CEFC backs Australia’s next wave of cleantech startups through Startmate

Rendered illustration of renewable energy in a lightbulb (climate 10x)
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As part of its commitment to the nation’s clean energy technology sector, Australia’s Clean Energy Innovation Fund will invest $50,000 in each of Startmate’s next six climate cohorts, marking a total investment of $300K over the next three years.

The investment will bolster Startmate’s climate accelerator track, which was founded in 2019 with support from Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures. In addition to financial investment, the Clean Energy Innovation Fund’s team of experts in the cleantech space will provide mentorship to the founders in Startmate’s climate cohorts.

Startmate’s climate accelerator intake supports startups working on innovative technologies that aim to have large atmospheric CO2-equivalent reduction. Along with a $75,000 investment, startups in the cohort are part of a three-month long program that sees founders fast track their ideas through Startmate’s global network of mentors, investors and founders.

Startmate’s chief executive Michael Batko explains the Innovation Fund’s involvement stems from a shared passion for innovation that creates a unique alignment between the two organisations.

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“We’re thrilled to have the Innovation Fund on board to support our ongoing commitment to advancing climate-focused startups in Australia. Not only does the partnership open up valuable avenues for further private investment into our climate cohort, but the Innovation Fund’s focus on collaboration and solutions oriented outcomes makes them a natural fit as Startmate investors,” Batko says.

“You cannot find a more knowledgeable team in this space with such a powerful understanding of the opportunities and challenges. Their expertise will help our climate founders fully realise their ambitions, and provide long term value for our climate program as it continues to grow,” he continues.

The Clean Energy Innovation Fund is the largest dedicated cleantech investor in Australia, with access to $200 million from the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and is at the forefront of driving down emissions across all sectors of Australia’s economy, including agriculture, energy, property, transportation and waste.

The Innovation Fund’s Kristin Vaughan explains that the investment in Startmate is part of the Fund’s sharper focus on emerging technologies that have yet to attract sufficient interest from mainstream investors, such as  behind-the-meter generation and grid solutions.

“The Innovation Fund is constantly looking for investments that support emissions reduction and our involvement in Startmate’s climate program is part of our strategy to accelerate the rapid growth of the cleantech sector,” Vaughan says.

“Startmate is renowned as a leading startup ecosystem in Australia and we are excited to support their climate program and mentor and champion the next generation of problem-solving startups,” she continues.

The Innovation Fund investment comes as Startmate’s newest climate cohort is announced. Gridcognition, Digital Agriculture Services and Cass Materials have all been selected into the program and will benefit from the Innovation Fund’s involvement. The three startups will pitch to a global network of investors at Startmate’s second ever virtual Demo Day on October 15.

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Gridcognition provides innovative software to plan and optimise distributed energy projects, including microgrids, virtual power plants, community energy projects, electric vehicle charging systems, and behind-the-meter renewable power plants. Founded by Fabian Le Gay Brereton and Pete Tickler, the startup helps energy providers, project developers, and energy users get the best commercial and environmental outcome from the deployment and operations of these assets. Gridcognition recognises that a new distributed clean energy future is coming,and those that get there first will be rewarded for their investment.

Digital Agriculture Services caters to a global appetite for AI-powered rural, agri and climate intelligence that puts science in the hands of decision makers–including farmers, lenders, insurers, commodity traders and rural suppliers. Founded by Anthony Willmott, Robert Mellor and Jonathon Clark, the company was established in 2017 in partnership with CSIRO, Australia’s national science and research agency, with a mission to deliver reliable rural intelligence. The company is applying machine learning and AI to develop rural data-powered solutions that transform the way rural assets are assessed, valued and monitored. In 2020, DAS is increasingly focused on the opportunity in helping decision makers respond to the impact of climate change on agriculture.

Cass Materials’ mission is to produce an edible and biodegradable scaffold from bacterial nanocellulose for the cultured meat market at commercial scale. Founded by Gary Cass in 2020, the company seeks to address the 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions that come from livestock farming with a framework to support cell growth of lab-grown meats. Livestock farming is a top contributor to deforestation, land degradation and water pollution. Cass Materials offers an environmentally friendly and non-hazardous solution to a critical stage of the alternative meat production process, in an industry understood to be worth US $14 billion.

Startmate’s total fund valuation recently passed AU$1billion, with portfolio companies now backed by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names including Sequoia Capital, Accel, Costanoa and Y-Combinator. While Startmate’s program is industry agnostic—alumni includes companies in software, medtech, robotics, hardware and more—startups need to be tech-enabled and pre-Series A funding.

The organisation has invested in over 130 startups since its inception in 2011, and has seen some of Australia’s biggest startup success stories complete its signature 12 week accelerator program, including Propeller, Work180, Ovira, Morse Micro, Flirtey and Bugcrowd.

Expressions of interest for Startmate’s next climate accelerator can be made here.

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