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Carbon removal, technology that aims to remove carbon emissions from the environment by breaking it down and turning it into something less harmful, received a lot of attention last year after Stripe, Shopify, Meta, Alphabet and more collectively agreed to inject $ 1 billion in defunding startups. Today, a London startup called isometric he hopes to give some structure to that nascent industry. The startup launches today armed with $25 million, one of the largest seed rounds this year for a climate startup.
Lowercarbon Capital and Plural are the co-investors in this round, along with Niklas Zennström (co-founder of Skype and founder of VC Atomico), David Helgason (founder of Unity Technologies), Ross Mason (founder of MuleSoft) and Ilkka Paananen (founder of Supercell). .
Isometric will use the funding both to hire more scientists and technologists and to work on its products. Chief among these is a carbon offset registry to provide data to companies looking to purchase offset credits from the various start-ups developing that technology. Isometric claims it will be the first record of “high-quality, long-lasting” carbon offset credits.
More immediately, today it is launching what it calls a “scientific platform,” which will provide a way for carbon removal companies to publish and share their data with those interested in seeing it, and for Isometric’s own team do more things first hand. human research, too.
Some of the first carbon removal startups at Isometric will include Charm Industrial (bio-oil sequestration specialist); Eion (focusing on rock weathering); Planetary (ocean alkalinity improvement company) and Brilliant Planet (microalgae burial company).
Charm recently announced a large tranche of carbon removal sales to JPMorgan, Stripe, Shopify, Meta, Alphabet, McKinsey and more totaling $50 million. Isometric said its science team has been “independently reviewing historically delivered tons” for Charm, and has published them on the new science platform.
Eamon Jubbawy, the founder and CEO of Isometric, is a recurring entrepreneur in the London tech world with his startups ranging from other climate jobs to entrepreneurial ventures.
He was a co-founder of the identity verification startup Onfido (which has been backed by hundreds of millions of dollars from many investors); and, more recently, he was also a co-founder of Sequence, a financial trading platform (younger, but also backed by big names like Andreessen Horowitz). He also co-founded the recycling company Safi (formerly known as TrueCircle).
He said that Isometric is addressing a specific gap that has been identified in the market.
Carbon offsetting has been a popular route taken by companies that want to contribute something positive to the environment while still running their businesses, but it’s also fraught with flaws. critics have pointed to the fact that the exchanges do not really address the root causes of pollution and carbon emissions, and that many of the projects, unregulated or not, could turn out to be worthless, or worse.
“I was looking at the carbon markets and how poorly they work,” he said in an interview, and saw thinking start to shift around them and a belief that “more drastic change was needed”.
That has led many in the industry to seek alternatives and add-ons to offsetting, and carbon removal has become one of the key areas to watch, helped in large part by the efforts of Stripe and its Frontier Initiative co-investors. , as well as how it moves from Apple and Microsoft to incorporate elimination into their own ESG strategies.
But given the relatively recent state of carbon removal, and some of the learning from the trappings in carbon offsetting more generally, there is an opportunity to provide some structure and order to how removal credits are accounted for, and to examine what the removal companies claim. do.
While records exist for carbon offsetting, Jubbawy believes carbon removal requires a new approach.
“The carbon registries that did exist failed so badly that the only real option was to build another platform to fix all of that, focused on removal,” he said.
To be clear, there are still some important conditions around carbon removal. Much of the technology that moving companies build and apply has yet to be tested on a large scale.
And there are definite leaps of faith to be accepted as to how any of this could work; For example, if the model is based on decades of underground biofuel storage, but the company fully developing that technique is only a few years old. .
On the other hand, the technology and order that Jubbaway and Isometric hope to bring to the space, doing research and making their work more transparent to potential clients and researchers, could be a significant step in sorting out what works and what doesn’t.