Announcing our 2020 Investment Themes: Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy

In 2020 we will invest in ten more companies that we believe can make a material contribution to create a world where people and nature thrive. We are interested in companies that fit our investment thesis (which we’ve explained below) and companies with business models and impact goals that are aligned so that when the business grows, the impact grows alongside it.

In addition to focusing on the investment themes below, we know backing diverse teams is a necessary part of real climate action. Climate change impacts us all, and those working to solve our challenges should be representative of that. 

Techstars and The Nature Conservancy are both global organizations with a combined presence in 100+ countries. Though the program operates in Denver, Colorado, we aim to source companies from around the globe with a diverse range of backgrounds.

Our Investment Thesis: 

This program is run in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and when sourcing for the accelerator we look for companies that align with TNC’s mission “to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends”.

The Nature Conservancy achieves their mission by focusing on four key areas of conservation:

      1. Tackling Climate Change
      2. Protecting Land and Water
      3. Providing Food and Water Sustainability 
      4. Building Healthy Cities 

As investors, it’s our job to take the four areas of conservation focus and find the best business opportunities to scale. In addition to the four themes above, we are addressing “cross-cutting technology”, i.e. technologies that catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive, as our fifth investment category. 

About Our Partnership: 

The Techstars and  The Nature Conservancy’s partnership was conceived in 2017. The Nature Conservancy, one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world, is always looking for new ways to scale up their work. And Techstars, the worldwide organization that helps entrepreneurs succeed, knows how to do just that. 

The Nature Conservancy provides the Sustainability Accelerator participants with their conservation know-how and network. Meanwhile, Techstars contributes its business and technology mentorship and growing global network to support the participants. 

Climate change is impacting nearly every system humans touch including the economy, national security, and our health. And we believe big problems can also equal big opportunities. But we don’t have any time to waste. Climate change isn’t a future problem – it’s a problem today (actually yesterday), and we must act quickly to preserve the lands and water we all rely on to live. We are inspired by the entrepreneurs we’ve had the privilege to work with over the last two years of Techstars Sustainability and we can’t wait to meet the class of 2020. We hope you’ll join us. 

Applications are open February 17th through May 10th, 2020 and the program will run September 8th through December 4th, 2020. 

More About Our Investment Thesis:


Make the case for natural climate solutions,  inspire climate action, conserve working forests

    • Climate change mitigation
        • Carbon sequestration, carbon measurement and market validation, precision forestry, sustainable timber, reforestation
      • Climate change adaptation
          • Advance nature-based solutions to lessen climate impacts (drought/flooding) (examples of nature-based solutions include: wetland conservation, open space protection, dam removal, groundwater infiltration, living shorelines) with technologies such as innovative insurance and finance models, remote sensing, and spatial planning


    Improve fishery health, rethink agricultural practices, protect water at its source, build ‘zero-deforestation’ supply chains

      • Sustainable Agriculture 
            • Soil health and nutrients, zero-deforestation supply chains, sustainable yield increases,  precision irrigation and fertilization, nutrient runoff monitoring, sustainable grazing, carbon capture, microclimate sensing
        • Sustainable Fisheries
            • Catch monitoring, bycatch exclusion, supply chain transparency, vessel tracking, automated stock assessment 
            • Technology to support sustainable aquaculture such as monitoring systems, ecologically restorative business models, siting technologies, feed innovations,off-shore / open-ocean systems
        • Water Funds and Markets
            • Watershed-scale sensing, flow measurement, sensor connectivity, usage mapping technology, aggregating water data, groundwater recharge, fintech companies that assist in the arbitrage of water use / allocation


      Urban water, greenprinting, sustainable cities, transforming the city landscape, urban heat and air quality

        • Greenprinting and Stormwater
            • Advance green infrastructure, urban growth planning, address urban challenges (including stormwater run-off, air pollution and heat islands)


      Expand community-led conservation, build a model of sustainable energy development, inform smart infrastructure decision-making, protect oceans and increase climate  change-resilience

        • Land and Water Protection
            • Technology that unlocks conservation investment in land and ocean protection, coastal restoration, climate adaptation
        • Energy and Infrastructure
            • Technology to improve energy siting, land-use planning and development, renewable energy planning, mitigation mapping
        • Indigenous Landscapes and Communities
            • Technology that facilitates community-based natural resource management, multi-stakeholder engagement, sustainable economic development for local communities and indigenous peoples


