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Techstars Scales Startups to Tackle Global Environmental Problems

Ten startups join the second-year Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy


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For businesses trying to good in the world, startups and entrepreneurs certainly have an advantage in the market.

“Startups have an ability to harness new technologies, to move fast, to take risks that maybe larger organizations — especially with technology risks —don't feel comfortable taking,” says Zach Nies, the managing director of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator.

Which is why Techstars — a Boulder-headquartered company, founded to help entrepreneurs scale, grow and fund their startups — started a Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC). In its second year, the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator selected ten companies from around the U.S. and Mexico that align with TNC’s mission to create a more sustainable future.

The ten companies selected are:

  • 2ndNature, an enterprise cloud stormwater management and compliance platform;
  • Aquaoso Technologies, a software platform for analyzing water-risk analytics;
  • Bext360, a blockchain software for measuring accountability in supply chains;
  • Gybe, a system for the management, conservation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems;
  • Mammoth Trading; software for agricultural producers to track water allocations, submit regulatory compliance documentation and quantify conservation practices;
  • microTERRA, an Internet of Things (IoT) and biotechnology firm that coverts excess agricultural nutrients into a high-quality protein for livestock;
  • mobius, a company that is transforming waste from food, ag and forestry into biodegradable plastics and more;
  • Nori, a marketplace creating more sustainable farming practices;
  • Propagate Ventures; a software platform for agro-forestry investment; and
  • Regen Network, a digital platform that will connect farmers, brands and institutions to create regenerative ecological agreements.

The 13-week program will align each company with mentors (typically between four and six) as well as scientists and subject-matter experts from The Nature Conservancy to help develop practices for company development, customer development and moving the business forward.

The accelerator also focuses on building a company’s story — “A lot of entrepreneurs are pretty good about explaining the product to customers,” Nies says. “We really take that up a level and help them explain their business opportunity to a larger audience — investors as well as the larger community.”

The program was founded last year when The Nature Conservancy realized that its work in conservation, mitigating climate change and protecting the world’s resources could be amplified with the help of technology. This is the first accelerator program — Techstars has nearly 49 programs worldwide — that is done in partnership with a nonprofit.

After the success of the inaugural program, Techstars really emphasized and doubled down on the way the startups aligned with the four major thematic areas TNC focuses on. These four themes are: building healthy cities, protecting land and water, providing food and water sustainability and tackling climate change.

With the accelerator, the hope is that these ten companies will gain the tools and resources they need to scale and grow not only their bottom line, but their impact. “The really powerful thing here is when companies can create a virtuous cycle between the business model working and their impact model working, the national forces of the market and the success of those startups, will naturally create that same type of leverage in scale as far as the ecological positive impact that they can create,” Nies says.

For The Nature Conservancy, there is also the hope that the organization will be able to “harness the creative energy, the innovation and the talent that these entrepreneurs bring into the program,” Nies says. Ultimately, this can grow the startups’ and TNC’s global impact on some of these conservancy efforts.

Currently, the 2019 class halfway through the program, and according to Nies, "is doing well." After meeting over 100 mentors and members of the conservancy, the startups will work with their selected mentors and experts to work of customer development and traction. "In a few weeks, we will shift into pitch practice where the founders will focus on refining how they communicate about their business," Nies says. 

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Ali Longwell

Ali Longwell is the digital editor at ColoradoBiz. She has also written for SDxCentral, a B2B online technology publication, as well as Denver-area lifestyle magazines 5280, Denver Life Magazine, Avid Lifestyle and more. She can be reached at alongwell@cobizmag.com

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