VERGE23: Takeaways and Thoughts from the Leading Climate Tech Event
By Scott Meyers
Photo caption: Scott Meyers with the GreenPortfolio team at VERGE23
VERGE 23, the leading climate tech event, recently took place, bringing together thought leaders from various sectors. The event emphasized the importance of collaboration and innovation in the fight against the climate crisis. This was my first time attending VERGE, and it exceeded all my expectations. Being around so many individuals with a collective determination to address the climate crisis, as well as seeing all of the climate tech innovations was inspiring.
My objectives for attending VERGE were twofold. First, I wanted to establish strong connections and partnerships within the climate tech community. Additionally, I was on a mission to identify and recruit startups for Venture For ClimateTech’s (V4C) fourth cohort.
On a more personal note, I wanted to rekindle my excitement with the climate movement. Being based in Rochester, New York, I sometimes feel a bit disconnected from the broader climate tech community. VERGE was the perfect opportunity to break free from that isolation, gain fresh insights, and reignite my passion for the field in a whole new way.
From my perspective, the conference had a diverse mix of participants. About half of the attendees were startups in the climate tech sector and the other half of attendees included investors, panelists, utility companies, and government organization representatives. A lot of the startups that were attending had space at what was called “the startup pavilion”, which made it easy to connect and engage with these companies. There also was a stage in the middle of this section where startups could deliver 60-second pitches. This made learning about new technologies more dynamic, and sparked good conversations surrounding them.
Most of the panels and programming were made up of people from the West Coast, but the attendees themselves were from all over the country, which made for an interesting mix of perspectives. I even met some people from Buffalo, NY and Cleveland, OH, which was a pleasant surprise.
The session that stood out the most to me delved into a critical question – how do we adapt the grid to support the electrification of various sectors? The experts in this session, including representatives from the Department of Energy and PG&E, shed light on the challenges and opportunities in this space.
A key focus was how electrifying transportation and buildings is vital, but upgrading the grid to facilitate this transformation is equally important. In the past, renewable energy was predominantly associated with solar power, and now, electric vehicles have taken center stage, and these two things are sometimes viewed as the solution to the crisis. However, if we were to snap our fingers and switch everything to electric power overnight, eliminating the need for fossil fuels, our current grid infrastructure would not be able to support it. So we need to work towards solutions that can help scale the grid.
The climate tech industry can at times give the impression that there is a singular, all-encompassing solution to the climate crisis, but the programming at VERGE emphasized just the opposite, highlighting the absence of a one-size-fits-all remedy. Panelists emphasized the vital role of cooperation among stakeholders in tackling climate challenges. It’s not about one specific emerging climate technology; it’s about the conversations and collaboration among different stakeholders. Grid enhancements, long-duration energy storage, and microgrid development – all these components have to work together to make electrification a tangible reality.
One of the challenges that conferences can present is forming meaningful connections in a limited time frame. No matter how many connections I made each day, I always felt there was room for more. But I left VERGE with a larger network than I started with, and that’s a definite win in my book. Meeting V4C alums and cohort members I had only met virtually was a highlight, and it was great to strengthen relationships with those I’d previously spent time with in-person and see how they’ve progressed.
Something that I realized during the conference was that the climate tech space is smaller than I initially imagined. It’s a close-knit community where people genuinely care about each other’s success. The atmosphere in this space isn’t as competitive as you might find in a traditional market. This is because everyone shares the same overarching goal of combating climate change, so when one person succeeds, it’s a win for the entire community.
Without a doubt, I would attend VERGE again. It was well-organized, informative, and filled with passionate individuals who could bring tremendous value to the V4C program. It would have been a missed opportunity not to be there, and I would encourage anyone who has been thinking about attending to go.