      Technologies that catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive. (see figure below)

        • Generate More & Better Data on Planetary Health 
            • Tools that increase our understanding of/ monitor/ improve – ecosystem services, pollution, and natural resource use (Remote Sensing, GIS, Sensors/Hardware) 
        • Understand the Data
            • Tools that aggregate/ analyze/ visualize/ digitize data  
        • Influence Decision Makers (NRM – natural resource managers)
            • Tools that better inform NRM (farmers/fisherman/industry etc)
            • Influence policy makers and business leaders
            • Innovative finance and funding mechanisms that incentivize decisions to improve planetary health 

      Experience a taste of Techstars Sustainability

      The Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy is an intensive three-month program where we invite 10 companies to join us in Denver to accelerate their companies, their impact, and create a more sustainable future for us all. There are so many companies doing great work in the sustainability space, we want to do what we can to help them all. Over 9 weeks you’re invited to join us for a Taste of Techstars Sustainability. This is a unique opportunity to get a feel for our program while accelerating your business through 9 hours of interactive sessions. We will cover key topics to help you grow yourself, your business and your impact. 

      Attend a few or all of the sessions for free. Sign up here.

      The topics include:

      Improve your Elevator Pitch (March 3rd) – A couple of minutes may be all the time you have to get the attention and curiosity of an investor or prospective customer. This means you must be able to describe your customers, the problem they have, and the solution your product provides. 

      Make More Progress (March 10th)– It is easy to fall into the trap of doing work that doesn’t move the business forward. You need to set focused goals, identify the expected results, and learn based on what happens. 

      Engage with Mentors (March 17th) – Mentor meetings are opportunities to address challenges and gain insights that could change the course of your company. In this section, you will learn techniques for holding productive mentor meetings and optimizing interactions to move your business forward.

      Work with The Nature Conservancy (March 24th) – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is engaged in this program every step of the way. In this session, you will meet the team at TNC and hear from key mentors involved in the accelerator. We will also cover how TNC likes to engage with startups.

      Support Each Other (March 31st)– Starting a company can be extremely lonely, especially for the CEO. Becoming a part of a community of like-minded entrepreneurs is critical to your success. Learn from a panel of Techstars Sustainability alumni about their support network. 

      Hone your Leadership (April 7th) – Effective leadership is essential to make a startup work. Leading people is a combination of knowing yourself, communicating a vision and inspiring others while in extreme uncertainty and under pressure.

      Prepare to Fundraise (April 14th) – Fundraising isn’t easy for any entrepreneur. It’s a complex, opaque, and often lengthy process. By having a strategy in place before you talk to investors, it can help improve your odds of raising capital.

      Understand Investors (April 21st)– Before you decide to raise money, it’s critical to understand the expectations investors have. Learn from a panel of Sustainability Investors about what they look for in companies and founders.  

      Ask Us Anything (April 28th) – This is your chance to ask us questions about sustainability, our program or company building.

      We are rooted in hope, urgency, and action. Please join us to enable a world where people and nature can thrive together.

      If you like what you learn and are interested in joining us and 9 other companies in Denver for the full accelerator program, we invite you to apply for our 2020 Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Applications are open February 17th – May 10th and the program runs September 8th through the beginning of December in Denver Colorado. Apply here.

      Create a More Sustainable Future: The 2019 class of Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy

      Today ten companies from around the US and Mexico are joining us in Denver, Colorado for an intensive three-months where they will accelerate their companies, and their impact, to create a more sustainable future for us all. Rooted in hope, urgency, and action, these venture scale companies are enabling a world where people and nature can thrive together.

      Inspired by the success of last year’s inaugural program, our companies continue to be aligned with The Nature Conservancy’s core focus of tackling climate change, providing food and water sustainably, building healthy cities, and protecting our land and water. In The Science of Sustainability TNC describes ways to balance economic growth with resource conservation over the next 30 years, and these ten companies are the embodiment of those strategies.

      Over the next 13 weeks we will surround these entrepreneurs with mentors, coaches, and investors from the Techstars network along with conservation scientists and subject matter experts from The Nature Conservancy. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the amazing support of our Denver and Boulder Startup Communities. The crescendo of our program, Demo Day, will take place on October 30th in downtown Denver.

