CleanTechies Podcast

#155 Supporting Underrepresented Founders, Hardware MVP & Scaling, Partnering w/ Corporates, & More w/ Ryan Jeffery (Gener8tor)

February 11, 2024 Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor) Season 1 Episode 155
#155 Supporting Underrepresented Founders, Hardware MVP & Scaling, Partnering w/ Corporates, & More w/ Ryan Jeffery (Gener8tor)
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CleanTechies Podcast
#155 Supporting Underrepresented Founders, Hardware MVP & Scaling, Partnering w/ Corporates, & More w/ Ryan Jeffery (Gener8tor)
Feb 11, 2024 Season 1 Episode 155
Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor)

Silas speaks with Ryan Jeffery, Sr. Managing Director of the Sustainability Accelerators at Gener8tor, a collection of Accelerators that serve the rest of the country outside of SF, NYC, and Boston, where the majority of VC dollars go.

(Take the CleanTechies Listeners Survey to help us better serve you)

Ryan started as a founder. Later, he became a VC and eventually ended up in Gener8tor running the sustainability-focused accelerators because of his desire to be closer to the founders and more involved.

He shared a lot of great data on where funding goes, his story, why investing in underserved founders is, beyond being the right thing to do, also leads to better returns.

Enjoy the episode! 🌱🌎

🌎 Want the full PodLetter? Go to our substack to see the written content that supplements the audio interview.  
🚨🚨🚨 Shoutout to our sponsor Net Zero Insights — Net Zero Insights is the leading market intelligence platform on climate information with all the latest you need on funding rounds, VCs, and the climate tech ecosystem. Use this link to schedule your demo and get a 10% discount!! 🚨🚨🚨
📺 👀 Prefer to watch: subscribe on YouTube
🗣️ Take the Listeners Survey
📫 Get Written Summaries of Each Episode in Your Inbox
🌐 Join the CleanTechies Slack Channel

**4:00 Joining Gener8tor
**7:40 Biz Model, Challenges, & Financing an Accelerator
**8:56 Partnering w/ Corps
**11:35 Focus on Underserved Areas
**13:54 The Role of Non-Silicon Valley States in Climate Transition
**22:00 Value Add of an Accelerator
**34:13 Collab in Non-Tech Hub Areas
**40:27 Gap for These Founders
**42:03 Role of AI in Solving Climate Change
**49:40 Milestones for Hard Tech Companies
**57:46 Hiring & Building a Team
**59:57 Raising Tips
**1:06:44 Advice to Investors
**1:08:19 Getting into VC

**Ryan Jeffery | Gener8tor
**Check out our Sponsor, NextWave Partners
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on X 

Support the Show.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Silas speaks with Ryan Jeffery, Sr. Managing Director of the Sustainability Accelerators at Gener8tor, a collection of Accelerators that serve the rest of the country outside of SF, NYC, and Boston, where the majority of VC dollars go.

(Take the CleanTechies Listeners Survey to help us better serve you)

Ryan started as a founder. Later, he became a VC and eventually ended up in Gener8tor running the sustainability-focused accelerators because of his desire to be closer to the founders and more involved.

He shared a lot of great data on where funding goes, his story, why investing in underserved founders is, beyond being the right thing to do, also leads to better returns.

Enjoy the episode! 🌱🌎

🌎 Want the full PodLetter? Go to our substack to see the written content that supplements the audio interview.  
🚨🚨🚨 Shoutout to our sponsor Net Zero Insights — Net Zero Insights is the leading market intelligence platform on climate information with all the latest you need on funding rounds, VCs, and the climate tech ecosystem. Use this link to schedule your demo and get a 10% discount!! 🚨🚨🚨
📺 👀 Prefer to watch: subscribe on YouTube
🗣️ Take the Listeners Survey
📫 Get Written Summaries of Each Episode in Your Inbox
🌐 Join the CleanTechies Slack Channel

**4:00 Joining Gener8tor
**7:40 Biz Model, Challenges, & Financing an Accelerator
**8:56 Partnering w/ Corps
**11:35 Focus on Underserved Areas
**13:54 The Role of Non-Silicon Valley States in Climate Transition
**22:00 Value Add of an Accelerator
**34:13 Collab in Non-Tech Hub Areas
**40:27 Gap for These Founders
**42:03 Role of AI in Solving Climate Change
**49:40 Milestones for Hard Tech Companies
**57:46 Hiring & Building a Team
**59:57 Raising Tips
**1:06:44 Advice to Investors
**1:08:19 Getting into VC

**Ryan Jeffery | Gener8tor
**Check out our Sponsor, NextWave Partners
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on X 

Support the Show.

Silas Mähner (00:00)
All right, welcome to the show, Ryan, how's it going?

Ryan Jeffery (00:04)
Hey Silas, good to see you, good to be here.

Silas Mähner (00:07)
Yeah, I'm super excited. Obviously we've talked about this before, but it's nice to have, to talk to other people from Wisconsin in climate. So why don't you just give us a quick background on yourself, kind of what you're doing today and how'd you end up here?

Ryan Jeffery (00:20)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, first, you know, again, you mentioned I'm from Madison, Wisconsin, originally. I live in Chicago now. I'm the senior managing director of sustainability here at Generator. So, been with Generator the last couple of years. I help oversee all of our investment. Accelerator programs focus on climate and sustainability, of which we've got half a dozen now. Previous Life was a three-time founder.

operator before that was an investor at a $200 million fund here in Chicago. So experience on both sides of the table and now using that experience to help support early stage founders tackling our biggest climate and environmental challenges.

Silas Mähner (01:04)
Yeah, so I really liked this. So I guess, you know, before we get too much into what generator does specifically, can you tell us, you know, why, why join generator specific? If you have those experiences as a founder, you've been an investor, why go to an accelerator type model? What was the motive?

Ryan Jeffery (01:39)
Yeah, that's

for reasons I didn't really know and didn't really understand, to be quite honest, because I hadn't had that founder and operating experience. And I think as an investor, I was an inch deep and a mile wide working with so many different founders that I felt like I needed to really hone in and get more of that operating and founder experience. And luckily, I was at a firm where we not only invested in companies, but also started companies. So I literally moved my desk to the other side of the table, helped start a company internally.

raised pretty quickly, raised about $15 million from Andreessen Horowitz, a couple others. And then grew that company to 200 people, learned a lot of lessons from that and applied those lessons to two additional startups that I helped start over the last 10 years. Was fortunate enough that my last company was acquired right at the start of the pandemic. And as I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, I'd always been passionate.

personally about climate and sustainability just hadn't been able to direct my career towards that specifically. And as I started to just think about what I wanted to do next, you know, I knew that that's where I wanted to direct my career was in climate and sustainability and knew as I was started, you know, on this learning journey, just learning as much as I possibly could about the space and what was needed, you know, I think I'm still on that learning journey, realized pretty quickly that the experience that I had is both a founder

and as an investor applied really well to early stage climate tech founders. And so I just started to support, work with those types of founders on the side. And it was around that time, two summers ago, I approached the partners at Generator. And I had known them for the last 10 years. I actually got started in Madison, Wisconsin, where I'm from. And I had mentored their first cohort. And I just sort of offhandedly mentioned to them that if they ever did anything around sustainability or climate to let me know, I'd love to co-invite them.

or mentor those startups and they came back a couple weeks later and said, hey, we want to do something in that space, but if we're going to do what we want you to, you delete it. So recruited me to join the team to launch our first sustainability focused program. And I think, you know, for me being an accelerator, it's a perfect combination of that founder hat, that operator hat and that investor hat, right? You're sitting right in between. You're not a peer investor, meaning you're not just

writing checks and then sort of rooting from the sidelines and you're not a founder, right? You're not sitting making the decisions for them. You're sort of right in between there. You're writing checks. You're having to do diligence. You have to source and find them. But I think in a lot of ways, you have to act as a founder, as a third, fourth, fifth co-founder for those teams because you have to add value as an accelerator. And so it's sort of that perfect combination for me is as sort of both that founder and an investor hat. And that's...

