How My Own Climate Journey Led Me to Join My Climate Journey
Like many of you, My Climate Journey was one of the first resources I discovered when I decided it was time for me to learn more about climate change. For me, it was in early 2020, before the pandemic had taken full force in the US. I reached out to Zoe Schlag, a friend and the former Managing Director of the Techstars Impact program in Austin, to get her advice on how I could start to get up to speed. Zoe asked me if I’d heard the My Climate Journey podcast by this guy named Jason Jacobs. I said I hadn’t but I remembered that I’d been introduced to Jason by another Techstars colleague — Clément Cazalot the Managing Director of Techstars Boston — a few years back.
After binging on pod episodes — I distinctly recall a cross-country road trip where I was listening to MCJ in headphones while the rest of my car listened to an Audible book — and participating in as many MCJ community events as I could, I got up the courage to start DMing people in the MCJ slack and asking if they’d be willing to chat for 30 minutes. Sarah Kearney, Rodrigo Prudencio, Monica Varman, Matt Eggers, Ramanan Raghavendran, Andrew Beebe, Eliza Nemser…and so many more. Each of you was so foundational to the early part of my own journey. I even remember Sarah Kearney asking me “…so where are you in your climate journey?” And my response was “…ummm…a few weeks in?” But my favorite was Eliza who so memorably told me “Ok look, dude, spend some time learning. But do it for like a month or two. Then get your shit organized, figure out how you can help with your own skillset, and jump in and start doing.” Those words rang so true to me…and I did my best to follow that very plan.
By the summer of 2020, I was enrolled in the inaugural cohort of Terra.do which gave me the foundational knowledge base I felt I needed, and in parallel, I’d started a grassroots internal GreenTeam at Techstars where Hannah Davis and a few other climate-motivated colleagues and I started figuring out how we could pursue a greater climate agenda inside Techstars. And we also had this great big looming 2020 US Presidential election coming up and I knew I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that climate was a big factor.
I learned about Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B) via the MCJ slack and DM’d Audrey Lee who was organizing much of it. She invited me into the CE4B slack and I noticed there wasn’t much in there in the way of the voice of startups or entrepreneurs. I created an affinity channel in the CE4B Slack for startups and put a call to action in there for anyone who wanted to activate the startup community in support of the Biden campaign. Folks like Jolene Gurevich, Thomas Lee, Nick Scherer, and Ted Dillon put their hands up and we created a fundraiser that featured leading climate tech VCs including Clay Dumas, Sierra Peterson, Shayle Kann, and Dan Goldman, moderated by Sophie Purdom of the Climate Tech VC newsletter. We ended up raising nearly $30K and had a few hundred attendees, which for my first political event felt pretty great.
In parallel, I’d continued chatting with Eliza Nemser via the MCJ Slack, and she had a perspective that the Senate race was what really mattered because no matter what happened in the Presidential election, the Senate would be the key to getting climate legislation passed (which we are witnessing right now in real-time). Together with MCJers Stu Powell, Madeline Dyke, Kristen Winzent, and Parker Thomas, we spun up something called Climate Changemakers to help get regular people like me who otherwise had never been involved politically to engage for one hour a week on climate political action and help get a pro-climate action majority into the US Senate. Well, that worked. Today Climate Changemakers is a registered 501(c)(4) non-profit with significant reach, funding, and active chapters in both the US and Europe. So that’s what Eliza meant when she said to just jump in!
Meanwhile, at Techstars, Hannah Davis and I started hosting monthly Sustainability Roundtable events where we’d interview industry luminaries. We started by seeding the invite list with our personal networks and it grew from there. Kate Drane — now at Breakthrough Energy — was our silent third team member. We also launched the Techstars Climate Tech Podcast to continue the dialogue, and we brought on The Regenerates, consisting of my Climate Changemakers co-founder Kristen Winzent and Merrill Feather, to help us establish Techstars’ voice in the climate/sustainability space and also help us pull off the Techstars Sustainability Summit in April 2021 which proved to be a smashing success. In parallel, colleagues such as Beth Meyer and I pushed an ESG initiative at Techstars that became adopted as a core Techstars strategy. During this time we also hosted two Techstars Sustainability Challenges (here and here) to help bridge startup <> corporate business development opportunities.
Circling back with the Terra.do team, Anshuman Bapna mentioned that Katie Stanton had suggested creating a climate bootcamp for VCs. We dove in and created it , with Susan Su jumping in to steer the ship. I also helped Anshuman pilot a Terra Studio program to help aspiring climate companies to get going.
By late spring 2021, I was a bit over a year into my journey and I knew that I wanted to be all-in on climate. I texted Jason and asked if he was ready to grow the MCJ team. I was floored when he said that he and Thai had just been talking about it and that the time felt right. I spent the next two quarters joining their weekly calls, helping with community ideas (like the launch of our weekly Community Voices newsletter, our relatively new AMA series in MCJ Slack, and the MCJ community understanding project), and assisting with the deal flow for the MCJ Collective fund. And it all just felt so right and natural.
And that leads us to this week’s announcement that I’ve joined the MCJ team. I plan to contribute to MCJ across each of our three pillars — content, community, and capital — and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to continuing to work with each of you, and you can find me any time in the MCJ Slack or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if anyone wants advice, feedback, or ideas for your own climate journey and how to apply your skills to make the biggest impact, please hit me any time.
Cody Simms, Partner at My Climate Journey
This story was originally posted in the My Climate Journey newsletter.