Why Afore Is Betting Big On Fixing Climate Change
Our largest ever investment in SINAI Technologies is a direct result of our belief that climate change is the greatest existential threat of our times.
In 2020, no matter where you look, it feels like apocalypse. Even ignoring the fact that a million people have died of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, the West Coast has seen the most active fire year on record, the southern United States has been slammed by hurricane after hurricane, global temperatures have averaged the second-highest ever recorded, and we’re seeing a record level of glacial sea melt.
For anyone with eyes, these data points make it clear that climate change is the most important existential issue facing mankind. Which is why we at Afore Capital are proud to announce our largest ever investment in SINAI Technologies, an impressive technology company aiming to create systemic change in the way companies handle their emissions by giving them better tools to understand the effects of their orgs on climate change.
Before we talk more about our investment in SINAI, though, we’d like to talk a bit more abstractly about the existential threat of climate change.
Although we have a hard time imagining a world without us, humanity is barely a blip on the Earth’s 4.5 billion year timeline. Let’s put it this way: if you could walk back through geological history, you’d reach the birth of the first human before you hit the end of your block. To walk to the birth of the planet, though, you’d have to walk an additional 29,000 miles… or twenty miles a day for four years straight. And as you walked, you’d walk through five previous mass extinctions, many of which look remarkably like the mass extinction we’re (probably) living through right now.
Some people believe that humanity is too insignificant to kick off a mass extinction just by off-putting a little carbon into the air, and so they are skeptical of human-driven climate change. The truth, though, is that less significant species than ours have been responsible for planet-sized extinction events, by getting so good at exploiting their ecosystems that they inadvertently pushed the planet’s delicate chemical balance past its tipping point.
Consider, for example, 540 million years ago, when burrowing worms and bizarre filtering organisms dramatically transformed the chemical make-up of the Ediacaran Era seas, killing off most planetary life for millions of years. If the weird alien lifeforms of prehistory (some of which were just inches long) were significant enough to trigger a mass extinction, why wouldn’t humans be too?
The impact of climate change is not a theoretical exercise about the future. It’s happening right in front of our eyes.
The impact of climate change is not a theoretical exercise about the future. It’s happening right in front of our eyes. The planet is indisputably warming up. The five warmest summers in Europe since 1500 have all happened in the last 18 years. In the Western United States alone, wildfires are five times more frequent and ten times larger than they were in the 1970s. Meanwhile, hurricanes and flooding are intensifying, and the seas are rising, with the Greenland ice sheet alone losing nearly 267 billion tons of ice per year. And make no mistake. Humanity’s carbon emissions are not just driving these environmental changes… with the population of the planet predicted to grow by another 4 billion people by the end of the century, we’re still ramping up.
Bill Gates said that humans overestimate how much can change in two years and underestimate how much can change in 10 years. It will take until at least 2100 to see the dramatic impact of global warming, and mass extinction may take millions of years. Given the timescale, humans are underestimating just how bad things can and will get. And this underestimation reduces urgency which inhibits action. But the urgency is there: by 2100, if climate change is left unchecked, scientists say that humanity will face a global drop in crop yields, mass iron and zinc deficiencies, and as much as a 50% decline in cognitive ability due to growing carbon dioxide levels reducing the oxygen getting to our brains. In other words, the longer we wait to deal with the problem, the less capable we will be of dealing with the problem.
The key to changing anything for the better — let alone create systemic change across the global economy — is to understand and quantify the problem.
Put all of these facts together, and it’s clear that unless we all do our part to control emissions and regulate our environment now, we will soon reach a point-of-no-return. And the key to changing anything for the better — let alone create systemic change across the global economy — is to understand and quantify the problem.
Which brings us back to SINAI Technologies. Based in San Francisco, SINAI Technologies helps businesses automate and consolidate their carbon strategy. On the surface, that might not sound sexy, but in reality, SINAI Technologies is poised to be deeply disruptive of the way companies handle their carbon footprint.
“Sustainability is the only department in most companies without real software solutions,” says Maria Fujihara, founder and CEO of SINAI Technologies. “Right now, most companies go straight from calculating their environmental footprint to buying carbon credits to offset their emissions, so most solutions just automate the credit-buying process. The problem is, that doesn’t drive change in the organization: it doesn’t allow companies to analyze why they have this footprint to begin with. So what we’re doing is giving companies the tool to price their emissions internally, and by putting a financial benchmark on it, help companies reduce their footprint.”
We at Afore believe in SINAI Technologies’ vision of helping to create “a new capitalism: a new way of doing business, which is the green way.”
Sustainability efforts today are what driving was like before GPS. Companies make a rigid plan to cut emissions by paying expensive consultants, but the plans are out of sync the moment they are put in action. SINAI’s cloud software automatically updates the plans as operational data becomes available, and makes it very easy to analyze different scenarios and model outcomes. We at Afore believe in SINAI Technologies’ vision of helping to create what Fujihara calls “a new capitalism: a new way of doing business, which is the green way,” which is why we are proud to be one of their earliest investors. Because we too believe in a new, greener capitalism, and that making it easier to be carbon-friendly is a big win for us all. We have no choice to believe it, and to act now. The science is staring us right in the face.
We also wanted to thank Tommy Leep, active climate tech investor, for introducing us to Maria.