion on drawing it out.


sustainable-sequester-adaptRecommended Book and Project:
Book: Sustainability Without the Hot Air, all the details behind what our future “Sustainable Era” will look like. Thanks to Bill for the recommendation!: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0954452933/tag=davidmackayca-20 (or free legal PDF on http://withouthotair.com)
Project: Marin Carbon Project, incredible tech to pull atmospheric carbon deep into the soil/clay where it is effectively removed from the carbon cycle for millenia. Using cow pastures and compost, which could generate $$ for farmers through carbon credits. Shova organized this SF Zero Waste Youth event I went to, and MCP was the keynote http://www.marincarbonproject.org
Many thanks to Eri for connecting me with a bunch of cool people in the climate change/sustainability field. Discovering neat topics like biotechnology to turn the ocean into a giant carbon sequestration machine, biological air filtering systems, and startup accelerators working on sustainability tech. Meeting new ideas and talking with others is essential because it fights my “gollum” tendency to take an idea and hide it away :B
I would love to have more chats with people working on sustainable energy or climate change. Do you know people working in climate change or sustainable energy who I should talk to? Email tito@impossiblelabs.io