To solve our world’s toughest problems, we need bold, innovative solutions. But too often, those most impacted have the least opportunity to create change.
The Dream.Org Climate Tech LaunchPad is disrupting that norm by helping Black and Latinx innovators scale cutting-edge ideas that move the needle on climate equity. By reducing barriers for Black and Brown entrepreneurs in the climate tech space, we are helping ensure that those most impacted by climate change not only benefit from new green tech, but that they are also active participants in shaping what those solutions are.
Thanks to support from funders including the Salesforce Foundation, the San Francisco 49ers, and Wells Fargo, Dream.Org is teaming up with Village Capital to launch this milestone-based fellowship program for Black- and Latinx-led climate tech startups. Their innovative solutions help alleviate the environmental and economic impacts of climate change that are disproportionately felt by low-income communities and communities of color.
More than 40 startups from 13 states applied to be a part of the program. The final cohort is composed of 10 Black- and Latinx-led startups from eight states, with 70% of the cohort headquartered outside of major tech hubs and 70% female-led.
Meet the 10 innovative startups that comprise the final cohort:
- DrinKicks (Houston, TX) is a sneaker themed consumer packaged goods company focusing on repurposing food waste and recycled materials into sustainable goods such as shoes, sports equipment, and clothing all while educating consumers on the power of the circular economy.
- ECGO (Cumming, GA) is a recycling solutions company that creates tech-based solutions to help universities, municipalities, and corporate offices reach their zero-waste goals.
- Eco Rescue (San Marcos, TX) provides a waste to resource, breeding Black Soldier fly larvae on food waste.
- Edenic Energy (Portsmouth, VA) makes outdated buildings better in underserved communities through an Internet of Things infrastructure network to save wasted energy and operation cost.
- Frontline Gig (Baltimore, MD) powers on-demand green workforce programs that standardize environmental data collection and amplify social impact.
- Generation Conscious (New York, NY) makes sustainable detergent more affordable and convenient by eliminating 500k tons of plastic per year.
- Kadeya (Chicago, IL) has developed a patent-pending kiosk that washes, sanitizes, inspects, and refills bottles to eliminate the need for single use beverage containers, starting with industrial workers most in need of low-cost, high-quality, convenient hydration.
- Olokun Minerals (Los Angeles, CA) extracts valuable metals and minerals from salty, mineral-rich wastewater streams and creates products that can be used in concrete to build infrastructure, fertilizers for agriculture, and batteries for electronics and vehicles.
- Rebundle (St. Louis, MO) is the first US-made plant-based hair extensions brand, revolutionizing hair extensions with more comfort and less waste.
- WAJU Water (Richmond, CA) is a BIPOC-owned beverage company revolutionizing hydration by sustainably upcycling water from fruit, merging exceptional taste and nutrient-rich benefits in an eco-friendly beverage that caters to the health of both consumers and the planet.
Kristeen Reynolds is a Texas certified public accountant and the CEO and cofounder of DrinKicks. DrinKicks is a CPG company that repurposes food waste and recycled materials into sustainable shoes. DrinKicks also has a strong emphasis on educating consumers about the power of the circular economy. She is active in her community and serves as a Port Arthur Chamber Ambassador, the Professional Development Chair of the SETX Young Professionals Organization, and a member of the Port Arthur Young Emerging Leaders. Kristeen earned a Bachelors and Masters of Accounting from Lamar University. She serves on the Lamar University College of Business Young Professionals Board, the Reaud Honors College Alumni Advisory Board, and the Ron Brown National Leaders Network Council. She was a 2022 SETX 40 under 40 honoree and 2022 YEL Heavy Hitter award recipient. Kristeen also owns a sports marketing company, real estate investment company, and serves as an advisor to various startups.
Nicole Toole is the CEO and founder of ECGO. Nicole graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor's in Computer Information Systems. She's spent the last 5-years researching student and consumer behaviors around recycling which led to the development of ECGO. Nicole believes that everyone has the power to make a positive impact in the world if you have the courage to do so.
Ryan Walden is the CTO and co-founder of ECGO. Ryan graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor's in Computer Science and has a background in Artificial Intelligence Research and Development. He's spent the past two and a half years transforming companies through work in big data and machine learning. He has always been passionate about technology that makes our world a better place.
Monica De La Rosa, the visionary CEO and founder behind ECO RESCUE, LLC, a groundbreaking startup on a mission to revolutionize food waste. With an impressive track record in sales and technology implementation spanning two decades, Monica has consistently demonstrated her exceptional skills in conflict resolution and customer relations.
Monica's unwavering dedication to the economics and business aspects of renewable solutions and sustainable projects has been honed over 12 years. Now, she has set her sights on a pioneering of Black Soldier Fly Insect breeding. This pioneering endeavor holds immense potential to transform the way we approach ecological preservation and resource management.
Thomas Hunter is a seasoned entrepreneur with over a decade of experience starting and growing businesses in the financial, software development, and consulting sectors. He has a track record of developing and implementing innovative solutions to tackle some of the world's most pressing problems. One of Thomas's most notable accomplishments is growing a financial agency from a single agent to a team of 50, while managing over $70 million in assets. In recent years, he has focused his efforts on climate tech solutions that have a direct impact on the built environment. Thomas is highly skilled in predictive analytics and has earned accreditations in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). He is also an innovator at IMPEL, a Department of Energy tech-to-market program aimed at advancing building technologies. Funded by the Building Technologies Office and implemented by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, IMPEL helps bring innovative ideas to market. In addition to his professional pursuits, Thomas holds a degree in Engineering Technology with a specialization in Renewable Energy from DeVry University. Throughout his studies and career, he has demonstrated a passion for finding ways to address the challenges of sustainability and environmental conservation.
