The Breeze - Issue #5

Minimax regret, Bill McKibben's urgency, Greta's new book, hire Kai

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This week I was thinking about our possible futures. I was contemplating how we might invest in and build a more resilient society. Suddenly, reading that medical workers don’t have the personal protective equipment they need, I got jolted back to the challenges we face today. It’s hard to think longer-term when we have pressing issues that rightfully demand attention now.

I recently learned about the minimax regret framework. It’s a way to make decisions based on minimizing one’s maximum chance of regret. Apparently it’s especially useful in times of uncertainty. Good timing!

Here’s an example: if right now the thing I would regret the most would be for my parents to get Covid-19, to minimize that regret I’d do everything in my power to prevent them from contracting the coronavirus. This was my #1 objective a couple weeks ago. Fortunately they’re healthy at home.

Like many others, I’m re-evaluating my priorities. At the beginning of the year, I set an intention to move more capital and people into climate tech startups. I’ve been doing that as a connector and in some instances as an investor.

Now I’m realizing that the thing I would regret the most would be to lose the momentum we’ve built behind climate solutions. I would be really bummed if, say, half of the companies that are getting us off fossil fuels, or making buildings more efficient, or reforesting the planet get wiped out.

It’s not just about moving forward. It’s also about defending the progress we’ve made, and for many startups that means surviving this downturn. If the dinosaurs were startups (h/t Semil Shah):

For my personal journey, I’m interested in finding ways to help climate tech startups weather the storm. If you have any suggestions of how to get the most leverage there, I’d love to hear from you.

One possibility would be to work with climate tech funds on helping their portfolio startups — by reducing burn, experimenting with new ideas, or connecting to trusted sources of capital. Another idea is to connect climate tech founders to help each other out. I think it’s especially helpful to lean into community and connection. If anything resonates with you, or you have ideas for me, please let me know.

Further reading: I first learned about the minimax regret framework in the piece Once in a Lifetime by Ben Hunt of Epsilon Theory. I recommend it.

Email me suggestions


Bill McKibben discusses the reality and urgency of coronavirus and climate crisis

Journalist Emily Atkin interviewed Bill McKibben in the first episode of her new podcast. Bill is a journalist and author who has written about the climate crisis since the 80s. As I like to say, “He knows what’s up.”

Bill talks about what we can learn about the coronavirus from the climate crisis and vice versa.

They touch on 3 compelling points:

  1. “Reality is indeed real. You can’t negotiate with physics and chemistry. You can't compromise with them or spin them away.” Bill’s major lesson from 30+ years in climate is that threats like climate change and the coronavirus don’t care about the economy or political spin. They are real — not abstractions we can wish away — and they bite hard.

  2. “If there’s one lesson that’s applicable to both of these crises, it’s that time is your enemy, and acting quickly is what you desperately want to do.” The U.S. and South Korea recorded their first case of Covid-19 on the same day in January. South Korea acted swiftly, and the U.S. delayed to great consequence. He says, “The analogy to climate change couldn’t be clearer.”

  3. “We’ve got the equivalent of the vaccine for coronavirus. The engineers spent the last decade dropping the price of a solar panel and a wind turbine by 90%. That was the key technological intervention that should allow us to get a large part of the climate crisis under control if we would only put it fully to use.” Now it’s about pulling our political and financial levers to move money out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy and, might I add, climate tech.

Bill closes with an invitation to join the 3-day online Earth Day Live extravaganza (sounds fun!) led by climate strike youth starting April 22nd.

Further reading: subscribe to Emily’s newsletter Heated and Bill’s newsletter The Climate Crisis (recommended).

Listen to the podcast


Climate Links

Greta’s new book Our House Is on Fire is now available. 🤗

For more cozying up with your laptop or Kindle, check out Joro’s quarantine climate reading list. 🤓

Jason Jacobs interviewed Naomi Oreskes on his podcast My Climate Journey. I’d heard of her book Merchants of Doubt, but this was my first time listening to her. She is a righteous climate warrior! 💪🏻

Continuing the theme of resilience from last week, I’d recommend revisiting Shayle Kann’s piece The World Around Us for a thorough analysis of how our physical infrastructure will transform. 🚏

I spoke with Julia Lipton, investor at Awesome People Ventures, about investing in resiliency, sustainability and climate. 🗣


Climate Work

These are startups where I know the founder(s) and personally vouch for them.

Joro: hiring a full-stack developer.

David Energy: hiring Senior Frontend and Senior Backend Engineers and a Head of Supply.

Zero: hiring a Growth & Marketing Lead and remote Support roles.

My friend Kai Gradert is a product designer looking for a remote full-time role. He has worked with small and large corporations, ranging from Google and Adobe to seed and pre-seed startups. I want to make sure we get him in climate tech. Lmk if you’d like to connect with him. 👨🏼‍💻


Thanks for reading! Special thanks to Becky for reading drafts. As always, you can reach me at tommy@jetstream.io.

Stay breezy,

Tommy