That's sort of the motivation for me to join the team and apply those skills to help early stage founders in this space.

Silas Mähner (04:46)
Yeah, I think that's quite interesting. I really do appreciate the, I guess you could say the foresight to be willing to, hey, I'm an investor, but I don't really know why I'm saying no to these things. I tend to say, hey, I should go get that experience. I think it's really common right now with a lot of young people just want to go straight into investing, right? VC investing. It's kind of sexy in some ways to those people because it's kind of an interesting lifestyle. You get to really talk to cool people. It's almost like I sometimes joke that...

investors, VC investors like to consider themselves like modern day philosophers, right? They're just sitting here thinking about cool ideas and theses, etc. So that's really interesting. And I guess what I'd like to transition to now is if you could, you talked about joining, we understand why you joined, but can you talk about the business model of an accelerator, right? I know there's various options, but can you talk about generators specifically because I think from my understanding, and this could be


But a lot of people choose not to go to accelerators or to build them because they're pretty difficult from kind of a finance perspective. You might have more money if you go be a founder or maybe it's a little bit less risky, but you still should make good money if you're in the long haul and if you're a good investor. So can you talk about the business model and that stuff?

Ryan Jeffery (06:09)
Yeah, certainly. So I think, you know, for us specifically, a generator, right, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we're, you know, when we're working and investing in early stage companies, we're taking a pretty big bet and a pretty big risk on a founder at their earliest stage, right? We're oftentimes their first, second, third check in. We're providing a lot of sweat equity.

into what they're doing. And I think, although we're an accelerator, I think actually we're probably, in terms of economics and the business model, more of a fund, right? We have LPs, investors that invest in us. And so we have to return that capital in order for the fund to perform and for us to continue to do it. And we've been doing this for 10 years.

a generator. So we sort of know what that model looks like. And I think, you know, I can talk more about generators specifically, but I think that the accelerator model in a lot of ways, it's still, you know, your, I think, let me take a step back really quick. I think an investor's role is threefold. One, it's to find and source the best deals that it possibly can. The second is to select the best deals that it possibly can. And the third is to add value in...

in as much capacity as it can. I think for an accelerator, that third element, adding value is particularly important because it helps tilt the odds more in the favor of the entrepreneur. And I think just the economics of investing as an accelerator, typically it's more expensive for a founder, you're giving them more equity to go through an accelerator. You have to be able to provide that value and that's really critical in order to make some of it work. And so, you know, I think

For us, again, our business model is to invest, to find the best startups that are out there, invest in those startups, select them, and then provide as much value as we can. And if we're doing that, then we're making, obviously returning the fund, making enough of that back so that we can continue to recycle that into additional companies and grow the impact that we can have overall.

Silas Mähner (08:28)
Yeah. Okay. Now I like that. I think it's quite interesting. When I spoke with Rick Zulo at Equal Ventures, I remember to me, it was very interesting that his perspective on being a VC was, I don't know, you can sit back to basics of what VC kind of was at the beginning, which is always with a very big emphasis on value add. And it's almost now, it seems like if you're going to bring so much value, you've got to be an accelerator in order to do it because there's just...

the VCs typically are not as focused. They want to provide value. They have a network and things like that, but they're not doing that extra work to get you de-risked and get you going, correct?

Ryan Jeffery (09:10)
I think a lot of VCs might take exception to that and I want to be careful because I do think a lot of VCs out there provide a significant amount of value. I think cash in a lot of ways is a commodity. I think VCs can provide a lot of value in terms of the support and the growth. But going back to what we talked about earlier, I think it's really important when a lot of people, younger people come to me and say, hey, what should I do in order to get into venture? The first thing I say is go join a startup.

Silas Mähner (09:13)

Ryan Jeffery (09:37)
be an operator, see what that's like. Because I think as a, when you do get into VC later in your career then, the advice, the perspective, the support, the value that you can provide is significantly higher when you have that perspective of a operator of a startup or a founder of a startup. And so, you know, I think, I think VCs can add a significant amount of value, but it has to be the right company at the right time, supporting it in the right way. And it doesn't have to, right? I think...

VCs can provide a lot of value just in the capital that they provide. I think specifically in climate, a lot of them are more deep tech or hard tech focus and more capital intensive. And so being able to just write a check and allow founders to execute, I think is value in and of itself. But I think for earlier stage and specifically for us as an accelerator, right, we have to be providing that value. Otherwise the economics of it don't make sense for that founder. And.

Silas Mähner (10:23)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Ryan Jeffery (10:34)
For us, it makes sense because we think we can help dictate the odds of success a little bit more in favor of that entrepreneur, that founder, when we're able to get to support and help and give them the resources, connections, and network that they need in order to succeed.

Silas Mähner (10:36)


Yeah. Okay, cool. Yeah, I appreciate that. Maybe I don't want to rub anybody the wrong way with that, with the comment, but I think it's just interesting to see that there is, you know, there's like the amount of effort put into it, let's call it, or the commitment, if you will, to value is higher, right? Because of your ask, right? Up there, the upfront sell is that you're going to get X from us, so therefore, you have to fulfill it. So on that topic then, can you talk about...

Let's do two things. So let's first go, what are specifically are you looking for with Generator? What are the types of companies you want to come to you?

Ryan Jeffery (11:27)
Yeah, that's a great question. So we've that sort of evolved over the last couple of years as we've as we've grown the number of programs that we have. So as I mentioned, I started our first launched, ran, recruited, invested our inaugurals or our first sustainability focused program two years ago. It was a it was an industry agnostic program. As long as you know, the companies were focused on climate.

And we're climate positive. So doing the most to solve, mitigate, adapt to climate change. And we're focused on systems level or systemic level change. We sort of take a look, we'd recruit and look at them. That spanned the spectrum, right? There's energy, transportation, mobility, industrial, food, land. All of those we looked at and actually that first cohort that we had, five companies reflected that spectrum was all of those industries.

As we've grown our focus on sustainability and climate over the last two years, we've now got half a dozen different programs that we run across the country with different partners that are some of them more focused on the geographic impact, some of them more focused on a theme or industry. So we have one that's focused on sustainable mobility that we run in partnership with US Venture. Another one similar to that with Colab and Chattanooga, we've got a food ag tech one that we run in Champaign.

We just launched a carbon removal accelerator through a prize that we got from the DOE. So we've got a number of different programs that we focus on that have different areas of thematic interest. Again, for us, I think because we're investing at the earliest stage, I think we look at a couple core things, right? We obviously look at team. We wanna make sure that there's a founder and market fit and that they have relevancy to what they're building and experience building in that area.

