The Fund Reverse Engineering Unit Economics for Climate Startups

At One Ventures is exclusively helping humanity be a net positive to nature. (Image: At One Ventures)
At One Ventures is exclusively helping humanity be a net positive to nature. (Image: At One Ventures)

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At One Ventures is exclusively helping humanity be a net positive to nature. At One Ventures only invests in early-stage companies that strive to reverse the negative impact humanity has had on nature. At One Ventures is open to taking investment risk, as long as it aligns with their core focus.

Fund Snapshot

  • Stage: Seed – Series A
  • Check Size: $500K-3M
  • Geography: Global
  • Lead/Follow: Lead or Follow
  • We invest in companies that are earning revenue as well as those that are pre-revenue

About the Fund

Why was the fund created?

Tom Chi founded At One Ventures at the beginning of 2020. Tom watched the coral reefs near his home in Hawaii die out and disappear from one season to the next. At that point, he asked himself, “If not me, who? And if not now, when?” With those two questions resonating, he quit his job and started At One Ventures.

What is a contrarian idea that the fund believes in?

According to Chi’s conversation with TechCrunch:

“[At One Ventures] believes that the most severe carbon emission cuts are unlikely to prevent global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures by 2040. Instead, the answer is beyond stopping emissions to repair the damage and fix problems on a deeper level…A majority of startups are trying to be planet-positive, but their business model involves asking consumers to pay more money for a product that may only benefit the environment 30% better. Instead, the firm is looking for the companies that can scale a product that, for example, will cost three times less, and be 50% better for the environment.”

What domains in climate tech does your firm have the greatest expertise in?

Everyone on the team brings something different to the table, ranging from astrophysics and biotech to emerging markets investments. Each person on the At One Ventures team has a different background and skill set, however, the one piece in common is the drive to work on solving climate change. The team’s combination of scientific, financial, and deeptech experience gives them the advantage to evaluate hardware and environmental economics.

What type of portfolio support does your team provide (strategy guidance, network etc.)?

Tom has hired people to fill in the gaps in skill sets and knowledge. From technical backgrounds to consulting and investment experience, the At One Ventures team can help in many different ways:

  • Science and engineering
  • Customer intros
  • Fundraise support (financial modeling, data room, pitch decks, etc)
  • Recruiting 
  • Go-to-market
  • Design
  • Pricing

About Investments

What is your investment process and timeline?

At One Ventures looks for 3 core things in every startup they talk to:

  • Deep technology – the underlying thesis is that deep tech creates an automatic moat that gives companies defensibility and differentiation 
  • Unit economics – if the solution can’t be at cost parity or cheaper than existing solutions, it will never be adopted
  • Total addressable impact – Environmental impact needs to move the needle vis-a-vis the size of the planetary problem of 43 billion tons of CO2 emitted per year

That said, their investment process is straightforward. If a first call goes well, At One Ventures will start digging into the 3 core things they look for before moving onto a second call, where the industry expert at At One Ventures will join the discussions. Once all three criteria from above are met, the team gets together to make investment decisions – the whole team serves as the investment committee, At One Ventures can move as quickly as a startup needs.

What would make At One Ventures consider deviating from your typical criteria?

At One Ventures is open to investing earlier than Seed, depending on traction, if the team can help, or if the opportunity makes sense. Other than the stage, At One Ventures can deviate based on their 3 core things they look for, but this would likely be on the deep technology side – they are open to investing in enabling technologies that aren’t necessarily deep tech.

About The Author

Daniel Kriozere

Daniel Kriozere

Co-Founder @ The Impact

Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a Product Manager. Outside of his day job, he is a Principal at C3, Tech Scout at For ClimateTech, and Venture Scout at Prithvi. He also works with various climate incubators/accelerators (Cleantech Open, Techstars, and Joules Accelerator) and runs The Impact and Innovate Climate – both are newsletters covering startups in the climate space.

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