Casper’s co-founder is helping launch an incubator for climate tech startups

Hundreds of climate-related startups have been founded in recent years, but for Casper co-founder Philip Krim, that’s not nearly enough.

“We need a lot more zero-to-one founders in this ecosystem,” he told TechCrunch. Relative to other industries, “very few folks are doing it in the climate space.”

Krim, who launched Casper in 2014, is no stranger to entrepreneurship. After taking the mattress company public in 2020 and then selling it to private equity in 2021, he turned his attention to incubating new businesses, including Haven, which helps people install home batteries. “I ultimately got bit by the climate bug and fell in love with the space.”

Through that journey, Krim met Evan Caron, a former commodity trader, and then Sharo Atmeh, a lawyer and portfolio manager. They quickly realized that they all wanted to foster the sort of fast-moving, asset-light, entrepreneurial ethos that has gripped other parts of the tech world.

One path, which is particularly well-trodden, is to start a venture fund. The trio felt they had plenty of ideas themselves, but not enough time to turn them into a reality. Instead of launching a VC fund, they’re starting with an incubator called Montauk Climate, TechCrunch has exclusively learned.

The incubator model isn’t new, but there aren’t many that are dedicated to climate. Some incubators accept founders and help them shape companies very early in their development, while others, like Atomic, Idealab and Flagship Pioneering, take the startup studio approach and conceive of the businesses themselves. Montauk Climate is one of the latter.

“We author the businesses that we want to create,” Krim said. “We’re not looking at other people’s ideas. We’re really putting together the idea, and then we bring in talent to help run that team.”

Evan Caron, Philip Krim, and Sharo Atmeh pose in front of the New York City skyline.

Montauk Climate is led by CIO Evan Caron, CEO Philip Krim and COO Sharo Atmeh. Image Credits: Montauk Climate

Many climate tech companies focus on problems that require hardware to solve. The Montauk team is taking a different approach. The new incubator wants to create businesses that complement those hardware-heavy efforts while also playing to their strengths around energy, software and infrastructure.

“The core science projects are either on their way or have been invented,” Atmeh said, citing wind, solar, hydrogen and geothermal. “Those kinds of bricks are now in place, and there’s a lot of room to kind of generate the mortar that needs to fit between those bricks to create connectivity between consumers, between utilities and renewables, and to help operationalize what is now a really fragmented system.”

Montauk Climate is launching with $8.5 million, led by a $7 million investment from Sheel Tyle, managing partner at Amplo. The firm will explore business opportunities in house, and once they feel like an opportunity is ripe, they’ll hire a team and commit some initial capital to the company.

“Once we have a team, once we have a business plan that we feel is really vetted and then fully underwritten, we’ll then go out to venture firms that we have relationships with to fund that business and spin it out,” Krim said. Montauk Climate will remain shareholders in its spinout companies and have seats on their boards.

The team is focusing on a handful of sectors, Caron said, including energy use in data centers, electrification incentives, weather data aggregation and insurance. Expect them to be software or platform plays. The insurance idea is the furthest along, Krim said, with a veteran industry CEO in place and a model that focuses on helping business owners manage risks from climate change.

“We should have a handful of incubated businesses launched in Q2, Q3 of this year,” he said. As the number of incubated companies expands, Montauk Climate expects to raise its own venture fund to help support them.

If those new businesses can take root, they’ll be growing in a potentially fertile landscape. Low-carbon investments were $900 billion in 2020, but they’ll need to rise to $5 trillion by 2030, according to the International Monetary Fund. With sums like those, it’s shaping up to be a founders’ market.


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