power plant, air pollution, coal-fired power station

Because the planet’s health is in peril, venture firm 1955 Capital invests in early-stage technologies that deliver environmentally sustainable energy and food production, cutting-edge health care, and waste upcycling. Tackling the threat of human-induced climate change requires investing in sustainability technologies, a reality well known to 1955 Capital’s founder and managing partner, Andrew Chung.

 

“Even as early as 2003 when I was a management consultant at Bain & Company, I focused heavily on issues associated with sustainability, the problems that humanity is facing, and how technology might be able to solve or influence those problems,” Chung says.


In 2016, when Chung founded 1955 Capital, he raised $200 million in anchor commitments to make high-impact, high-return investments in the sustainability sector.


“1955 Capital focuses on funding technologies in developed countries that can be rapidly commercialized and scaled to solve pressing challenges in the developing world,” Chung says. “We’re talking about taking on big, bold challenges like air pollution, renewable energy, food security and safety, health care delivery, accessible education, and sustainable manufacturing.”

 

In February 2022, the United Nations released a landmark report on the effects of climate change as assessed by its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report outlined what U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called “an atlas for human suffering” due to the planet-warming at a rate not seen in 2,000 years.  


The scientific community recommends keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The IPCC report announces the window of opportunity to prevent further warming will close soon if countries don’t take bold, preventive steps. Temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will cause ecosystem collapse, species extinction, deadly heatwaves, severe droughts, and coastal flooding. Such natural disasters will contribute to poverty and the mass displacement of human populations.


The world must radically alter its collective behavior to mitigate the increasing physical risks of climate change. Andrew Chung believes it’s more critical than ever to invest in practical, inventive climate change solutions, especially those destined for frontier markets. This belief inspires the 1955 Capital team.


“At a foundational level, everyone on the 1955 team cares deeply about our mission — to invest in technologies that can make a difference, particularly in the developing world,” Chung says.


Recognized as a veteran who has invested in a number of unicorns in the field, Chung has long stressed the 
urgency of investing in technologies to help humanity avoid environmental catastrophes due to climate change.


After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics from Harvard and an MBA from the Wharton School, Chung invested in environmentally impactful sectors for more than 15 years. At Lightspeed Ventures, he helped build the firm’s cleantech, genomics, and education practice divisions.


Chung also worked with exciting companies like QuantumScape, which develops solid-state batteries for electric vehicles; Solazyme, which develops algae fuel; and Natera, a global leader in non-invasive prenatal screening. All three companies successfully went public, compelling Chung to invest more deeply in these areas. When he joined Khosla Ventures, it was because the platform encourages its investment partners to be independent thought leaders in sectors that matter to the world.


Chung also served on the board of LanzaTech, a Chicago-based maker of carbon reuse technology that turns toxic waste gases from steel mills and other industrial factories into valuable fuels and chemicals. LanzaTech recently announced its plans to go public.


“This is a huge issue in China, where air quality is bad and likely to worsen,” Chung explains.


The exciting field of emerging technology continues to introduce new entrepreneurs to the 1955 Capital team. The firm’s portfolio includes developers of high-value chemicals upcycled from waste, environmentally friendly crop enhancement, hybrid-electric propulsion for aviation, and low-emission railway propulsion.


Many of 1955 Capital’s investments are in technologies that sound like they belong in science fiction. One gem in the portfolio is 
Nature’s Fynd, a company that creates alternative food proteins based on volcanic microbes found in Yellowstone National Park. The company grows the protein through a breakthrough fermentation technology that uses a fraction of the water, land, and energy compared to traditional protein sources.


Another portfolio star is Gridtential, a Silicon Valley startup whose proprietary technology transforms conventional lead batteries into a powerful, fast-charging, long-lasting energy source for vehicles, appliances, homes, and offices. This technology combines the recyclability of lead batteries with the performance and life span of lithium. Renewable energy storage is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and Gridtential is cracking the code.


Additionally, 
1955 Capital’s team of investors concentrates on a myriad of sustainability startups, including those focusing on 3D printing for industrial applications and heavy manufacturing. The team also invests in the health care and diagnostics arena with liquid biopsy technology that enables early cancer screening at a low cost.


It’s not wise to lag in technology-driven sustainability investing, even though, as Chung says, “I’ve watched as fewer and fewer firms pursue these sectors in recent years due to risk and fear of failure.” Like gravity, the inevitable global shift toward sustainability will continue with strength and speed. This shift will not favor the investment firms that play it safe and get left behind.


Every successful business serves a market gap, whether it is of the literal “save the world” variety championed by 1955 Capital or something else. It’s beyond time to recognize the gaps in the sustainability market and see them bridged. It’s not simply the right thing to do. Sustainability will become a booming sector in the years ahead.


“The good news is there’s an appetite to do something different,” Andrew Chung says.


That appetite is shared by the public, according to recent data from the 2021 Issues Report: The People’s Priorities from Just Capital, the only independent nonprofit that tracks how large corporations and their investors align their performance with the public’s priorities. The report discovered that issues like economic inclusion, education, sustainable infrastructure, and access to health care are meaningful to most U.S. investors.


The continued environmental damage from climate change will affect billions of lives worldwide. By bringing sustainability technologies to market, 
1955 Capital plans to help.


“It might sound grand, or even hyperbolic, but I sincerely believe technology is the greatest and most inspiring olive branch that can connect us with critical partners like China, India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and beyond,” Chung says.


“We have a historic opportunity to invent a new global future.” 

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