Dr. Kala Fleming is an innovator and engineer on a mission to reduce the costs of climate to vulnerable populations while connecting more doers to the green economy. She launched Frontline Gig to empower new climate and environmental justice leaders with labor and data to reduce vulnerability across frontline communities. In the process, Frontline Gig is creating new entry-level, flexible work opportunities for non-traditional blue-collar workers such as students and small business owners.
Previously, she held strategy and research roles at IBM, working with clients to establish differentiated market positions through the use of emerging technologies such as IoT, AI and blockchain. Her seminal TED talk in 2015 on creating digital aquifers inspired a range of forward-thinking water management projects, from Kenya to California, that seek to use more granular water activity data to reduce water scarcity risks.
Dr. Fleming holds a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has lived and worked in the US, Caribbean, Kenya, Ghana and the Philippines and is a frequent speaker at entrepreneurship, international development and innovation-related events.
G.L. grew up near a waste transfer station in Jamaica, Queens, NYC before moving to Long Island with his Trinidadian-Italian family. Seeing the health impacts of the waste station on his community motivated him to found Generation Conscious. His mission is to create sustained change by radically rejecting the systems and structures perpetuating racial and economic injustice; carbon, plastic, water-waste and pollution—replacing these infrastructures and their consequences with systems and structures that generate true sustainability, equity and accessibility! By utilizing ecosystemic design principles to build circular economy infrastructures, he is eliminating single-use plastic while securing the hygiene needs of everyday citizens. G.L.’s passion away from work is soccer. He won the Under 18 Youth National Soccer Championship and went on to captain the men’s team at Amherst College. G.L. still loves the game, although a little slower than he was, he enjoys the competition and being part of a team.
Manuela Zoninsein is the CEO and Founder of Kadeya. Previously, she worked at Palantir Technologies in international business development focused on CPG, introducing the company to five new markets. As a serial climate entrepreneur, she has launched two businesses in the agritech space, one a data service in China, which was acquired by a partner, and one in Brazil, now that country’s largest online marketplace for smallholder farmers.
Before going into business, Manuela served as a correspondent in China, where she lived for eight years. She moved to Beijing with a Princeton-in-Asia Fellowship in 2007 and reported for Newsweek and The Engineering News-Record, covering environment, technology, infrastructure, and transportation during the cleantech revolution. She was also the dining editor of Time Out Beijing.
As an angel, Manuela has invested in over 30 women-led companies focused on sustainability through Love Zero Ventures. Until returning to Chicago in the summer of 2021 with her husband and son, she was involved in tech and entrepreneurship training for underrepresented communities in New York City.
Manuela holds an MBA from MIT-Sloan, an MSc from the University of Oxford, and a BA from Harvard University. She attended Evanston Township High School and is a proud Brazilian immigrant fluent in Mandarin-Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese.
As CEO of Olokun Minerals, Lacey is responsible for the global operations of the company. She holds a dual degree in Math and Civil Engineering with a concentration in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering from Spelman College and Columbia University, respectively. Since starting her career 10 years ago, she has worked in both the public and private sectors across industries including power utilities, oil & gas, commercial design-build construction, watershed management, and transportation infrastructure management.
Ciara Imani May, Founder, and CEO of Rebundle, is creating space for Black women in clean beauty with the first U.S -made plant-based hair extensions brand. Ciara's combined passion for sustainability and understanding of health disparities in personal care products inspired the vision for Rebundle's first product, braidbetter. Before launching Rebundle, Ciara earned her bachelor's in business management from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her master's in social entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California. Ciara is committed to providing women with more comfort and less waste through eco-friendly and non-toxic hair extensions that we deserve.
Ciara's passion for sustainability and experience as a Black woman wearing braids led her to create a non-toxic, eco-friendly hair extension alternative.
Chris Oates, Founder and CEO of WAJU Water, is at the forefront of beverage industry innovation with his groundbreaking idea of utilizing water naturally sourced from fruit, offering a more sustainable solution to traditional water sourcing methods. With nearly a decade of experience at PepsiCo, where he led the Emerging Beverage Innovation team, Chris pairs keen trend forecasting with a commitment to sustainability and health-focused products. His academic prowess, demonstrated by an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a Bachelor's from UNC-Chapel Hill, further bolsters his practical expertise, steering WAJU Water's mission to tackle water scarcity and redefine the beverage landscape.
From August to October 2023, the selected startups will participate in a one-week intensive workshop, three monthly check-ins, and one in-person summit, as well as receive mentorship from potential strategic partners, investors, consultants, customers, and other founders in the US. The top two startups will be selected by their peers to receive USD $25,000 each in investments from Dream.Org to further scale their solutions. In addition, each company will be receiving USD $5,000 in non-dilutive capital for participation and completion of the program.
We are proud to showcase the Climate Tech LaunchPad at the Startup Pavilion during VERGE 23 — the leading climate tech event — taking place October 24-26 in San Jose, CA. Join us and more than 5,000 professionals addressing the climate crisis while reimagining and redesigning our world to be more prosperous, sustainable and resilient. Join us and use the code V23DREAM at registration for 20% off the All-Access Pass.