      Hannah, August and I are honored and excited to introduce the 2019 class of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with the Nature Conservancy:


      Cities and counties spend billions annually trying to comply with Clean Water Act, while the quality of urban waterways continue to decline. 2NDNATURE has embedded our proven science into the first enterprise cloud stormwater management and compliance platform.

      AQUAOSO Technologies, PBC

      AQUAOSO is building a water resilient future through advanced water risk analytics. They help financial institutions, insurers, investors, corporations and policy makers identify, understand, monitor and mitigate water risk through their software platform.


      Bext360 provides comprehensive and measurable accountability for critical supply chains like coffee, seafood, timber, minerals, cotton and palm oil. The SaaS platform provides a traceable fingerprint from producer to consumer using blockchain and quantifiable sustainability measurements.


      The health and quality of freshwater basins, rivers, estuaries and coastal areas are under increased pressure due to human activity and climate change. Gybe uses satellite imagery and proprietary ground-based hardware to transform the management, conservation, and restoration of aquatic ecosystems.



      Mammoth Water

      Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water consumption worldwide, and yet it’s among the least digitized sectors of the global economy, which limits growers, regulators, and conservation groups. With their software, TAPP H2O, agricultural producers can easily track and trade water allocations, submit regulatory compliance documentation, and quantify conservation practices.


      The biggest pollutant of fresh water worldwide is agriculture. microTERRA uses advanced biotechnology and IoT to convert the excess nutrients in agricultural runoff into a high-quality protein that can feed livestock.


      Over 300 million tons of carbon is lost annually as waste from food, forestry, and agriculture. mobius is converting this waste into value using green chemistry and biology, creating biodegradable plastics and platform chemicals for applications in agriculture and beyond.


      Nori is a marketplace for reversing climate change. They enable companies to pay for removing CO2 from the atmosphere through more sustainable farming practices that improve  soil conditions and ensure we can still grow food in 50 years. Nori makes it possible to fix the food system and pull CO2 out of the air.

      Propagate Ventures

      Propagate Ventures is an agroforestry investment platform focused on bridging the capital and operational needs to integrate tree crops into farmland. Their agroforestry analytics and project development tools support farmers in the design, implementation, and management of tree-crop systems to increase farm profitability and ecological capacity.

      Regen Network

      Regen Network is a digital platform that connects farmers, brands, and institutions to make regenerative ecological agreements based on verifiable data so that we can rapidly accelerate the adoption of regenerative agriculture and conservation, and reverse global climate change.


      Disrupting Environmental Destruction

      Source: Ben Duke

      “Disruption” is a word that gets tossed around business a lot these days. But what if we could disrupt not just the way we do business, but the fate of our species and our planet?

      The World In 2050

      What will the world look like in 2050?

      On our current path, coastal cities will flood, billions will live with terrible air pollution, and more and more lands and water will lose the ability to produce food for our global population, which will reach nearly 10 billion—so many of them will go hungry and thirsty, all while the natural world diminishes.

      In October 2018, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) published a study that outlined two scenarios of what the future might hold. One shows the state of humanity and the natural world if we continue with “business as usual,” and the other offers a more positive future for both us and the environment if we switch gears and move towards a more sustainable path.

      We all know that if we want a better future, we—as in, humanity—need to change. But how? Well-meaning acts like switching out incandescent light bulbs and carrying reusable grocery bags just aren’t going to be enough. While acts like these are important and necessary, we need more changes and at a larger scale. And the next 10 years will be crucial if we are to find our way to a sustainable future.

      Can we change our course so that we move towards the sustainable path? And how do we get there?

      Huge Advances in Technology

      “We need a technology revolution to help us get on that path to a sustainable 2050,” says August Ritter, Program Director for The Sustainability Accelerator, a partnership between Techstars and The Nature Conservancy. “We asked ourselves: What can TNC do to help advance technology and disruption in conservation?”

      Their answer: an accelerator focused on supporting entrepreneurs trying to address global issues, like climate change or sustainably providing food and water to our planet’s growing population.

      Startups move fast, an important consideration given how much change needs to happen in the next 10 years if we are to switch course. They also come at problems from a new angle, and bring new technologies to bear on these difficult and far-reaching dilemmas.

      All conservation and sustainability efforts are great, but using new technologies and ways of doing business that are already transforming the global economy are necessary to transform the global environment and take sustainability to scale. It is time to reconsider “business as usual.”  

