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Click through the posts below to learn more about the experiences of the Three Cairns Fellows. For more information about the fellowship, please click here.
Team members: Anshul Agrawal ’22, Camille Hutt ’22, Jeffrey Laupola ’22, Jesse McCormick ’21
Applied XL is an information company designing data systems that quantify the health of people, places, and planet to help accelerate the path to sustainable economic growth. Applied XL combines computational journalism and expert networks into intuitive information products with real-world utility. They are computational journalists, engineers, economists, mathematicians and data scientists obsessed with enabling sustainable growth.
The team conducted expert user interviews in the “Healthy People” business vertical in the pharmaceutical sector. The interviews informed ongoing product development, identified new data sources for future data collection, and highlighted new market opportunities in the domestic legal sector and new market opportunities abroad for clinical trial data services. Lastly, the team provided a preliminary ESG analysis for the "Healthy Planet" business vertical highlighting opportunities in regulatory risk management, social media real-time alerts, and energy sector prospective customers for Applied XL expert services.
Team members: Sam Cui ’21, Margaret Davidson ’22, Dawn Kissi ’21BUS ’21JRN, Ben Zepfel ’22
The goal of the project was to identify and evaluate public/late-stage private companies that fall within the investable universe for BlackRock's Global Impact Fund. Each group member chose a climate theme and created a thematic map of investable sectors within the selected theme, then provided a deep-dive analysis, impact criteria evaluation, and investment recommendations for companies within the mapped sectors. Chosen themes included waste management systems, green buildings and construction, solar energy and key supplier industries, and carbon dioxide removal/ carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
Team members: Mohammad Salhut ’22
The State of Israel's Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz, announced a plan to source at least 30 percent of the country's energy production from renewable sources by 2030. Mohammad Salhut MBA/MIA'22 worked closely with a member of the Citi Ventures team in Tel Aviv and with Richard Kauffman, former Chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and adjunct research scholar at Columbia's Center for Global Energy Policy, to design a government-sponsored blueprint to incentivize investment in Hydrogen-based renewable energy technologies in Israel. The idea is based on Israel's preceding success with the Israeli government's establishment of the Yozma initiative in the 1990s and its demonstrated success in attracting foreign venture capital investment dollars.
Tomorrow.io (formerly ClimaCell.org)
Team members: Diego Olivera ’22, Judy To ’22, Efosa Uwaifo ’22, Calvin Yu ’22
The team worked with farmers (large and smallholders) in Kenya, where agriculture is a key contributor to GDP, to quantify the impact of adverse weather on their business and to assess how a mobile SaaS tool could help provide accurate, location-specific weather intelligence.
With Tomorrow.io, a farmer can make decisions about how to mitigate the effect of weather events, like clearing runways to avoid flooding from rainfall.
Team members: Olivia Freeland ’21, Brian Nordyke ’21, Wineeta Paul ’21, Tiffany Pek ’21
With the continued rise of biomass utilization and the escalation of West Coast forest fires, the team focused on opportunities for the next generation of forest thinning to optimize biomass utilization as well as fire prevention, detection, and advancing forestry analytics. The main challenge was not whether the biomass could be utilized, but rather how and at what cost. The team distilled the cost mechanics of forest clearing and transportation as well as the regulatory environment that all companies must operate within to provide an overview of the investment space and down select certain opportunities for further diligence.
Cyan Capital Partners
Team members: Amelia Earnest ’22, Pietro Guadiano ’22, Travis Leiter ’22, Lacie Pierre ’22
Formed in 2020, Cyan Capital Partners seeks to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and inclusive world through climate-focused, sustainable investing practices. The team supported Cyan Capital Partners through the research and development of a climate-focused market map of climate strategies and asset managers with the intent to identify market gaps and opportunities for investment. The team ultimately delivered a research report with adjoining asset manager catalog separated into eight primary climate strategy verticals (i.e. Energy & Power, Transportation, Built Environment, etc.). Each main strategy was split into sub-categories which included insights into the industry and investment landscape, asset class considerations, funding or opportunity gaps, and a list of recommended best fit firms in alignment with Cyan's strategic goals. The Cyan Capital Partners team plans to use the report to inform their investment strategy and improve their asset manager outreach process.
Team members: Christopher Waterman ’21
HXE Partners is a management consultancy that focuses on sustainability strategy and implementation for its clients. HXE Partners helps clients achieve their sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals. HXE Partner's achieves this through the development, management, and integration of sustainability best practices within organizations.
The objective of the project was to measure and examine the performance of ESG funds vs. non-ESG funds in the public equity market, and the impacts COVID-19 had on these funds. More specifically, the project examined fund performance, composition and flows of funds to determine if there was a difference in performance in ESG funds. The project also examined the impact COVID-19 had on technology, environmental, social and governance factors throughout a pivotal 2020 year, which saw ESG come into focus for more investors and market participants.