We want to look, does the solution that they have mirror the problem that they're solving and really understanding does that drive systems level change overall in the industry and the problem that they're trying to focus on? Obviously, the market size, do we think this can be a massively scalable company overall? And then look at traction, right? It doesn't have to be revenue, but it does, you know, we want to see that there's some demonstrable amount of traction.

of movement in the space that they're working on so that we can get comfortable with the bet. And a lot of those are fairly typical for what a VC would look at as well. I think the bigger thing that we'd probably look at that other VCs might not as much is the coachability and the ability for us to help, right? Because we're providing such a hands-on, really impactful accelerator program, we want to make sure that those founders want that sort of support and that they're willing to take that and they're coachable and that we can...

we feel like we can work with them. And they quite honestly aren't jerks and are willing to take that feedback, have that sort of growth mindset. And we really try to optimize for that as well.

Silas Mähner (14:30)
So just really quickly, when you say systems level change, what is that? Can you quantify that somewhere? Like what does that really mean? So if I'm a founder, I'm thinking like, hey, should I apply to this? Or maybe I should think about how I'm building differently or my technology. What does that really mean?

Ryan Jeffery (14:46)
Yeah, so I think that in general, you know, I think it has to be changed that is fundamental and affects how the whole system functions, right? It's about changes that spread behaviors that become a new normal, rather than small things that benefit a narrow group of people, right? You know, it's changing the entire, you know, I think a good example of it is

We invested in our inaugural cohort in a company called It's Electric based in Brooklyn. That's changing how people access EV charging, right? And they're focused on urban neighborhoods, equitable sort of transition to clean transportation. And they're working on that. That would be sort of systems level change where you're actually addressing how people are accessing EV charging and making sure that there's equitable approach to that overall. So...

Silas Mähner (15:35)

Ryan Jeffery (15:43)
It's sort of hard to use it out of your, it's hard to quantify. I think it's more of an art than a science, but really looking at, do we think that this is going to address a significant number of people and change how antiquated industries do business overall?

Silas Mähner (15:59)
So when you're doing that, how do you... Is there any particular way that you determine that... This is going to change things for sure, but will people accept that change? How do you determine what's the breaking line between like, yes, this is adoptable and it's going to change everything, versus like, this would change everything, but nobody will do it.

Ryan Jeffery (16:21)
I think that's a billion dollar question, right? I think we're trying to, I think if we had that exactly figured out. We know exactly the type of company that we want to invest in every time, right? But I think a lot of it just has to do with getting comfortable with the founder and how they're thinking about their product roadmap. Are they thinking about it from a perspective of their customer, right?

Silas Mähner (16:35)
You probably wouldn't be telling me right here.

Ryan Jeffery (16:51)
they put the customer first. And I think in climate and sustainability, I think this is just true in any sort of business too, but like making sure that you're hyper aware of your customer, your persona, how you're going to distribute your product, get in front of them, less focused, not to diminish it, but less focused necessarily on product because I think that evolved to change with customer input and more focused on

Okay, how can we distribute this get this in front of the right type of customer so that it can be adopted at scale? And I think it there are certain questions in ways that you can dig into that with a founder so that you better understand How are they thinking about? making sure that this can get into you know billion people's hands or really change the industry that they're trying to attack and And make sure that they're thinking about those from the get-go and that is part of our accelerator too, right? We really help them think about those things

and think about growth, distribution, sales, marketing, all the things that are necessary and needed regardless of the industry or the company that you're trying to build.

Silas Mähner (18:02)
Yeah, I think it's quite interesting. I mean, my assumption, if I was trying to ask that question, would be something, answer the question, would be something around you can start to see a certain level of product market fit or kind of adoption. And then you realize that it's not super crazy, right? It is, there is something and then you can scale it from there. But one thing.

Ryan Jeffery (18:20)
And I think, Silas, on that point really quickly, I do think that's hard for a pre-revenue, sort of pre-product company. When we're investing at the earliest stages, they oftentimes don't necessarily have product market fit, right? They're still figuring that sort of stuff out. And so you have to, I think you have to uncover and sort of peel back the layers of the onion with the founder to better understand how are they thinking about getting to product market fit.

Silas Mähner (18:29)


Ryan Jeffery (18:47)
Rather than hey, how can you be demonstrated product market fit? It's more along the lines of what are you doing in order and there are questions that like You know You figure out and sort of ask along the way that makes you more comfortable with the fact that they're thinking about that That they're thinking about distribution that they're saying thinking about sales that they know their customer inherently and that their customer has the problems that they're focused on solving and

you know, surprisingly, not a lot of founders, not as

many founders think about that as they should. But that's where we really try to focus our founders and thinking about overall.

Silas Mähner (19:14)

Yeah, okay, I like that. What about... So I guess we talked about the value add of an accelerator. What are the... When you look at what you guys do, what specifically is the main value add you have that's maybe different than other accelerators? Can you walk us through like one, two, three, what are those big things?

Ryan Jeffery (19:35)

Yeah, I think the main, you know, when we think about our differentiation as an accelerator in particular, it's small cohort sizes, right? So we only invest in five companies per cohort. That you know, for us, we just feel like that sort of hands on approach really being impactful. I mean, we meet with our companies almost every day during the three month program. We're introducing them to hundreds of people that are we feel are going to be

really impactful and supportive to their business. We're helping them introduce, we're helping to introduce them to corporate partners that are in our corporate innovation network and beyond. And then really helping them on their fundraisers, their pitch, their story, getting to that next round of funding. You know, I think we can only do that and really be impactful and supportive for us when there's only five companies, right? So we think that that's hard to do that sort of hands-on concierge approach. You just can't scale when there's more than

to us again, five companies. I think in terms of the support and the value that we provide, and we're pretty transparent about this, if the company is gonna be in a lab or heads down just building the product during the time of the program, we're not gonna be super helpful. I think where we really help founders is thinking about, again, how do they get to the metrics that are going to help them raise their next round of funding? And a lot of that has to do with growth. It may not be necessarily revenue, although that's great.

But oftentimes it's around LOIs or wait lists or getting pre-orders or demonstrating and doing things that show that there is a, as we talked about, some product market fit there, which in the end is what investors are looking for to get that next round of funding. And so again, because we're a venture fund, right, we want venture type returns, we want to help these companies grow in scale and get to that next stage of their funding.

as fast as possible. And we think that our accelerator three months helps them do that in a shorter duration of time than they would just on their own. I think the other thing that's sort of overlooked too is when you have a small cohort like that, it's much easier to form bonds. And I think oftentimes the best type of support, and I've found this as a founder myself, is from other founders. And so being able to go through really intense three-month accelerator program and get to know the cohort.

and the other founders that are part of it and hear what they're going through and supporting each other is a really big element of it that we again feel like is much more practical and there's only five companies per cohort.

Silas Mähner (22:13)
Mm-hmm. Okay, got it. I like that. I think that's good. I mean, it's quite interesting because this is very difficult. You can't really have 40 people or 40 companies in there, right, if you're going to really, really help them. How long is the program? Is it six weeks, you said?

Ryan Jeffery (22:27)
So three months, so a 12-week program. Yeah, I think that's where we're really working hands-on with those founders for those three months. It's not like we stop talking to them or working with them after those three months. It is a lifelong relationship, right? Oftentimes the duration of the company, five, 10, 15 years and beyond, and so we're continuing to support them long after the program is over. I often talk to our alumni every month at the very least and try to continue to.

