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Your carbon removal startup doesn't need to do everything

June 29, 2021

In carbon removal, is there going to be one winner or many winners? (I made a video version of this as well, here)

I often hear carbon removal startups saying they are the one company to solve the changing climate.

The challenge with that though is that it implies that there will be one winner in the carbon removal industry - their company.

The way I see it, to get to gigaton scale carbon removal, we need to building an industry with many winners (and yes inevitably losers too).

The industry will be like a baseball team: we need catchers, pitchers, and batters. Or like the computer industry, there's Intel (processors), Hitachi (storage), Samsung (screens), and Microsoft (software). We need a solid team to get to gigaton scale carbon removal.

"One winner" is like a restaurant that claims to be have the best sushi, best pizza, AND best pasta. It's...unlikely at best.

So what are the different sectors of this emerging industry? The AirMiners Index puts this "many winners" framing into 3 categories - capture, sequestration, and products. 

Capture: getting your hands on carbon dioxide
Sequestration: storage/removal/underground
Products: doing something useful with carbon dioxide

With AirMiners Slack, it's divided up more along topics like DAC, soil, oceans...wonder if this creates dissonance with this industry model. Open to thoughts here.

But some of the leading companies in carbon removal are somehow making it work right? Like capturing carbon AND making it into products?

Behind each one of these successes there's always a twist. They're actually really great at just one piece. Then they partner -- for example a DAC company capturing carbon with a partner behind the scenes who owns the tech to make fuel from CO2.  Or they used de-risked solutions for the other pieces -- like a company that uses regular-ish plants to capture carbon and they get really good at turning that biomatter into something else. You need to be good at one thing to succeed and to create an industry.

So what do you think -- one winner, or many winners? Are you seeing more comanies specialize, or more companies aiming to be the one winner?


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