“It is my belief that the next 1,000 unicorns — companies that have a market valuation over a billion dollars — won’t be a search engine, won’t be a media company, they’ll be businesses developing green hydrogen, green agriculture, green steel and green cement”

Larry Fink
Larry Fink

Chairman and CEO of BlackRock. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager.

“I’ll make more money investing in climate than I did investing in web/apps/etc.”

Chris Sacca
Chris Sacca

Early investor in Uber, Twitter, Stripe, Twilio, Instagram. Chairman of Lowercase Capital and Lowercarbon Capital.

“Climate and energy certainly top the list of earth’s most urgent issues.”

Fei-Fei Li
Fei-Fei Li

Sequoia Capital Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. Li is a Co-Director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, and a Co-Director of the Stanford Vision and Learning Lab

“My basic optimism about climate change comes from my belief in innovation. The conditions have never been more clear for backing energy breakthroughs. It’s our power to invent that makes me hopeful.”

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

ex-CEO of Microsoft, co-founder of Breakthrough Energy Ventures

“If you join a company, my general advice is to join a company on a breakout trajectory.”

Sam Altman
Sam Altman

Why joining a climate breakout company is good for personal career growth 

Breakout period aligns with max personal career growth

Why joining a climate tech breakout company is socially impactful

Each year, the world releases 51 billion tons of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, trapping heat and driving up global temperatures. We need to reduce this by half in the next 10 years to avoid catastrophic effects (mass migration from sea level rise, mass famine from crop failures, extreme weather events). 

This is the defining problem of our generation. 

In addition, because climate change threatens to act as a general “stressor” on society, mitigating it might have positive effects on other areas, such as reducing the chance of large scale war.

Reducing our reliance on burning fuels also reduces air pollution, which causes millions of deaths per year. See: "Fossil fuel air pollution responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide" from Harvard School of Public Health, "Air pollution contributes to 11.65% of deaths globally" from Our World In Data, World Health Organization data set

Why software engineers are critical to climate tech companies

venn diagram of career growth and climate impact

View the breakout Climate Tech List here

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Resources for founders

If you're working to get your own climate tech company off the ground....

> Before you start coding... consider building your tool in a low code/no-code platform such as Airtable or Softr. Examples of climate tech projects we've helped worked on built in Softr:

  1. Stripe's frontier carbon market database: https://frontierclimate.com/writing/cdr-gap-database , case study here https://www.softr.io/case-studies/frontier (built on  Softr)
  2. This website :)
  3. Various VC dealflow trackers and v1 prototypes

> We've also used low-code tools extensively in other orgs, most notably in civic tech volunteering with US Digital Response. They have some guides here and example templates here

> That said, if you're dealing with complex application or hardware, checkout https://optionzero.co/ - a software-for-climate consulting firm that works exclusively with climate tech companies, particularly non-software founders.

Other recommended resources to learn about climate change/climate tech 

Articles, books, & other media

Virtual communities

We recommend joining one of these communities as you go on your climate career path:

There are a few other decarbonization pathway-specific climate tech communities which you can find here and here .

In-person events

For in person events, check out:

In addition, check out the geographic-specific slack channels for MCJ and WoCl.

1:1 coaching/help with transitioning to a climate tech career

If you need individual help, please submit this contact form

Recommended resources learning about career growth

View the breakout Climate Tech List here

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Why can’t I just donate to or invest in climate causes? 

In the past several years, numerous companies like Delta Airlines and Microsoft have declared their net-zero goals. Stripe and Shopify have started major investments in decarbonization funds. 163 of Fortune Global 500 companies have set some sort of climate target. Isn’t this great? It’s capitalism doing the hard work of decarbonization that they should have been doing all along, right?

The reality is that most of these companies are offsetting their carbon through carbon credits, which are grossly underpriced, allowing them to underpay for the damage that they inflict on the planet. For them, more growth is usually correlated to more “activity,” which usually requires energy, and generating energy, more likely than not, means releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate problem. 

However, now, a new category of REAL climate companies is emerging. All of the companies on our list fall into this category. These climate companies have aligned their incentives around the act of decarbonization. For them, growing the company means LESS, not more, carbon in the atmosphere. For them, success IS decarbonization.

And in many ways, these companies *are* faster growing than traditional software companies. See this thread for more about how Tesla and CATL (battery manufacturer) have been growing relative to their traditional software peers.

We think that’s what makes these companies special. And their aligned incentives also make them more likely to succeed in both business and decarbonization. 

What’s your methodology for this list? 

Besides doing third-hand research, we also talked directly with the engineering leaders of many of the companies on this list to answer questions corresponding to the 3 bullet points above.

The list is not meant to be comprehensive- it will change over time as we learn about more companies, but we believe this is a reasonable overview of companies.

Are you affiliated with breakoutlist.com?

No we are not, although we have personally found the content on Breakout List helpful in thinking about our careers earlier on. We also recommend WealthfrontList.

Who are you?

We are a group of long time software engineers in Silicon Valley who are concerned about climate change and are following the climate tech movement.

The last several years saw a rise of VC funds dedicated to climate change, allocating capital into this space, but we haven’t seen much around directing labor, especially SWE talent, into this space. Various lists of climate companies exist, but don’t focus on SWEs. 

Feel free to contact us by submitting this form.

Curators: Amy, Charles, Nathan, Steven, Yifei and others from the MCJ collective aka My Climate Journey and WorkOnClimate climate communities.

Thanks to David, JosephTsung for feedback

View the breakout Climate Tech List here

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