Silas Mähner (22:29)
Three, three minutes.

Yeah, of course.

Ryan Jeffery (22:55)
to talk to them as much as needed, as much as they want overall.

Silas Mähner (23:01)
Got it. Okay. And another question is something I've heard. I don't know if this is accurate, by the way. So this could be totally off, but in the past, I've heard some people talk about, there used to be a perception with some VCs, maybe not all, but some VCs that having an accelerator ahead of them was kind of not preferred. And then they would be less interested in investing. Can you talk about that landscape right now? Is that true? Are there maybe a certain exception to that? Can you just talk about that broadly?

Ryan Jeffery (23:34)
I think it depends in a lot of ways. Quite frankly, I think if you're an inventor and you find a great company that is on a trajectory that is obviously that think is going to return the fund and more, I don't know that an investor should care whether they went through an accelerator or not.

What we try to do is that we try to provide sort of an initial source of companies for investors as they go through our company or as they go through our accelerator. So we get, um, we get a couple hundred applications per program that we run. Um, we then downsize down, down select to the top five. So we're doing about a month and a half of diligence on the 300, 400 applications that we get per program to select the best five. And then we're providing three months of really hands on support to get them.

sort of the milestones that they need in order to be venture ready. So I think, you know, there are probably some VCs out there that don't like to have an accelerator involved early on because of the economics that are involved. And I totally get that and understand that. But I think if it helps power the company and get them to a better stage and provide the support that they wouldn't have had otherwise, then there's a significant amount of value in that and a significant amount of value in the deal flow that can come from accelerators as long as they're...

working with those founders and providing the type of support that they need. And again, that's where we really try to pride ourselves on being able to do that and offer that sort of hands-on, really one-on-one support that these founders need at the earliest stages.

Silas Mähner (25:17)
Got it, okay. And then just to clarify another thing on the business model. So you mentioned you essentially have a fund, right? So you have, so generator has LPs, correct?

Ryan Jeffery (25:27)
We've so generator has about 100 million AUM through eight funds that we've raised over the last 10 years. So most of those have been raised. Most of that has been raised from LPs. In some instances, our programs are in partnership with corporate organizations or corporations, excuse me, and they're funding the program specifically. But we've got a couple different pools of capital that we're deploying based on

the program and based on the location and the partner that we have.

Silas Mähner (25:57)
Okay. And so the question I have here is then when it comes to climate tech building, especially hardware, there's a lot of talk about partnering with corporates to do pilot projects early on and just kind of going through the stages, as you mentioned, to get to the end. So are there any particular examples you want to share of where you're utilizing your LP because it's a corporate and they have a specific sustainability goal they're trying to achieve that you can help them with those relationships? Can you just talk about that and helping some of your


maybe not necessarily only hardware, but hardware focused in many cases, startups to get through to that next stage.

Ryan Jeffery (26:32)
Yeah, let me see if I can use specific examples. Some of them are under NDA, so I probably can't. So maybe at a high level, we have, I think, towards a 50 plus organizations, corporations that are part of our corporate innovation network that we're making introductions to our startups to. A lot of them are looking for pilots. They want to... You know, I think...

In general, a lot of corporations have made a lot of commitments surrounding sustainability and are looking deeply at how to decarbonize, move towards net zero, inject renewables and sort of move away from fossil fuels overall. So I think they see us as a great way to offer that and to do that through the startups that we work with. Right?

We're constantly making introductions from our pool of portfolio companies that we have at two corporations to help them with pilots, to support them on a lot of their initiatives. There is one specifically that comes to mind. I can't unfortunately mention it just because I know they're under NDA. But in general, I think one of the things that we do, especially with our corporate run branded program. So mentioned we have one.

partnership with US Venture in Appleton, Wisconsin, actually, that we run focused on sustainable mobility. In a lot of ways, they see a strategic deal flow for them as they start to work with these companies. They get access to the deal flow to the startups, to be able to work with them, to do follow-on investment into them, to bring them on in terms of what they need. And so it's a great way for them to fill their pipeline and then not only to support early stage innovation in areas that are important to them, but also...

to support their company in terms of acquisition and overall pilots that we can help support with.

Silas Mähner (28:33)
And it probably helps that they can have a team of experts, people who understand how to run these things rather than trying to build their own program internally.

Ryan Jeffery (28:41)
Yeah, I think that's part of the value that we can provide as well as we take on all the logistics. We hire a team to run the program, we do all the sourcing, and they're involved in the interview process. They have a vote on the investment committee and they're pretty involved as well in the mentorship and the support that they provide to the startups and really working with them to help them navigate internal dynamics and all those sorts of things. So yeah, I think there's a lot of benefit for the corporate partners that we work with in terms of putting together a really

impactful program that benefits them overall.

Silas Mähner (29:16)
Yeah. So you just mentioned it, that one of these programs is in Appleton. And I think obviously, part of the reason why I really like this conversation is you guys do a lot of work with non-Silicon Valley, not Boston, not New York necessarily. Right. You have a lot of focus on these other areas. Can you talk about, generally speaking, the, how do you say, the role of these, let's call them flyover states in the climate transition, energy transition?

and specifically why generators focus on helping those areas, those underserved areas.

Ryan Jeffery (29:49)
Yeah, I think a lot of that just goes to sort of our start. When I say our start, I mean, Generator's start 10 years ago. You know, a lot of ways Generator was started as a way to provide resources, capital, support to those founders that have been traditionally overlooked by the venture ecosystem. And I think today, if you look at where a lot of venture dollars go, 80% of that goes to three states, California, Massachusetts, New York.

97% Silas, quite frankly, goes to white males that live in the Bay Area. And so I think we just felt like that not only was wrong, but just missed a lot of opportunity. And so, big part of our thesis, and not necessarily because it's the right thing to do, because it actually leads to better outcomes, is investing in more underrepresented, overlooked founders from a race, place, gender lens. So...

82, I think it's actually up to 90% of our investments are actually outside of major tech hubs. We have almost 10 to 15 times more leverage investing in women founders, underrepresented founders, minority founders overall. We think that when you invest in companies that look like the diversity of the community in which they come from, they end up being more successful. And I think that's even more true in climate, which is disproportionately affecting communities of color.

Um, we want to invest in support founders that, um, are experiencing that, and that, that we feel like are going to be more successful overall. Um, and so, yeah, it's a big part of our, our journey, a big part of our thesis. And, and I think also, you know, when you, when you think about accelerators, as the average person thinks about accelerators, they're probably not thinking of generator, quite frankly. I think we've flown under the radar over the last 10 years, um, mostly because we've been outside those major tech hubs. Um, and we're, you know, we're now one of the best performing.

top quartile funds and accelerators that are out there without most people knowing about us and operating in markets that are outside of the typical venture ecosystem. And that's a big part of our mission and our thesis overall is supporting entrepreneurs everywhere and making sure that everybody has equal access to that opportunity and that capital.

Silas Mähner (32:12)
Yeah, I think it's quite interesting, this idea that you kind of go outside of the typical boxes, right? Some people would say, oh, well, you know, if the founders you're investing in aren't surrounded by all these other people who are successful in the space, they're not going to have as many examples, blah, blah. But at the same time that you can get a certain level of group think, which causes like the issues with like SVB and all that stuff where everybody's like, they all talk. So suddenly when one thing goes wrong, they all decide, right? Which is, I think...

