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Andreessen Horowitz could make the carbon offset API Patch its latest climate bet

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The early-stage carbon offset API developer, Patch, could be another one of Andreessen Horowitz’s early bets on climate tech.

According to several people with knowledge of the investment round, former OpenTable chief executive and current Andreessen Horowitz partner Jeff Jordan is looking at leading the young company’s latest financing.

Such an investment would be a win for Patch, which could benefit from Andreessen Horowitz’s marketing muscle in a space that’s becoming increasingly crowded. And, if the deal goes through, it could be an indicator of more to come from one of the venture industry’s most (socially) active investors.

Companies like Pachama, Cloverly, Carbon Interface, and Cooler.dev all have similar API offerings, but the market for these types of services will likely expand as more companies try to do the least amount of work possible to become carbon neutral through offsetting. A growing market could generate space for more than one venture-backed winner.

Neither Patch’s co-founders nor Andreessen Horowitz responded to a request for comment about the funding.

One concern with services like Patch is that its customers will look at offsetting as their final destination instead of a step on the road to removing carbon emissions from business operations. To fix our climate crisis will take more work.

Founded by Brennan Spellacy and Aaron Grunfeld, two former employees at the apartment rental service Sonder, Patch raised its initial financing from VersionOne Ventures back in September.

Around 15 to twenty companies that are using the service now, according to people familiar with the company’s operations.

The company has an API that can calculate a company’s emissions footprint based on an integration with their ERP system and then invests money into offset projects that are designed to remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

While services like Pachama privilege lower-cost sequestration solutions like reforestation and forest management, Patch offers an array of potential investment opportunities for offsets. And the company tries to nudge its customers to some of the more expensive, high technology options in an effort to bring down costs for emerging technologies, said one person familiar with the company’s plans.

Like other services automating offsetting, Patch evaluates projects based on their additionality (how much additional carbon they’re removing over an already established baseline), permanence (how long the carbon emissions will be sequestered) and verifiability.

And, as the company’s founders note in their own statement about the company’s service, it’s not intended to be the only solution that customers deploy.

“The majority of climate models indicate that we need to reduce our emissions globally, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” the founders wrote in a Medium post. “We take care of a company’s carbon removal goals, while they focus their efforts on reducing emissions, a more proprietary task that requires intimate operational knowledge. Patch complements this behavioral shift and gives us a real chance to mitigate climate change.”

VersionOne’s Angela Tran addressed any concerns about the defensibility of Patch’s technology in her own September announcement.

“We also believe that defensibility comes with the aggregation and “digitization” of quality supply. When we view Patch as a marketplace, we believe that businesses (demand) care about the type of projects (supply) they purchase to neutralize their emissions,” Tran wrote. “For example, a company might choose their sustainability legacy to be linked with forestry or mineralization projects. Patch is partnering with the best carbon removal developers and the latest negative emission technologies to build a network of low-cost, impactful projects.”

While Patch is explicitly focused on climate change, Andreessen has made a few early investments in a broad sustainability thesis. The firm led a $9 million investment into Silo last year and backed KoBold Metals back in 2019.

Silo has developed an enterprise resource planning tool for perishable food supply chains. Currently focused on wholesale produce, Silo said in a statement last year that it would be extending its services to meat, dairy and pantry items over the next year.

“The market potential for an innovator like Silo to reduce waste and improve margins is enormous and we’re excited to support its efforts as the system of record for food distribution in the United States,” said Anish Acharya, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement at the time. “Silo is well-positioned to scale beyond the west coast to help more customers modernize and transition their operations from pen and paper to software.”

Meanwhile, KoBold is a software developer that uses machine learning and big data processing technologies to find new prospects for the precious metals that companies need to make new batteries and renewable energy generation technologies.

“By building a digital prospecting engine — full stack, from scratch — using computer vision, machine learning, and sophisticated data analysis not currently available to the industry, KoBold’s software combines previously unavailable, dark data with conventional geochemical, geophysical, and geological data to identify prospects in models that can only get better over time, as with other data network effects,” wrote Connie Chan in a blog post at the time.

