Leading Australian tech startup angel investor Mick Liubinskas has turned his focus to climate tech. Here’s some of the startups to keep an eye on over the coming years.
Mick Liubinskas certainly looms large as a visionary figure in Australia’s tech startup community.
He is perhaps best known as the co-founder of the pioneering Australian start-up incubator and consultancy Pollenizer with Phil Morle back in the 2000s, which started 25 companies, as well as for heading up Telstra’s muru-D incubator program, alongside Annie Parker.
Among his many accomplishments as a tech investor and entrepreneur was a shrewd early investment in the group buying site Spreets, which was sold to Yahoo in 2011 for around $40 million after just 13 months.
In short, when Liubinskas turns his gaze to a part of the tech or startup landscape, people tend to pay attention. And right now, his focus has turned to climate startups, through an organisation called Climate Salad.
Dishing up a Climate Salad
In an interview with The Fifth Estate, Liubinskas describes Climate Salad as being more of a supportive community network than a professional services organisation.
Member companies get help with recruiting their teams, raising capital and growing their supporter base, along with community peer-to-peer support, workshops, mentoring, tools, content, events, showcases and programs.
“It’s built on the premise that Australia could really have a really thriving and strong climate technology industry – so let’s support it and try to grow it,” Liubinksas says.
Climate Salad began just 12 months ago, in June 2021 as a monthly email newsletter. But Liubinskas says he was swarmed with interest from entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, scientists, mentors and governments and the initial idea ballooned.
It now has a small but growing team that includes experts such as Olivia Utharntharm, Charlotte Connell, and Jess Taylor, supporting a community of around 200 companies and 500 entrepreneurs.
While Liubinskas says the organisation is independent, it has some prominent supporters. They include Morle, who now heads up the CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures innovation fund.
“Our 2030 mission is to help 1000 climate tech companies and have at least 10 become global successes,” he says.
Investment in climate startups hits $1.4 billion
There’s certainly good cause for Liubinksas’ optimism, according to the organisation’s 2022 Australia & New Zealand Climate Tech Industry Report, which was released on Tuesday.
It shows Australia’s 171 climate tech companies now have a total valuation of $4.2 billion. They have raised $1.4 billion over the past 12 months, with about half coming from international investors.
The sector has already created a jobs boom, with 4000 positions already created and over 2000 more expected over the next year.
Roughly two out of every five startups in the space (39.7 per cent) have at least one female founder.
While a large proportion of climate tech startups are in the well-established data and finance sector (21.1 per cent), the circular economy (19.9 per cent) and built environment (5.8 per cent) are providing fertile ground for new ventures.
Some built environment startups to watch
Liubinskas says there’s a number of innovative companies and organisations doing good things around the built environment, especially when it comes to construction.
They include IKG Industries, which is working to reduce embedded carbon in buildings by bringing hemp-based building products, such as concrete, to the Australian market.
BPI rating is a service for rating and comparing building products based on their environmental credentials, with a growing database of 3469 products from 786 suppliers.
Adelaide-based ValAi helps residential customers to understand how sustainable their homes are, and provides tailored advice when they’re designing new homes.
Wattwatchers creates technology platforms that enables homes and businesses to become more energy efficient and maximise their use of renewables.
Meanwhile, Office of Planetary Observations is a platform that uses satellite data to help city planners with urban planning.
But the thing that really sets the climate tech startup sector apart, Liubinkskas says, is that it’s a very collaborative and positive community.
“A spirit of collaboration and positivity I’d never felt before,” he says.