I'm not really like, maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but I think it's part of the reason why we see such a, I guess, likelihood of companies, of VCs going in this hype cycle where it's like, this thing is hot, everybody invests. This thing is hot, everybody invests, and then they're out. Just because it might still be a good example, it might be a good investment, they're still kind of out because it's, yeah, it's too old, it's old stuff. We're not talking about that anymore. So I like that. I think it's quite interesting. I guess...

One thing I'd like to ask you about is, given that a lot of the, especially in the industrial decarbonization, how you say, like objectives, right? A lot of that industrial power is in the non, outside of like you mentioned, everything besides Massachusetts, New York, and California, right? There's a lot of that in the rest of the country. And I'm from Wisconsin, I'm from Northern Wisconsin, where not a lot of people talk about climate change in any way that they believe

How do you see these founders who are coming from these areas, who care about this, who understand the local communities, playing a role in helping sell to these different areas that are not mainstream climate proponents?

Ryan Jeffery (33:50)
Well, I think that's actually one of the biggest opportunities that, um, that we have that I think, um, founders, um, outside of major tech hubs have, I think, um, you know, if you look at the last 10, 15 years, a lot of the most successful companies, you know, certainly as a trend, you know, if you think about SAS sort of companies overall was, it was, it was obviously where a lot of capital was going. And I think in a lot of ways pre COVID, there were certain network effects that were created by being in a certain area, um, namely Silicon Valley.

access to capital obviously significantly higher, just made it easier to start companies and get that access. I think we talk about this a little bit and think about it a ton at Generator too around the next phase of successful companies being in solving physical real world problems. I think it's moving bits, not atoms.

And I think you think about some of the big challenges that we face where there are the biggest opportunities, obviously climate being one of them, but you think about the transitions that are occurring across these different industries, energy, transportation, food, land use, industrial overall, a lot of these commitments that corporations are making around decarbonization, COP just finished and first time obviously a lot of talk about phasing down fossil fuels. And so there's...

There's just a huge amount of equitable, I think, I think, this is the biggest opportunity for equitable generational wealth ever. And that is not geographic focused, right? I think that dispersed across the country. And I think, you know, if you're an investor in Silicon Valley, I'm actually looking at investing in opportunities in the Midwest. I think I'm looking at investing.

where physical real world problems are happening. And that's again, not geographic dependent. And so, I'm based in Chicago, obviously a lot of manufacturing, biotech, food, we're situated right in sort of the center of the country, Lake Michigan, access to fresh water. I think there's a huge opportunity for building and creating, I'm obviously very bullish on the area, but I think in creating, building really successful companies. But I think that's across sort of

areas that you wouldn't typically look to invest. And I think that's where there's a huge opportunity and we're really excited about as well. Coming out of universities, research parks, those sorts of things, which again, aren't necessarily, they're spread out and that's where those opportunities are gonna come from overall.

Silas Mähner (36:27)
Do you see any, maybe tell a story of before and after, I don't know, because I have no context of this. Do you see any well-ordered collaboration amongst these kind of forgotten states when it comes to venture stuff to do all this, like farming and agriculture and industry, like coming together to find ways to collaborate, to make sure that they're actually being able to create some of that, like you said, a new generation of equitable wealth?

Ryan Jeffery (36:54)
Well, I think we see it on the ground in a lot of the money that's being deployed from a grant perspective. I think there's a lot of coalitions and a lot of universities, accelerators like us, venture funds, community organizations, nonprofits that are collaborating on a lot of these grant focused programs. And we're involved in several of them.

We'll be announcing a couple of them in the coming weeks and months that we're a part of that we're really excited about. But yeah, I think that's a prime example of building those sorts of coalitions. I think that is a part where an accelerator can play a big role too, in connecting founders to opportunity, right? And where are founders coming from? Building relationships on the ground level with communities, with community organizations, with universities. Where the talent is coming from that's spread out across the country.

Um, but, um, and then the investors and the funding and the corporations that are going to help fund it, um, and make it viable and we, we can play a really solid role in connecting a lot of those ecosystems and that's, that's really what we're trying to leverage and focus on in the years to come too.

Silas Mähner (38:09)
Yeah, I like that. So I guess this, I don't want to go into this too much, but I want to still understand, you work with these companies on a regular basis, you're seeing all the dilemmas that they may face. In your estimation, what would you say is the biggest gap, whether it's in an ecosystem, financing, something, knowledge, I don't know. What is the biggest gap in helping the founders of these companies who are outside of the main hubs? What is the biggest gap in helping them achieve the outcomes that they're aiming for?

Ryan Jeffery (38:43)
I mean, in a lot of ways, it's access to capital, right? I think, again, access to capital can be viewed in a number of different ways. I think it's not just, you know, venture funding, though that's part of it. But you'll get the capital stack. It's customers, right? It's just making sure that you can, you know, you talk to the right customers at the right time and you generate revenue that way. It's non-dilutive funding, grants.

other things that can help propel the business. So, I think when you're thinking about something that's venture scalable, like you have to have access to capital. And I think, I do think this is changing post COVID in a lot of ways, where again, the sort of the primary pools of capital were allocated in one specific area or several specific areas. And I think for people building outside of those areas, there's just a lot more opportunity for them to...

to connect those pools of capital to help build and grow the business, but they need to know where to find them. And I think, again, that's where an accelerator can play a key role in helping them find those and make sure that they have the ability to take advantage of it.

Silas Mähner (39:55)
Yeah, I think access is an interesting one. I think the climate ecosystem seems to be relatively open, but it doesn't mean it's easy to access necessarily, right? You just have to have the right angles. And that's quite fascinating. On the, this is obviously a really big topic right now. A lot of people are talking about is climate and AI. Do you have any general comments on where you see AI actually making a real impact in helping solve climate change? Any particular instances of portfolio companies, for example?

Ryan Jeffery (40:23)
Yeah, I mean, we've invested in several of them overall in, you know, through our programs. I think there's a tremendous amount of opportunity, right, I think, you know, setting aside a lot of the debate around and I think rightful or needed debate around how fast it's progressing and kind of quite frankly a little.

little wild and scary in some ways. But I do think that there is a significant amount of applications, specifically in climate. We look at some of the trends overall that that's happening, right, around predictive modeling, how AI can sort of analyze a huge, huge amount of data sets from satellite sensors, climate models, make sort of predictions about the extreme climate and fires and flooding, those sorts of things to, I think, in resilience planning overall for cities and others.

I think that's a huge area, certainly around emissions tracking, being able to take a lot of that data that comes from renewable energy, wind, solar, other renewable infrastructure, and making sure that they have the sort of insights that they need to make changes. We invested in a company called REINT in our spring program that is doing just that for renewable energy, providing more predictive.

insight into weather patterns for renewable energy that's doing incredibly well. So I think there's a huge amount of innovation that's occurring in this space. It's really cool to see. But we just need to be careful how it's deployed. And I think that's a much broader, deeper conversation for people that are way smarter than me in this space. But I think it's something that we just need to watch carefully.

Silas Mähner (42:19)
Yeah, got it. Okay. I definitely can't speak to that. I'm generally an optimist. So I just say, hey, let's go and see how it goes. But I know that there's nuances to it. Could you... I think it'd be probably best, you know, there's a lot of you guys, from my understanding, a lot of the companies that are in your portfolios are doing something in hardware, correct? There's a

lot of hardware related.

