How Might We Solve for a More Sustainable Future?

Class of 2018 at Demo Day — Oct 17th, 2018

We have our work cut out for us to create a world that can not only sustain a growing population but allow communities and natural ecosystems to thrive for decades to come. Luckily, if there is one group of people who aren’t afraid of hard work, it’s entrepreneurs. We are now calling all entrepreneurs solving for a more sustainable future to join the second annual Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy which will run July 29th through October 29th 2019 in Denver Colorado.

2018 had a lot of urgent reports about the state of the environment, but it was also a year filled with hope and action. The Nature Conservancy published a report outlining how a sustainable future is possible and a path to get there. Techstars launched the Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Together, these seemingly different organizations, along with the support of many many others, accelerated ten incredible companies working to solve for a more sustainable future.

The Class of 2018 represented an incredible amount of diversity. In an effort to learn rapidly, we selected a class that was diverse across investment themes, commercial readiness, previous funds raised, depth of team startup experience and direct alignment with TNC’s core work. In the Class of 2018, 6 of 10 companies had active pilots with or facilitated by TNC by the end of the three-month program.

Companies selected represented the following investment themes: Sustainable Fisheries / Oceans (2), Water Conservation / Water Data Science (2), Environmental Monitoring and Water Conservation (2), Built Environment (1), Waste and Core Utility Conservation (1), Clean Energy Technology (1), and Land Conservation (1).

This year we have focused again on investing in companies that can make a material contribution to building a world where people and nature thrive. By solving the top threats to nature, we can also improve the lives of millions of people.

Rather than look for specific solutions, we framed some of the top challenges we’re facing when it comes to conservation and asked: “How Might We…?”. If you know a company working on a solution to one or more of the big questions below, we’d love to speak with them.

The Nature Conservancy understands that “achieving a sustainable future will be dependent on our ability to secure both thriving human communities and abundant and healthy natural ecosystems.” Now is the time.

We recognize that it will take diverse ideas to solve the worlds biggest problems, we encourage entrepreneurs from groups underrepresented in technology to apply. Apply here.

Below outlines our investment themes for the Class of 2019.


Climate Change Mitigation

  • How might we Make the Case for Natural Climate Solutions,* Inspire Climate Action, Conserve Working Forests?
  • Technology to support Carbon Sequestration, Carbon Measurement and Market Validation, Precision Forestry, Sustainable Timber, Reforestation

Climate Change Adaptation

  • How might we Advance Nature-Based Solutions** to lessen the impacts of climate change?
  • Technology to support Innovative Insurance and other Financial Models, Remote Sensing, and Spatial Planning


Sustainable Agriculture

  • How might we Rethink Agricultural Practices?
  • With technology that improves Soil Health and Nutrients, Builds Zero Deforestation Supply Chains, Sustainable Yield Increases, Precision Irrigation and Fertilization, Nutrient Runoff Monitoring, Sustainable Grazing, Carbon Capture, Microclimate Sensing

Sustainable Fisheries

  • How might we Improve Fishery Health?
  • With technology such as Catch Monitoring, Bycatch Exclusion, Supply Chain Transparency, Vessel Tracking, Automated Stock Assessment
  • How might we Improve the Sustainability of Aquaculture?
  • With technology such as Monitoring Systems, Ecologically Restorative Business Models, Siting Technologies, Feed Innovations, Offshore/Open-Ocean Systems

Water Funds and Markets

  • How might we Protect Water at its Source, Better Facilitate Water Market Transactions?
  • Technology to support Watershed-Scale Sensing, Flow Measurement, Sensor Connectivity, Usage Mapping Technology, Aggregating Water Data, and Groundwater Recharge


Greenprinting, Green Infrastructure and Stormwater

  • How might we Integrate Nature into Urban Growth Planning, Increase Climate Change Resilience, and Decrease the Footprint of Human Settlements?
  • With technology that Advances Green Infrastructure, Urban Growth Planning, and Addresses Urban Challenges to habitat loss and human health including stormwater, air pollution and heat islands.


Energy and Infrastructure

  • How might we Build a Model of Sustainable Energy Development and Inform Smart Infrastructure Decision-Making?
  • With technology that improves Energy Siting, Land-Use Planning and Development, Wind, Solar and Hydropower Planning, Mitigation Mapping

Indigenous Landscapes and Communities

  • How might we Expand Community-Led Conservation?
  • Technology that supports Community-Based Natural Resource Management, Multi-Stakeholder Engagement, Sustainable Economic Development for Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples

Land and Water Protection

  • How might we Better Protect our Land, Water and Oceans?
  • With technology that unlocks conservation investment in and improves governance of Land and Ocean Protection, Coastal Restoration, and Climate Adaptation.


How might we catalyze transformational change to achieve a world where people and nature thrive?

Measure what Matters

  • Big Data, AI, Machine Learning, Remote Sensing
  • Tools that increase our understanding of/ monitor/ improve — ecosystem services, pollution, and natural resource use

Build the Case for Nature

  • Tools that help influence policymakers and business leaders
  • Decision-Support Tools, Mapping, Visualization, Simulation, Stakeholder Mapping
  • Innovative finance and funding mechanisms

Connect Nature and People

  • Engage people and build learning networks

*Natural Climate Solutions include activities that both store carbon and reduce carbon emissions in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands.

**Nature-Based Solutions include: Wetland Conservation, Open Space Protection, Dam Removal, Groundwater Infiltration, Living Shorelines