Taken together, these investments coalesce into a picture of how Andreessen Horowitz and its pool of $16.5 billion in assets under management may approach the renewables industry.

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Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss

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Microsoft gets a new leader for its Greater China business. Yang Hou, a former executive at Qualcomm, will take over Alain Crozier as the chairman and chief executive officer for Microsoft Greater China Region, according to a company announcement released Monday.

More to come…

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Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170M led by Andreessen Horowitz

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Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. That pushes it into unicorn territory, with $340 million in total funding and a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, and it intends to use the considerable pile of cash to help it expand globally and accelerate product development.

In July of last year, Skydio announced its $100 million Series C financing, and also debuted the X2, its first dedicated enterprise drone. The company also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers, its first departure from the consumer drone market where it had been focused prior to that raise since its founding in 2014.

Skydio’s debut drone, the R1, received a lot of accolades and praise for its autonomous capabilities. Unlike other consumer drones at the time, including from recreational drone maker DJI, the R1 could track a target and film them while avoiding obstacles without any human intervention required. Skydio then released the Skydio 2 in 2019, its second drone, cutting off more than half the price while improving on it its autonomous tracking and video capabilities.

Late last year, Skydio brought on additional senior talent to help it address enterprise and government customers, including a software development lead who had experience at Tesla and 3D printing company Carbon. Skydio also hired two Samsara executives at the same time to work on product and engineering. Samsara provides a platform for managing cloud-based fleet operations for large enterprises.

The applications of Skydio’s technology for commercial, public sector and enterprise organizations are many and varied. Already, the company works with public utilities, fire departments, construction firms and more to do work including remote inspection, emergency response, urban planning and more. Skydio’s U.S. pedigree also puts it in prime position to capitalize on the growing interest in applications from the defense sector.

a16z previously led Skydio’s Series A round. Other investors who participated in this Series D include Lines Capital, Next47, IVP and UP.Partners.

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Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

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Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.

Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.

“We are proceeding well in the Japanese market, and we’ve already contracted missions from Japanese companies, but we haven’t expanded to the U.S. market yet,” explained Gitai founder and CEO Sho Nakanose in an interview. So we would like to get missions from U.S. commercial space companies, as a subcontractor first. We’re especially interested in on-orbit servicing, and we would like to provide general-purpose robotic solutions for an orbital service provider in the U.S.”

Nakanose told me that Gitai has plenty of experience under its belt developing robots which are specifically able to install hardware on satellites on-orbit, which could potentially be useful for upgrading existing satellites and constellations with new capabilities, for changing out batteries to keep satellites operational beyond their service life, or for repairing satellites if they should malfunction.

Gitai’s focus isn’t exclusively on extra-vehicular activity in the vacuum of space, however. It’s also performing a demonstration mission of its technical capabilities in partnership with Nanoracks using the Bishop Airlock, which is the first permanent commercial addition to the International Space Station. Gitai’s robot, codenamed S1, is an arm–style robot not unlike industrial robots here on Earth, and it’ll be showing off a number of its capabilities, including operating a control panel and changing out cables.

Long-term, Gitai’s goal is to create a robotic workforce that can assist with establishing bases and colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as in orbit. With NASA’s plans to build a more permanent research presence on orbit at the Moon, as well as on the surface, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin looking ahead to more permanent colonies on Mars, as well as large in-space habitats hosting humans as well as commercial activity, Nakanose suggests that there’s going to be ample need for low-cost, efficient robotic labor – particularly in environments that are inhospitable to human life.

Nakanose told me that he actually got started with Gitai after the loss of his mother – an unfortunate passing he said he firmly believes could have been avoided with the aid of robotic intervention. He began developing robots that could expand and augment human capability, and then researched what was likely the most useful and needed application of this technology from a commercial perspective. That research led Nakanose to conclude that space was the best long-term opportunity for a new robotics startup, and Gitai was born.

This funding was led by SPARX Innovation for the Future Co. Ltd, and includes funding form DcI Venture Growth Fund, the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, and EP-GB (Epson’s venture investment arm).

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