Ryan Jeffery (42:38)
Yeah, I think about 70% of those that we've invested in climate are sort of what you consider hardtack or deeptack.

Silas Mähner (42:41)

Yeah. So would you mind just sharing maybe one story and then you can kind of explain the reasons for it, but one story of how a company successfully got to an MVP, a hardware MVP specifically. So they have to go from idea all the way to getting an MVP, which unlocks more capital for them.

Ryan Jeffery (43:07)
I mentioned it's electric earlier. I think that's a, you know, we invested in them in our spring 2022 cohort, so almost two years ago. That's a really good example of, you know, a company that they had designed prototypes of what they were going to build. It was a, you know, a much sleeker, simpler EV charging focus for urban neighborhoods. And when we invested it was, it was just sort of the design of it. We really liked the concept of what they were doing. We really loved the founders.

how they were attacking the space and the experience that they had navigating city bureaucracy, quite frankly. I think super gritty, resilient founders that were able to overcome a lot on their journey and are doing incredibly well on that path. They now have, I think, a half dozen or so chargers actually in the ground. So from concept, you know, I think working through the bureaucracy, working through

a lot of the challenges that come with putting something in the ground, making sure that they were working closely with design and taking inputs from everybody along the path and then now in the ground. And they've got a number of other contracts with cities that they're working through and negotiating and really excited about that potential overall. And I think along the way needed to access a number of different sources of capital, right? Certainly from us as an accelerator, we wanted their first checks. But...

VC's, non-dilutive funding, grants, those sorts of things that they took advantage of along the way. And I think that helped propel them and made sure that they could tell their story. Another example is a company that's in that same cohort called Mycocycle that was using, essentially using mushrooms to eat trash to create new bio-based materials that can be resold in the construction industry. They started with just a small prototype. Started with one sample.

mycelium in the mushrooms to eat the trash, basically break it down and then create this new bio-based material that could be reused. I started with just a small sample, a small lab, raised some capital. I raised like a two and a half or $2.25 million seed round earlier this year that helped them expand. They grew their team, got a much bigger lab space. And now we're...

developing and deploying with a number of corporate partners across the world that are looking to innovate and use their technology. It's still on a smaller scale, but they're starting to prove that they can take in bigger amounts, bigger quantities of trash from the manufacturing, construction industry, and divert it from landfills. And so it was an iterative process that allowed them to continue to build and grow. I think it's in a similar way to, you know, obviously it takes much longer.

because it's the hard tech, sort of deep tech company. But in a lot of ways to, you know, you have to innovate, continue to iterate on the product, continue to build it, get customer feedback as you would with a software company. You have to be able to do that in sort of a hard tech, deep tech sort of focus as well, and make sure that you're building what your customer needs, taking their input, make sure that the economics of it, I think this is more important too, the economics of it can scale.

Because, well, with the software company, each additional customer that you bring on is margin. For a hard tech company, you have to make sure that the margins are there from the very beginning. Every new thing that you deploy, new hardware that you deploy, obviously adds cost and urine. So you have to make sure that the margin and the economics make sense for it to scale overall. I think you have to think about it a little bit differently than you would just a traditional sort of SaaS business. But

Yeah, long-winded way of answering your question. Happy to dig in on that any more. We've got, again, a number of those sorts of companies that we're supporting from a hard tech perspective, figure out what those milestones are that they need to reach that are different than a traditional SaaS business, which, you know, you look at multiples, and obviously then you look at revenue and growth. It's a little bit different in terms of the story that they have to tell from what milestones are important for their seed, for their series A.

or the pre-seed seed series A, then just traditional revenue. And so being able to actually communicate that to an investor, tell that story, what it looks like is something that we really want to help our founders address and tell in a better way from a hard tech, deep tech perspective overall.

Silas Mähner (47:46)
So I just want to, I'm trying to think through this because from, I wonder, do you, is your opinion that most of the milestones are relatively similar? Like there's a framework, yeah, there's nuances to it, but the milestones to get to, let's call it the point where they raise their series B, which is usually the big hurdle because they figured it out, they're moving. Do you know if there's a particular framework that they should follow for, hey,

going from lab to pilot, from pilot to small commercial scale.

Ryan Jeffery (48:17)
No, I think I think part of it is that there isn't that great of milestones to follow. I think my point too, is that in SaaS, it's fairly easy, right? Like I think, you know, getting to a million dollars ARR for series A is like the benchmark. And I think, well, there's that's true for sort of hard tech companies like that. That's certainly like a milestone that they need to be thinking about it. I think it's just a little bit different. And I think certainly earlier on, right, you think about pre seeded seed, like, you know, you

Silas Mähner (48:27)

Ryan Jeffery (48:45)
you know, traditional investors that have been accustomed to investing in software know what those milestones look like, right? They know exactly how much revenue they should be doing, what the MRR looks like, the growth of the MRR over time. And so I think I think those milestones are fairly clear. I think my point is and I think we're sort of thinking about this. And I'd love to see framework that are that exists out there. Like, what are those milestones that are that we can clearly show that

dictate that this company that is more hard tech focus is hitting the relevant milestones that it needs in order to be a successful company long term. And so it's just a little bit different and I think we need to think about it as investors in a little bit different mechanism than traditional sort of SaaS software overall.

Silas Mähner (49:34)
Yeah, okay. That makes sense. And then maybe just comment on this. I'm going to lay out something to make sure I've got this right based on a couple of your examples. And you can just correct if I've got anything wrong. Is that when the founders come up with these ideas, right? They usually, you know, how they get to that conclusion is probably very different for each one. But let's just say, for example, they work in a space, they see, hey, there's a better way to do this. So they have an idea, they go out and they talk to people beforehand.

they figure out, does this seem like something of interest, kind of following the mom test, right? Then they may have an idea. So they go and they either find a technology that's somewhat ready and they can kind of develop it further. And once they get it into a lab, then they can go, like they get a little bit of traction, they get some customer interest, they'll probably be able to raise some money, correct? Either through an accelerator or for very early, like friends and family type of thing, usually, is that right?

Ryan Jeffery (50:26)
Yeah, I think generally is oversimplified way of thinking about it. That's true. I think, there's always outliers and I think founders that are able to raise money earlier and to do it on less. But I think generally, yeah, I would say that that's a good characterization of sort of the path overall. And I think whether you come from sort of university or lab setting or

Silas Mähner (50:39)

Ryan Jeffery (50:54)
material science or whatever it might be, chemistry background, you might have a good sense of what that is that you're developing because you've been in that space. So go back to the company that was using mushroom seed trash. Joanne, the founder, spent the last 20 years in the construction industry, saw all the waste that was occurring and applied that experience to develop something that would innovate on that problem. And I think...

early on it was really hard for her to raise capital because she just sort of had this idea that was it wasn't lab tested You know I think a lot of people didn't understand how big the problem was in a lot of ways and what she was trying to tackle and so she had to prove it she had to go out and actually do the Again, I'm oversimplifying this in a lot of ways, but she actually had to make sure that it worked see it in a lab setting

and get some corporate interest, right? Get some LOIs, get some people that said, hey, this is something that we'd actually be willing to buy. And then she had to, I think this is an added step in a hard tech company to prove that the economics work at scale, right? And the margins work at scale as she builds it out. And that's sort of the phase that she's in terms of raising her next round of funding and sort of proving out and building the business overall.

