- Former Facebook chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer is launching a climate venture capital investment firm, Gigascale Capital, along with climate investors Victoria Beasley and Evaline Tsai.
- Schroepfer has been funding scientific research through his philanthropic organization, Additional Ventures, and made more than a dozen angel investments in climate tech on his own.
- "In order to solve this problem, we need business," Schroepfer told CNBC. "We need people making a lot of money, helping to decarbonize things. And so this is our whole approach to Gigascale."
Former Facebook chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer is launching a climate venture capital investment firm, Gigascale Capital, on Tuesday. He told CNBC he is personally motivated to fight climate change and believes this is an inflection point in the industry.
"Three years ago or so when the Covid lockdowns happened, I had a lot of time quarantined in our house to think about my life and what we're doing," Schroepfer said in a video interview Wednesday. "Loved my career in technology, but I always had a passion for the climate crisis. I have some little kids at home. I think about the future, and I said, 'What am I doing about this problem?'"
"My primary question was: 'Is there something I can do?'"
At first, that meant working nights and weekends to fund scientific research through his philanthropic organization, Additional Ventures.
As Schroepfer started speaking with the community of climate change innovators and entrepreneurs, he was being asked how to hire, how to scale companies and how to solve technical problems. Schroepfer was the CTO of Facebook for almost a decade when the social network was growing exponentially, so he knew he could help with these problems.
In addition to his philanthropic climate work, Schroepfer invested in more than a dozen climate startups as an angel investor, he said. The launch of Gigascale Capital is codifying and formalizing his investment work.
"It does really feel like we're at this moment of confluence of consumer interest, of government regulatory interest" that is forcing companies to take climate change mitigation response seriously, Schroepfer said.
At the same time, technological innovations in artificial intelligence, increasing computing power, improved material and chemical science, and better ways to simulate and model climate change scenarios are all coming together to speed the pace of innovation.
"It kind of feels like Facebook in 2008, which is like, 'Hey, what we've got here is a platform that instead of running one experiment every three months, we can run 30 a day," Schroepfer said. "We can get there faster by having a lot more attempts at bat."
That combination of growing demand, or market preparedness, and a bubbling pool of innovation, or technological preparedness, activated Schroepfer's "spidey sense," he said.
Schroepfer said he believes capitalism is a necessary tool to help solve climate change.
"In order to solve this problem, we need business," Schroepfer said. "We need people making a lot of money, helping to decarbonize things. And so this is our whole approach to Gigascale. Look, these things are going have a massive sustainable impact, otherwise we're not going to invest, but the primary reason consumers or businesses are going to adopt them is because they are better or cheaper."
Better and cheaper, together, is even more appealing. "When you can combine those two, that's when you can unlock capitalism to take not billions, but trillions of dollars of investment and the entire economy toward this end, and that's a for-profit enterprise," Schroepfer said.
Recent areas the Gigascale team has been deeply researching include decarbonizing buildings, industrial processes decarbonization, such as making cement and steel, and some alternative foods. But Gigascale is not focused on any particular sectors of climate tech. Rather, the firm is interested in companies that offer a combination of significant climate impact and the ability to make money, Schroepfer said.
He also said that software is not necessarily the best way to address the problem.
"We will look at software, but we're kind of more focused on the hard stuff, because I think a lot of people are mistakenly avoiding it — both investors and entrepreneurs," he said.
"This is fundamentally an atoms problem. You can't solve it solely with software, right? We're moving electrons," he said. "We're moving physical stuff around the world. And that's where we're going to spend our time."
Joining Schroepfer to launch Gigascale are climate investors Victoria Beasley and Evaline Tsai. Beasley comes from Prelude Ventures, where she invested in climate tech. Tsai is a chemical engineer and has done academic research, founded a health-care tech startup and most recently worked as an investor at Fine Structure Ventures.
The pool of talented people looking to dedicate their careers to climate is also giving the team a lot of confidence, Beasley told CNBC.
"There's been a real shift. There was a small group of people 15 years ago who believed that this could be real big business, but it wasn't something you really talked about because there were so many valid reasons to say, 'Not yet, not really,'" Beasley said.
Seeing the talent that is shifting to work unabashedly and proudly on climate is "the most significant change in the last 15 years," Beasley said.
All the money for Gigascale is coming from Schroepfer's family office, and he's not disclosing how much money is going to the fund other than to say, "It is a serious commitment." He hopes to see other investors join him in the space.
"I hope it gets way more competitive," Schroepfer said. "I want to see billions, tens of billions of dollars of more investment."