Supercritical, a carbon removal marketplace aimed at tech firms, raises $13M Series A led by Lightspeed

Supercritical, the carbon removal marketplace aimed (at the moment) mainly at tech companies that want to hit ‘net zero’, has raised a $13 million Series A funding round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

The round includes funding from RTP Global, Greencode Ventures, MMC Ventures and others. We covered Supercritical’s launch back in August 2021, when it pointed out that the carbon footprint of the technology sector had — embarrassingly — been proven to be greater than the entire aviation industry.

The startup aggregates business demand for cutting edge carbon removal technologies. So in a similar scenario of Tesla starting out with an electric sports car so that it could eventually launch a family saloon, Supercritical gives companies access to these cutting edge technologies which have the potential to scale far beyond just planting some forests etc.

Supercritical’s marketplace allows companies to purchase so-called “fully-vetted and qualified” carbon removal credits, to the level of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) industry standard.

The funding will be used to scale it’s offering to tech companies, but, as co-founder and CEO Michelle You told me: “We are continuing to focus on tech companies but also will use the funding to broaden the offering. Every company in the world will have to get to net zero emissions if we’re going to stay below 1.5C of warming. There is no way of getting to net zero without buying permanent carbon removal to net out the remaining emissions.”

Clients for Supercritical’s approach include banking platform Tide, algorithmic trading firm XTX Markets, as well as Veriff, Multiverse and IMC.

She pointed out that there is already in the momentum in the market: “Already 1/3rd of global market cap have made a voluntary commitment to net zero via the Science Based Targets initiative. Every single business will have to buy permanent carbon removal so the opportunity to scale CDR by serving other verticals is huge.”

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) refers to approaches that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The alternative, carbon offsets, has frequently been found to be at best ineffective, and even fraudulent.

In June an investigation by the Guardian newspaper, the German weekly Die Zeit and SourceMaterial, found that more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by the biggest global certifier, Verra, were allegedly worthless.

By contrast, Carbon Dioxoide Removal (CDR) offsets are the only offsets recognised internationally that count towards net zero, by actually taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it away permanently.

However, CDR capacity is disappointing to date, to put it mildly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that only around 600,000 tonnes of CDR were purchased in 2022 – less than 0.01% of the 10 gigatonnes which we need to take out of the atmosphere annually by 2050.

Aa a marketplace, Supercritical says it focuses on “high-quality, vetted, durable CDR projects” including biochar, direct air capture (DAC) and enhanced weathering as well as afforestation. Because it aggregates demand from buyers, Supercritical says it acts as a market maker, which means CDR projects can then scale up. It also buys from cutting edge climate startups (see the Tesla analogy above) on new approaches to sequestering CO2. This last May, Supercritical went into a long-term agreement with Carbo Culture, a startup which converts carbon-containing biomass into biochar at commercial scale. In 2021, Carbo Culture raised $6.2 million in seed a financing round led by Silicon Valley VC True Ventures.

In a statement, Paul Murphy, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners said: “Supercritical is doing something unique. By focusing exclusively on carbon removal offsets, they are helping businesses invest in the places that will actually deliver climate impact while they work in parallel to decarbonise.”

Supercritical is backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners, GreenCode Ventures, MMC Ventures. It was previously backed by LocalGlobe and angel investors including Peter Reinhardt (Twilio Segment and Charm Industrial), Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter), Alice Bentinck (Entrepreneur First), Gustaf Alströmer (Y Combinator) and Evelyn Bourke (Bupa).

The market for startups either taking a marketplace or a market-maker approach is hotting up. In May, I reported on that climate startup CUR8 had raised $6.5M from GV for its market-making platform for carbon removals.

While Supercritical is a marketplace and does carbon accounting and removal sales mainly aimed at tech firms, CUR8 only focuses on removals and driving demand and access to finance for the suppliers.

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