Silas Mähner (52:06)

Yeah, I think it's just really fascinating. I wonder if we'll ever get to a point where there's like, let's say, seven models or whatever, depending on what kind of hardware you're working on. I don't think we're there yet, but that's why I ask these questions. I'm always just trying to figure out where does it lie. One thing I always like to ask people is if you had to quit doing what you're doing today and go build a company in climate, what are the specific areas of interest that you would focus on? Do you have any particular ideas for climatic startups or things that you're saying, hey,

I wish somebody would do this because I can see there's an opportunity here.

Ryan Jeffery (52:43)
That's a really good question. I think what I get really excited about, I think, when I see stuff out there that's working on really cool stuff is really around nature-based solutions. I love how can we use what our planet has done since it was created to solve the problem that we face. And so I love that.

seeing those sorts of things. I don't necessarily have an idea around that. I don't think I was ever that great of a founder or idea guy. And so I don't know that I necessarily have like, okay, if I quit, this is what I go work on. But I get really excited about stuff that's really for, you know, again, nature focused, biodiversity, helping to support. You know, I think, and maybe to put a little bit more light on it. I think even if we saw

the carbon issue, right? If we're able to figure out how to decarbonize and stop emitting so much carbon to the air and suck it out and all that stuff, we still have a major challenge around biodiversity and around saving the planet from ecological disaster. And I think thinking about how all those things are interrelated, interconnected, and coming up with solutions that protect biodiversity.

that enhance it, support it is something that I'm really excited about and I'd love to continue to support and invest overall.

Silas Mähner (54:20)
Okay, cool. I appreciate that. I've heard that one a couple times now, I think, over the past few months. So nature-based solutions. I like that. Some of the things I've seen in there are quite fascinating. I think what's really interesting is once people learn how to quantify the financial impacts of doing some of these things that appear on the surface to just be an expenditure, but in reality, if you look at the long tail, they are massive cost savings to countries or municipalities, right?

Ryan Jeffery (54:48)
Yeah, we invested in a company called Gentian that actually just announced yesterday, they raised an oversubscribed $1.6 million round and they're focused on biodiversity monitoring and a lot of what they talk about too. And I think this is true in what you mentioned is so much of our economy is actually driven by biodiversity and the amount of actual like the financial mechanism.

mechanics that go into it. It's pretty outstanding and significant, but a lot of people don't realize that. And so we need to find ways to protect it.

Silas Mähner (55:26)
appreciate that. So I guess going on to founders, advice to founders, do you have any particular advice when it comes to hiring their early team or finding a co-founder? I don't know how often that happens within what you do, but just anything regarding talent.

Ryan Jeffery (55:41)
Yeah, I think, you know, I know you focus a lot on this too, and you probably can expand on it. But I think the, you know, in terms of what to look for, and I think for finding co-founders or building a company together, I think it boils down to trust, right? You know, I speak from experience starting at several companies. But if you don't trust the person that's sitting there with you, that's on this roller coaster,

you really have no idea where it's going and there's all these ups and downs and you're, you know, you basically have no insight, no light at the end of the tunnel when you're on it. You have to be able to turn to the person that's on that roller coaster with you and completely trust them. And so I think that it all starts with that. You know, I think that there's a lot of...

Um, especially in today's market, I think, um, not hiring too fast, right? I think making sure that you are diligent about the types of people that you need to bring on and not just hire for the sake of hiring because you think you need to, but hiring because, um, the bubble is about to pop, right? And you need to bring on people that can support certain functions of the business as it grows and not doing that too quickly. I think that's probably

Part of my experience as a founder before, we were just hired too fast, too quickly, and wasn't able to support the business overall. So those are probably the two biggest ones that I think about trust and just making sure that you're doing it, you're not doing it too fast and being thoughtful about who you're bringing on, especially not in today's market where you need to extend cash flow and you need to be capital efficient overall.

Silas Mähner (57:31)
Yeah. Okay. Got it. I appreciate that. Now that's something that's come up. I, the trust one, I think is extremely important. Sometimes underrated. It sounds really like basic, but yeah, a lot of people don't actually do a good job of that, right? It can be a big, big issue. So any specific pointers on pitching and fundraising?

Ryan Jeffery (57:55)
Oh boy, it's a big one. I think it comes down to the story that you tell, right? I think a lot of founders, especially specifically in climate, if you're more technical in nature, it's very easy to get bogged down in the details of the product, of the technology. It's about the story that you tell and making sure that when you're pitching an investor, I think a lot of founders have this sort of oversight that they hear.

you know, anywhere between a thousand and six thousand pitches a year. They're talking to hundreds of founders every month. Oftentimes when you're pitching them, you may be one of 10 that they're talking to that day. And so you have a very limited amount of time in order to get their attention and you have to be able to convince them, especially if you're, if you're pitching, you know, I think we're talking about pitching venture funds, angels too, but anybody that's going to invest from a

equity standpoint, you have to convince them that they're that one in a thousand that's going to return the capital to their LPs and to the fund overall. So you have to be able to convince them that this business is venture scalable, that there's a huge market that you're playing in and that you're the right team and the right people in order to execute and do that. And that's a story, right? That is being able to sell the fact that might be early on, but that...

we're going to be the ones that can solve this problem that exists out there, right? And it's about making sure that there's a really good path from what is the problem that we're solving, how does the solution mirror that problem, what is the, you know, what have we done in terms of traction to show that we have the right solution, why are we the right team in order to do that, and how big is this opportunity that we can execute on in order to

to make sure that we're going to be the ones that as an investor, you're going to make back your money. And I think it's also about like taking a step back to it's about making sure that you're pitching the right people. Right. I think if you can't logically show that like, look, this can return the capital to the fund and be a $500 million company or whatever it needs to be in order for that venture fund to get its money back, depending on how big the fund is, maybe you need to pitch people

that are angels, that are okay with a $30 million exit. And just change sort of the, and make sure that you're doing your diligence on who you're talking to. Hey, I noticed that you invested in this portfolio company. Why did you invest in them? What was it about them? And making sure that you're aligning. I think a lot of founders would just take any media that they can with any investor. But.

It's just a lot of time that's a waste of time overall. You have to be talking to the right people who are investing in your stage and your type of company overall. If you're a hard tech company, don't talk to a venture fund that only invests in software, right? Don't even reach out to them. I also think this is another key part. This isn't necessarily about the pitch, but just fundraising in general. You can't, I genuinely believe that you can't both run a company and fundraise at the same time, meaning...

Silas Mähner (01:00:46)

Ryan Jeffery (01:01:02)
as the CEO of the company, you have to find ways in which to delegate everything that doesn't have to do with fundraising. If you're going to fundraise, you can't do it half-assed. You can't do it one foot in, one foot out, you know, spending 50% of your time on fundraising and then 50% of your time on business. I think that's actually the hardest thing for a founder is continuing to move the business forward while fundraising. Fundraising is a full-time job and you have to be, you have to be reaching out to hundreds of investors every week finding

connection to them, you have to be then setting up hundreds of meetings with those investors and then negotiating and doing diligence and making sure that it's a fit. All of that takes a significant amount of time. So make sure if you're going to go out and fundraise as a founder, make sure that you go and you delegate everything that you can to your other co-founder, to your team, remove everything that's not necessary so that you can focus 100% of your time on fundraising.

and only that until you close. It also takes half, takes twice as long and is twice as difficult as you think it will when you embark on it and just make that into the thought process. Another thing that I'll say, the most successful founders that we've invested in, that I've seen, are the ones that have been said no to the most, meaning they're the ones that are out there talking to...

as many people as they possibly can aren't afraid to get to a no. And those that hear that no more end up being the ones that get to a yes faster and end up raising more and are more successful in that on that path. So you just have to be comfortable with the no. You have to get to a no faster, a no faster than a drawn out maybe or a drawn out no is the worst thing you can get. So that yeah, I could I could go on, but maybe I'll pause there.

