Home > Archives

Are we there yet?

October 15, 2021

Something funny has been happening at AirMiners Launchpad this second batch. (Here's the video version if you prefer to watch this update instead)

Just like the first batch, we're working with teams on customer discovery, we're helping them talk about goals and set of hypotheses, understand their value proposition. But the funny thing is Jason and I are taking the tools that we're working with teams on, we're starting to apply them to AirMiners itself.

We're taking a look at the goals that we're setting really pulling them apart. Is this a clear goal? Are we aiming in the direction that gets us where we need to go?

There's two goals that come to mind for me, and I've been pulling them apart to figure out where to improve: "1,000 shots on goal" and "gigaton scale carbon removal".

"1,000 shots on goal", is that a useful goal? What's a shot on goal? How fast do we need them? Is it somebody who has an idea about carbon removal? That seems too broad, even if we did have 1,000 people with ideas for carbon removal solutions, that likely wouldn't get us to civilization scale carbon removal. On the other hand, what if we define that a "shot" can only be a company that goes through AirMiners Launchpad? Well, that seems easy to keep track...but that seems too narrow and will leave out great solutions. Still working on this one.

How about "gigaton scale carbon removal", is that a useful goal? Well first off, who's who's keeping track? Do you know how much carbon dioxide was removed from the air last year? I don't -- but it's essential to be able to measure progress, otherwise we risk wasting time. One of the challenges we can't just use the Keeling Curve to track carbon removed. The Keeling Curve tracks overall levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere every year since 1958. But we can't just go up to Mauna Loa and measure how much carbon was actually removed. That's because we're adding so much carbon dioxide every year to the atmosphere, that would be really hard to to measure a difference, even if we were removing a billion tons of carbon dioxide tomorrow.

That's because we're adding 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every single year. So even if we've got a gigaton scale, magical carbon removal system today, it'd be impossible to tell if that's working through the Keeling Curve. So ultimately, we need new tools and sensors to measure, report and verify carbon removal. This is actually a specific category that the new XPRIZE Carbon Removal for this. The XPRIZE team have set aside funding and prize money for teams that are working on what's called MRV, measurement reporting and verification. So if you're working on that, go check it out, even though the deadline closed Oct 1. Tracking progress towards gigaton scale carbon removal is essential.

It can be uncomfortable to dig into a goal and realize you're headed in the wrong direction -- but it's worth it. A team from Launchpad Batch #1 is on this journey right now. A woman AirMiner was going through her technology to better model how it would work, how it might map out to get to net negative. And you know what, she discovered that even at big scale it wouldn't be net negative after all. She's back to the drawing board working on figuring it out. The challenge for this entrepreneur is this might be a good business, but it's not actually net carbon negative. For her that means it's back to the drawing board. If you do really want your business to be carbon negative "gigaton or bust", you want to know as soon as possible if it's off track, to be relentless in knowing you're not wasting your time. It's uncomfortable to go back to the drawing board, but it's essential sometimes if we're ever going to get to gigaton scale carbon removal.

It's been eye opening working with AirMiners Launchpad teams and applying these lessons back to AirMiners itself. And so much of this too is coming from the discussion last week about how do we know when we're there, what is what is a picture of this future look like, and what part of it are you going to build? Appreciate the responses I saw on on AirMiners Slack and in Boot Up talking about what these folks saw as the future of carbon removal and how they were going to be a part of it. How's your own goal setting going? Is it uncomfortable for you too?


I write a weekly newsletter highlighting the AirMiners community and carbon removal industry.

Every week you’ll get insider perspective and community stories from the cutting edge of carbon removal.

The purpose of this newsletter is to accelerate the carbontech industry by speeding up connections, progress, and coordination. It's ideal for people working in carbon removal already, or beginners who want one individual's perspective. People curious about carbon removal are encouraged to sign up and see what sticks.

Subscribe here to get the next weekly update as soon it comes out.

Subscribe | Archive of 100+ Newsletters