Over the past year and a half, we at Version One have spent significant time on energy and climate. To date, we’ve made three investments in this space but have only announced Patch. Today, we are thrilled to share that we’ve backed SilviaTerra, a precision forestry startup.
SilviaTerra is building a Natural Capital Exchange (NCAPX), a marketplace for landowners and large corporations to exchange gigatons of new carbon offsets. To address the climate crisis, the team is focused on balancing the carbon cycle: carbon heats the earth and for all the carbon we add to the atmosphere, we need to actively draw it back down. One way to do this is with forests, which naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
With that said, forest management is critical but options for landowners have been limited. Traditionally, landowners make money by selling timber; trees are harvested for industrial purposes (and thus no longer able to capture carbon). Or landowners can also sell carbon offsets and get paid for the carbon captured by their trees. However, many are unaware that the latter is a viable option despite the growing commitments from large companies and governments to neutralize their footprint.
In addition, the lack of transparency and validation in existing carbon offset programs has led to major questions about their true impact. How do we know what is happening in a forest? Are the trees standing and capturing carbon or have they been harvested? Are landowners selling carbon from the same trees to multiple buyers? As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
SilviaTerra offers an innovative approach to this challenge. They have mapped every acre of forest in the US via a mixture of satellite and on-the-ground forester data (see Basemap image below). From here, they have built NCAPX to connect landowners with companies seeking to purchase carbon offsets. NCAPX settles annually on the basis of SilviaTerra’s measurement, and suppliers will get paid only if their forest was maintained or grew.
The cool thing about mapping forests in the US is that SilviaTerra can now identify unique marketplace supply with data and empower landowners (big or small) to participate as a supplier in NCAPX – this aligns well with our core belief of democratizing access to resources.
And most importantly for us as investors, SilviaTerra is founded by mission-driven entrepreneurs. The story starts with CEO Zack Parisa who grew up in the woods of northern Alabama. Since childhood, Zack knew that he wanted to spend his life among the trees. He received forestry training at Mississippi State and a graduate degree at the Yale School of Forestry. He has worked in forests all over the world, from the southern US to Armenia and Brazil. In each place, Zack saw how communities depend on their local forests for critical resources (e.g. timber for homes, fuelwood, habitat for wildlife, water purification, hillside stabilization). And at the same time, he also saw each community struggle to achieve balance in their forests.
Zack co-founded SilviaTerra with Yale computer science student Max Nova in 2010. Over the last decade, they have built an incredible team of forestry and machine learning experts to lead the precision forestry revolution.
We feel lucky to be a part of the SilviaTerra journey, as we are big believers in its mission to create real, immediate, scalable, and efficient climate impact by optimizing forest management. We co-led the $4.4M seed round with Union Square Ventures’ climate-tech fund, and are joined by other funds and private investors including Marc Benioff, Ben Silbermann, Mark Tercek, Scribble Ventures, Gratitude Railroad, Alpha Edison, and CoFound Partners.