Accelerating Change with Elemental’s CEO Dawn Lippert

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Business incubators or accelerators have helped launch some of the greatest companies of our time and one is hoping to fund the next unicorn looking to save our world. Dawn Lippert is the CEO of Elemental Excelerator, a company investing big money in the hopes of a better tomorrow. Dawn joined IT Visionaries to discuss the work her company is doing in places like Hawaii, California and Asia.And she underscores the importance of investing in communities and why we cannot afford to stop funding a solution for climate change.

3 Key Takeaways

  • All in the Community: Focus on the communities you are investing in. In order to have a full understanding of what technologies are needed and how they can best be utilized and scaled, you have to build relationships with those communities
  • Move the needle: In order to push the needle forward with climate change, you have to work across three key areas — technology, policy and communities where you can succeed and grow 
  • Keep the Momentum Going: The climate change industry cannot afford to take a year off when it comes to funding. There is a strong need to continue to invest in these companies in order to prevent the stunting of technology growth

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.

Business incubators or accelerators have helped launch some of the leading companies of our time and one accelerator is hoping to continue to fund that change. Dawn Lippert, CEO of Elemental Excelerator, joined IT Visionaries and discussed how her company is helping to fund change through climate innovation.

Elemental Excelerator operates in the non-profit sector, annually funding 15-20 companies with an eye toward changing the world by impacting one community at a time. In 2020, Elemental Excelerator funded its 100th company, and currently boasts a portfolio of members all around the world. Building this roster has been a process that Lippert says is extensive but rewarding.

“We look at over 800 companies every year to pick our 15,” Lippert said. “So we get a really good pulse of what’s going on in technology and what’s going on in the market.” 

There are key markets that Lippert said they have identified as places to make a mark, including Hawaii, California, and Asia. Lippert also explains that there are a few key areas they focus on in order to make a true impact. 

“I would say that in order to really move the needle on climate and some of these tougher challenges, you need three things; you need technology, you need policy and you need pockets [communities],” Lippert said.

To hear Lippert explain her notion, technology will always come first — after all, it’s the greatest piece of the puzzle helping to make the greatest change. But without aid from policymakers, especially in test markets, a changemaker’s job becomes more strenuous.

Another integral piece Lippert stressed was for the companies Elemental invested in to work side-by-side with the communities in which they operate. According to Lippert, because these companies are deploying technologies in test markets, it is imperative for them to have trust and a strong working relationship with those communities in order to develop these technologies at scale.

“What we realized over the last 10 years is that as we’re deploying technology into communities, into real locations, the role for the community is defining what it is that they need from technology and accepting projects and supporting that,” she said. “[The community] is the piece that we’ve learned in Hawaii and Asia and in California. I think that’s also led to the scaling of this model in a really fast and profound way because that community piece is actually quite difficult.”

In order to fund these startups, Elemental works in a number of verticals, including energy, mobility, food, agriculture and circular economy, which includes carbon, materials and building. And according to Lippert, these are the areas where they have seen the strongest presence in the ecosystem when they begin looking at applications.

“We’re looking for companies that can really scale and grow and grow their impact,” she said. “But in addition to the financial side, the team and traction, we’re also looking for a couple of other dimensions. We’re looking for things that are locally deployable, and globally scalable. So what that means is we’re looking for great companies that are actually solving key problems in the places we’re most active.”

Another key focus for Lippert’s group is looking through a lens and identifying dimensions that need the most assistance. One of those verticals she said is equity and access. Over the last three years, Elemental Excelerator has been deploying technology to frontline communities — communities they have identified as points of the population that have less access to opportunity and are overexposed to pollution and environmental stress. It’s an inverted strategy that Lippert said has seen great success.

Typically, [ these communities ] would be the last to see the benefits of technology innovation,” Lippert said. “We’re flipping that equation and saying these neighborhoods should see the benefits of technology innovation first. It’s really taking that lens and saying this can be, a huge advantage in deploying technology for the communities that need it the most.” 

Even considering the communities across the world that continue to benefit from the work Lippert and her team have done, and  the numerous companies Elemental has helped to deploy scalable technology, the current economic climate is not lost on Lippert. Elemental remains on strong footing financially, though, and Lippert stressed the industry cannot afford to take a step back when it comes to funding climate change.

“The reality is that we really can’t afford to take a year off from working on climate,” she said. “We have to keep the momentum going. We have to keep the investments coming into these companies moving forward. We’ve been really gratified to see that momentum continue with our companies.” 

To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here.


Episode 197