Hello from the other side!

We are Cass and Eugene, two former Google software engineers who left Google in July 2020 to work on climate together. This post is written by Eugene.


Since the time Cass and I left Google, we've been keeping busy, and we are super grateful to so many people cheering us on. Thank you for joining us on our adventure and expressing interest in following our path!

Climate goes viral

When I shared my goodbye post on LinkedIn, I expected a couple "Cool man, good luck on your adventures!", but apparently it hit a nerve and went viral with 500K+ views.

Hundreds of people reached out—people who already work in climate expressed their support, and people who want to work in climate asked for advice.

The resulting conversations sparked two of our efforts since then: learning from experts, and starting a community.

Conversations with climate experts

We've talked to about 80 people so far, working in areas from activism to nuclear energy research to carbon removal, and even several people from Shell and Exxon (Did you know that most current industrial carbon capture facilities are operated by fossil fuel companies? Caveat: most of them are used for oil recovery).

I have been absolutely floored by the quality of people in the climate space—everyone we talked to was passionate, friendly and welcoming, driven by the desire to avert the climate crisis and to bring more people to this cause.

If you want to work with the best people you’ll ever work with, look no further than climate tech. There is no other industry with this combination of skill and true passion.

We have learned an incredible amount and will write up our main takeaways from those calls over the next several weeks.

The Work On Climate community

The reaction to my post made two things abundantly clear to me.

  1. The tech community is ready to go, abuzz with desire to work on climate.
    The climate tech industry is about to explode, in the best possible sense of the word.

  2. The main reasons why people aren’t working on climate yet are psychological: being unsure exactly where to start, unsure whether they have something to offer the space (hint: they do), unsure whether there are others like them (hint: there are), unsure whether it’s a good idea financially (we’re at the beginning of the largest industrial and economic transformation in history!).
    I was in the same boat just a few months ago and could empathize!

Feeling that one of the most effective things to do was help these people make the jump, we founded the Work On Climate community — its sole purpose is to get more people working on climate, centered around people sharing and teaming up on actions that bring them closer to that goal, and connecting people with work and mentorship.

Our organizers for this effort have grown to a diverse core team of 10 people with backgrounds ranging from tech, law and chemistry to environmental justice and orchestral conducting.

Pachama

Just this week we finished up a 1 month long consultancy with Pachama, a company that uses remote sensing and machine learning to create an efficient market for high-quality reforestation carbon offsets. This space is ripe for disruption: currently entering these markets is next to impossible for small land owners.

Did you know that currently starting a new certified reforestation project for providing carbon offsets typically involves over $100k in upfront costs?

As my main contribution to Pachama’s satellite data processing pipeline, I ended up fixing bugs in Apache Beam—a nostalgic moment, after my 5 years on the team at Google that created it.

Overall, this has been a fantastic experience—I fell in love with the people on the team and learned a ton about forests, carbon offsets, and satellite imagery. Expect a longer post about Pachama in the coming weeks.

Funding emergent climate tech

Many climate solutions experts, especially scientists, lamented to us the difficulty of getting funding for early-stage research projects on climate technology.

Climate tech projects with breakthrough potential often need very modest amounts of funding (from $10-20k to a few $M) to get to the next technology readiness level, but even among climate-conscious investors, many—especially investors not specializing in climate tech—end up funding technologies they are more familiar with, e.g. solar.

As a result, vital research like carbon removal ends up underfunded by 30-100x. Social science—obviously a critical part of the picture—gets only 0.12% of funding.

According to a former ARPA-E fellow we talked to, many Congress members are not aware that ARPA-E exists, so small is its ~$350M funding in the overall US budget. The White House repeatedly proposed eliminating ARPA-E, but Congress has increased the funding.

We've been brainstorming ideas on closing the gap between what technology gets funded and what experts say should be funded, getting inspiration from models like GiveWell and getting feedback from people in the climate investment space. If you have connections to climate investing or philanthropy space, we’d very much appreciate talking to you!

In conclusion

Leaving Google to work on climate has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Nothing compares to the feeling of being with the right people, working on the right stuff.

Join the tribe and let’s fix the damn thing!