Investing in sustainable businesses and organizations is one of the most important things we can do as individuals to push towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. New technology takes time, money, and resources to bring ideas into actual products and services, and it is through investments in forward thinking people that these ideas come to life. Going Green had the chance to sit own Aaron Fyke, the Founder of Thin Line Capital, to discuss his experience in financing a sustainable future.
Tell us about your background:
I have spent over twenty years as an entrepreneur, engineer, and investor, having cofounded six companies in a number of technology areas including fuel cell, ocean power, concentrating solar, and energy storage technologies.
I am currently the Founder and Managing Partner of Thin Line Capital, bringing investment capital to bear on some of the world’s toughest problems in energy, water and food sustainability. The 2nd wave of clean tech innovation has begun and now is the time to act.
While CEO of Edisun Heliostats (now Heliogen), I was committed to lowering the costs of solar thermal power. Backed by Idealab, Bill Gates, NRG, and others, Edisun has received recognition from Hawaii’s Energy Excelerator as their only company to be accepted into both their 2015 and 2016 portfolio cohorts. Prior to Edisun, I was the Founder and CEO of Energy Cache, a low-cost grid scale energy storage technology company, serving a multi-billion dollar energy market. I continued my involvement with gravity storage as one of the founders of Energy Vault, which recently closed $110M investment from Softbank.
Previously I headed up the development of a $10M X PRIZE in Energy for the X PRIZE Foundation. Prior to that I was a Partner at Starfish Ventures, Australia’s largest venture capital firm, where I led the investment into the fund’s biggest investment and exit – Ausra, a KPCB and Khosla Ventures backed solar thermal energy company.
I have been an adjunct lecturer on entrepreneurship at USC and continues as a member of the Viterbi Venture Fund’s Investment Committee. I have also been a consultant and keynote speaker to utilities (e.g., TransAlta), corporations (e.g., Google), and a number of conference and media events (MIT Tech Review, AlwaysOn Going Green and others).
I earned my MBA and MSME as an LGO fellow at MIT, and my BEng in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Victoria, graduating at the top of his class. I have been certified as a Professional Engineer both in California and British Columbia.
What caused you to get into financing a sustainable future?
My first engagement with the zero carbon industry was back in the mid-90s. California had passed a resolution for 2% zero emission vehicles by 2002, which started the EV revolution. I started my career in electric vehicle research in Canada as an engineer, and didn’t migrate to an interest in renewables and the electricity grid until much later.
What trends are you seeing in your industry?
Coal is a dying industry, caught in a death spiral reinforced by the fact that as global adoption falls, then economies of scale disappear, causing coal to continue to lose a cost advantage, causing for more coal abandonment. While it is about ten years off, the same dynamics will happen with natural gas (replaced by renewables with storage), and transportation fuels (replaced by EVs).
What is one Action Item for our listeners and viewers to take away from this conversation?
This is a collective problem, only addressable with collective solutions. Our governments are not providing these and therefore it is imperative to vote. Vote in every election – national, state, or local. Vote for candidates who recognize that this is the biggest societal change since the Industrial Revolution and the US needs to take a leadership role, or else risks irrelevancy.
What is a fun fact about you?
I taught myself to juggle and really only know one good magic trick. I still have my Atari computer and play it with my kids. I can make a wicked Eggs Benedict even when on a camping trip.
Where do you see your industry ten years from now?
We have less than 10 years of carbon budget left. I see that 10 years from now, the opportunities and urgency to reshaping our entire economic system towards a zero-carbon approach will be well underway. We need to be on a war footing here, and we’ll be there and well down that road in ten years. I’m in the investment space. To quote legendary VC investor John Doerr, “the best way to predict the future is to finance it”. I plan to work with the best entrepreneurs who will bring those new technologies and solutions to market to make this happen.
Thank you Aaron for taking the time and sharing your experience financing a sustainable future.
Going Green interviews leading experts in cleantech, sustainability, media, finance, and real estate on the Going Green podcast. Tune in and subscribe to the podcast on Apple or Spotify to listen to interviews with leading cleantech and sustainable experts.