      Inspiring the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

      “We need to inspire the next generation of technologists and entrepreneurs,” August said. He ticked off a series of goals for The Sustainability Accelerator: success stories to show that this path forward is possible; demonstrating to investors that they can earn a tangible ROI by investing in early stage companies with a focus on sustainability; integrating technology and learning from the startup community about how they solve problems—fast.

      The inaugural 2018 accelerator was a huge success, and TNC is running pilots with six startups that came through the program. TNC has high hopes for the next class as well.

      August loves a quote from Jeff Hammerbacher, an early Facebook employee and founder of Cloudera: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

      August offers an alternate path for today’s keenest problem solvers: “We need to be inspiring entrepreneurs to solve problems that matter. We need the best minds of this generation working  to transform the world by 2050 into a place where both people and nature can thrive.”

      Want to disrupt environmental catastrophe? August outlined the big questions he thinks startups can help answer in his piece, “An Invitation to Solve for a More Sustainable Future.”

      Calling Passionate Entrepreneurs Who Want To Save The Planet: Applications Are Open For The Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy

      Over the last 15 years, I’ve had the privilege to get to know hundreds of companies as a mentor, advisor, and investor. As I reflect on those companies, one pattern stands out. The successful entrepreneurs I know have integrated the passionate pursuit of a larger purpose into their business.

      I experienced the power of purpose firsthand during my ten years at Rally Software as an executive from first revenue through our successful IPO. From the outside, it looked like we were creating the agile category. Inside, our larger purpose was based on the belief that empowered people who actually want to come to work are essential for solving today’s big, complex problems like climate change.

      A similar larger purpose—the belief that entrepreneurs create a better future—drew me to Techstars four years ago. As a Managing Director for Techstars Boulder in 2015 and 2016, I saw the passion larger purpose creates inside companies, and how that energy fuels success.

      Two years ago Amy Batchelor and Brad Feld held an event at their home where I again experienced the power of having larger purpose when I heard Mark Tercek, the CEO of The Nature Conservancy, speak. I was impressed to hear how The Nature Conservancy was leveraging finance, policy, and technology to create a world where people and nature thrive together. It was inspiring to see what can be accomplished when strong leadership, the best scientists and dedicated supporters are driven by such a powerful purpose.

      Today, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m putting my investor hat back on and joining the team at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy as Managing Director. I’m excited to continue the great work Jenna Walker started, and join Hannah Davis and August Ritter in helping entrepreneurs with businesses that can make a material contribution to building a world where people and nature can thrive together.

      Applications are currently open through April 7th for the second year of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. We are seeking for-profit entrepreneurs with commercially viable technologies who are passionately pursuing solutions to challenges like these:

      • Make the case for natural climate solutions;
      • Inspire climate action;
      • Conserve working forests;
      • Advance nature-based solutions to lessen the impacts of climate change;
      • Rethink agricultural practices;
      • Improve Fishery Health;
      • Improve the sustainability of aquaculture;
      • Protect water at its source;
      • Better facilitate water market transactions;
      • Integrate nature into urban growth planning;
      • Increase climate change resilience;
      • Decrease the footprint of human settlements;
      • Build a model of sustainable energy development;
      • Inform smart infrastructure decision-making;
      • Expand community-led conservation;
      • Better protect our land, water, and oceans;
      • Catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive.

      One of the driving forces in my life is best described in Steve Faber’s motto: “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” If this resonates with you, I look forward to getting to know more about you and your company.

      Announcing Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy

      The Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy, will ensure that we innovate to make the world a better place to live. Techstars and The Nature Conservancy are seeking entrepreneurs with commercially viable technologies that can rapidly scale to help sustainably provide food and water and address global issues like climate change.

      The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, The Nature Conservancy’s creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together.

      The Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy will be based in Denver, Colorado. Applications open in January 2018 and will launch in July 2018. The mentorship-driven accelerator program will connect entrepreneurs, conservationists, corporate partners, and investors to deliver products that can put the world on a path to sustainability. In addition, conservationists will learn from entrepreneurs how to quickly innovate and scale commercially viable businesses.

      This marks the second Techstars Accelerator program in partnership with a non profit organization. Techstars is excited to blend its expertise in disrupting industries through innovation with The Nature Conservancy’s expertise in conservation and sustainability. Mission-driven, for-profit companies are encouraged to apply.

      Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. With an accelerator portfolio market cap of more than $10 billion, Techstars has 34 accelerators and thousands of Techstars Startup Program events in nearly 170 countries.