3 Questions: Q&A with the C180 Entrepreneurs in Residence

So you want to build a carbon removal solution?

by Noah Deich, executive director

The cat is out of the bag: To address the lack of a robust startup ecosystem dedicated to carbon removal, we launched our Entrepreneur in Residence fellowship with 6 all-star EIRs, in March 2020. Armed with a $100,000 grant, the EIRs have set off on a quest of the highest ambition: to develop “moonshot” carbon removal businesses with a detailed plan for scaling it to billion-ton CO₂ removal/year level by 2030.

So what exactly motivates our EIRs to undertake such a herculean task? Getting up close and personal, we’ve asked them three questions.

Aaron Fitzgerald

Why did you decide to build a carbon removal solution?

I grew up hearing stories of humanity’s role in the decimation of habitats and the climate crisis. Witnessing Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on a relief trip to New Orleans woke me up and made everything I had heard about real. After that experience, I resolved to do my part and fight climate change.

“I started small. I tracked my carbon footprint. I then worked to reduce my carbon pollution. For years, I didn’t use cars. I only live in population-dense areas. I minimize energy use. I sought greater impact…”

What are you looking forward to learning about in the field?

As an entrepreneur, I’m excited to have an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the various carbon removal pathways from natural to engineered solutions. Further, I’m looking forward to developing a more comprehensive understanding of the political and economic realities that impact the deployment of carbon removal solutions.

What is one fun fact about you?

Against all odds, which includes a fragmented grade school education and times of homelessness, I’ve been able to persevere and pay it forward.

Andy Moon

Why did you decide to build a carbon removal solution?

All of the pathways to staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius require us to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

What are you looking forward to learning about in the field?

I’d love to see if corporations and governments can finally step up — we have a lot of work to do.

What is one fun fact about you?

I almost went to music school! And I climbed a 20,000 foot mountain (Yala Peak) in Nepal two years ago, in freezing temperatures. I probably will not do that again — in such cold weather.

Jannice Newson

Why did you decide to build a carbon removal solution?

I decided to build a carbon removal solution as I saw a need within my community that could be solved in a way that simultaneously benefits individual people and our climate as well.

What are you looking forward to learning about in the field?

I am looking forward to learning about how policy can support carbon removal work.

What is one fun fact about you?

I spent three days in the jungle in Nepal in a windowless tower.

Jeremy Freeman

Why did you decide to build a carbon removal solution?

After deciding I wanted to work full time on climate change, I spent lots of time and had lots of conversations trying to understand how I could work on this urgent problem in a way that leveraged my skills. My background in science, data, consensus building, and philanthropy seemed unusually well matched to some of the challenges we now face around carbon removal, and climate solutions more generally, in terms of bringing science to bear on decision making, and helping coordinate scientists, companies, non-profits, and governments to work together to solve big problems.

What are you looking forward to learning about in the field?

As a scientist, I’m already both daunted and thrilled by the diversity of biological and physical sciences we need to leverage in order to understand and make progress on carbon removal. Everything from forest ecology to mineralogy to biogeophysics! I don’t think my love of learning new areas of science will ever go away.

What is one fun fact about you?

I have 6 tattoos, all of which relate to some form of science or technology. And I’m now considering getting a 7th related to carbon removal!

Kristin Ellis

Why did you decide to build a carbon removal solution?

The urgency of the climate crisis can’t be overstated — we need people all over the world to continue working on various aspects of the problem. Given my particular skills and interests, I feel that going all in on building carbon removal solutions is the best way for me to get involved. It helps that this is an especially exciting time to jump in as an entrepreneur — there are tons (or more accurately, gigatons) of greenfield opportunities in carbon removal, and many of them don’t require us to come up with radical new technologies! I think we can make a tremendous impact by leveraging and connecting many of the natural systems and technologies that we already have in place.

What are you looking forward to learning about in the field?

EVERYTHING! Really — it’s tough to constrain my interest because we’re looking at such a fascinating and interconnected system of systems. That said — my current top 3, in no particular order, are (1) novel configurations and applications of DACC, (2) synthetic biology as a driver of carbon removal, and (3) blue carbon.

What is one fun fact about you?

I once absolutely shredded air guitar onstage at a sold-out metal show at the House of Blues in Houston, TX. My friend, who was touring with the band as a bassist, gave me an (unplugged) guitar and told me to go for it — so of course I gave it my all.

Nana Britwum

Why did you decide to build a carbon removal solution?

It all stemmed from us complaining about how uncomfortable and wasteful synthetic braiding hair is. Now we are in a position to create a product that incorporates soil carbon sequestration all while bridging the gap between sustainability and Black hair care.

What are you looking forward to learning about in the field?

I am excited to learn more about how policy can advance the carbon removal cause.

What is one fun fact about you?

I was on the swim and dive team in high school.

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