The deliverable was a thought leadership paper that HXE Partners can use to attract new clients and strengthen existing client relationships by highlighting important trends and insights in ESG.
Team members: Rebecca Aronson ’21, Lucas Carita ’21, Alexandra Higbee ’21, Patrick O’Kain ’21, Laura Tulchin ’21
Takachar is an MIT spin-out company whose vision is to expand the amount of biomass economically converted into useful products. They have built a small-scale, portable, and low-cost system that can enable in-situ conversion of local residues into an upgraded form. Our main objectives were to determine the possible U.S. market entry points and end-use applications for the Takachar produced activated carbon. Due to the environmental focus of its end-use applications, we determined there is an opportunity to disrupt sectors of the activated carbon market in the United States with a product that is more sustainably produced—particularly in the water PFAS treatment and air purification segments. Our recommended segment targets for Takachar include: small scale, nascent, locally manufactured, environmentally conscious and/or closed-loop possibilities in these two industries.
TerraCycle / Loop
Team members: Olivia Massey ’21
TerraCycle is a social enterprise dedicated to eliminating the idea of waste. They have recycling solutions in 21 countries and recently launched the Loop Store, a circular economy product platform, in partnership with brands like P&G and Unilever. They combat climate change by reducing deforestation as well as emissions from landfills and sourcing virgin materials.
Loop needed a solution for implementing reusable shipping assets in their supply chain. The team performed a screen of vendors through web research and internal reach outs, contacted four vendors who could provide such a solution, ideating on what that exact solution would look like to ensure feasibility and cost effectiveness in the supply chain. The team then held a series of internal stakeholder meetings, facilitated with slides, including financial and life cycle analyses, to grasp key decision-making criteria and align on path forward.
Team members: Winnie Chaichutpornsuk ’21, Jane Lurojruang ’21, Guy Wongthongsri ’21
Safi Organics is a carbon-negative, locally produced fertilizer based in Nyandarua, Kenya. The company is seeking to understand the financial circumstances for its pilot test and the expansion plan with carbon credits as an additional source of revenue. Safi Organics is currently operating a small-scale pilot serving 3,500 farmers. Thus, the team conducted unit cost analysis for the client to understand its cost drivers and break even points. Furthermore, the team constructed the financial projection for the next 5 years based on the scale-up plan and research on carbon credit markets. Finally, with the immense potential growth, the team discussed the next steps with the client about the fund raising, agricultural residual for fertilizer production, and carbon credit market.
Uprise Wind Energy
Team members: Shanthakumar Bannirchelvam ’22, Clemencia Vera ’22
Uprise Energy has developed the most technologically advanced 10kW small wind turbine on the market, that also happens to be portable and fits in a 20' (6m) shipping container. It can be conveniently towed by a standard vehicle, sets up in one hour, and produces affordable electricity without the need for site improvements or lengthy wind studies, heavy equipment or specialty training.
The team worked on solving for sustainable energy access as a systemic solution by targeting energy access, affordability and decarbonizing the energy mix in emerging Asia and North America. They developed the structure for a project finance Special Purpose Vehicle and UN SDG-linked Bond that will comply with the highest tier of the UNDP SDG Impact Bond Standards released in 2020. This capital will be used to purchase and set up wind turbines. This will then be used to provide energy to users. The energy will be priced to incorporate generation costs and distributed manufacturing costs and is typically cheaper than standard energy prices. This structure allows for individual homes and businesses who cannot afford the upfront investment to access distributed green power generation at a lower cost than the existing alternatives such as Diesel Generators.
Team members: Hugo Chang ’21, Nick Franco ’21, Courtney Johnson ’21, Jiaming Yu ’21
Transportation represents 22 percent of global CO2 emissions generated across passenger cars, trucks, aviation, and shipping. Commercial fleets represent a significant portion of this total and are in the early stages of a large-scale shift to electric vehicles. There is a nascent but fast-developing ecosystem of vehicle OEMs, charging vendors, finance providers, and technology startups working to address many barriers to this transition.
The team helped Wireframe better understand the commercial EV ecosystem by developing an industry mapping of key players, conducting interviews with industry experts, and formulating an investment thesis. The industry mapping helped the team break down the commercial EV value chain and understand the key trends. The expert interviews helped the team to gather first-hand insights on key bottlenecks, including economic and non-economic considerations for fleet decision-makers. Finally, the team synthesized the findings and formed an investment thesis for how different market segments are likely to make this transition and which technologies or business models are most promising.