Silas Mähner (01:02:58)
No, I think that's good. I like that a lot. First of all, I appreciate hearing the direct example of the founders that have succeeded. And I don't necessarily think anybody's mentioned explicitly the need to focus on fundraising, and that's it, right? Because you can't do both. I wanted to ask one thing that came up recently, somebody had bumped into, was talking about basically kind of getting to know or...

networking with VCs for their Series A prior to raising their Series A. Do you have any pointers on this or takes on this?

Ryan Jeffery (01:03:32)
Yeah, I think that's a really good idea. I mean, I think as a founder, in a lot of ways, you always have to be fundraising all the time. Not to say that you're 100% focused on fundraising all the time, but when you are sort of in the mode of round is open, you have to be focused on it all the time. When you're not, you have to be meeting investors.

talking to those that could fill in the round next time, making sure that you're continuing to keep them posted and updated. And I think it's a big part of it, is certainly talking to investors that are a little bit later stage, that you get introduced to and that you talk to and that you network with. And I think that's the role of an accelerator early stage investors is, you know, again, talked about it early on in this conversation, the value that investor can have is.

it's introducing those founders early in their process to the next round of investors that could invest in their round. And so I think that's a really important critical piece of sort of thinking about your fundraising and how you're going to do that overall.

Silas Mähner (01:04:33)
And is there any particular way that you would recommend approaching it? Like is it, because I would be curious if some, if they're like, okay, well, why are you coming to me? You're not raising, like, is it easier to get on the call if they're not trying to pitch them, like any particulars that you have there?

Ryan Jeffery (01:04:48)
Yeah, I think if you know you ask for money you get advice you ask for advice you get money right so if yeah, I think From my experience. I don't know others may have different opinions But from my experience later stage investors love talking to companies earlier on in the process so they could get to know them, right? They can understand how the business has grown the trajectory and actually I think it's Beneficial for the founder to be able to say hey I know we're a little too early for you But I'd love to have a conversation with you about what we're doing and just introduce you

Silas Mähner (01:04:54)

Ryan Jeffery (01:05:18)
to what we're working on. And I think in that conversation, that founder can ask questions like, what sort of milestones would you like for us to hit in order for this to be interesting in our series A or series B or whatever? Write those down. And then when you hit those milestones, go back to that investor and say, hey, remember when we talked six months ago or nine months ago or whatever, you said in order for you to find this interesting, we'd have to hit these metrics. We've done that.

Here we go, we'd love to pitch in and see if you'd be interested in this round. So yeah, I think, I think there's a mutual benefit for it. If a founder approaches it the right way. And I think from my experience, again, almost all of the VCs that I talked to that are later stage, they love getting involved with our program. They love getting involved at the earlier stages so they can get to know the companies and then, and then track their progress over time. So they can be more comfortable with that bet later.

Silas Mähner (01:06:10)
Got it. Okay. So I think this is, we'll probably just a couple more things here and then we'll wrap up. When it comes to advice to other VCs or investors generally, you can pick whether that's a VC or an accelerator. What is your particular advice to them when investing in climate?

Ryan Jeffery (01:06:32)
I mean just do it. I think I think we need more people investing in climate I think every I think I think we need more people that are willing to place bet on early-stage innovations and climate I think I Think I Think that they shouldn't shy away from

from investing in really difficult, tough problems. That's what we do in VC, right? You get into VC because you want to support founders that are working on our biggest problems that we face. And I think there's nothing bigger than that, than that what we face in climate. So oftentimes it's just making sure that they're getting into the game and that they feel like even though they may not be a climate focused investor that they can support and work with early stage founders in that space overall.

Yeah, I think also it's just understanding that the founders are the ones that are in the ring, right? They're the ones that are doing the hard work. Our role as an investor is to support, is to be there to help. It's not to punish them if they're not hitting their milestones. It's not to...

you know, cut them down. It's to build them up and support them and be there for them and help them no matter what it takes. You're placing a bet on that founder. And when you do, that comes at being there for them at the ups and the downs no matter what happens.

Silas Mähner (01:08:13)
Yeah, I appreciate that. And maybe last thing, you may be already, we'll say it the same way as you said before at the beginning, but what is your advice to people who want to get into venture or to want to get into VC or investing?

Ryan Jeffery (01:08:27)
Yeah, I think again, it's, I'll answer this maybe more because I answered it earlier. I'll answer it for the lens of climate. I think there are a lot of people that are afraid, they know that they want to focus on climate, they want to focus on sustainability, but they're like, oh, I don't have like a science background or I don't know, like, you know, I don't specifically know about this space. I think what I'd say to that is that we need everybody in this space. We need those that have a business background, marketing background, social media, right? We need people that could write and tell stories and that, you know,

you don't have to have a science degree or an engineering degree in order to solve this challenge. And so I'd say don't shy away from it. There's plenty of startups that are out there that we've funded, that others have funded, that are hiring for people that may, you know, that need that sort of background across industries and focus areas. And, you know, I think if you wanted to get into VC and climate, again, I think the best way to do that is to support, start working.

and building relationships with founders that are in this space or start something yourself.

Silas Mähner (01:09:35)
Yeah. Awesome. Well, I really appreciate that. I think we've gone through quite a lot of really good stuff today and I'm really excited that you came on. I appreciate this. I think what you guys are doing is quite interesting. Again, a little bit of an affinity for some of the focus on the Midwest, but I really liked it. Any final thoughts of where people can reach you?

Ryan Jeffery (01:09:54)
Yeah, always available. Ryan at That's generator with an 8, the number in it. You know, LinkedIn, anywhere else, happy to connect and love building connections and talking to founders, other investors, supporters, mentors. Again, we're, we look to sort of connect the full ecosystem and so want to talk and

chat with as many people as we possibly can that wanna be in this space and that are working in this space. So Silas, I appreciate you having me on. Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions and yeah, appreciate your time.

Silas Mähner (01:10:28)
No, pleasure is mine. It's really been a pleasure to have you on. I really, really enjoyed this. So thanks so much, Ryan.

Introduction and Background
Motivation for Joining Generator
The Business Model of an Accelerator
Challenges of Financing an Accelerator
Partnerships with Corporations
Focus on Underserved Areas
The Role of Non-Silicon Valley States in Climate Transition
Value Add of an Accelerator
Program Duration and Lifelong Support
Perception of Accelerators by VCs
Generator's Business Model
Partnerships with Corporates for Pilot Projects
Focus on Underserved Areas in Climate Transition
Collaboration in Non-Tech Hub Areas
Biggest Gap in Supporting Founders Outside of Main Hubs
Role of AI in Solving Climate Change
Success Story of a Hardware MVP
Unique Considerations for Hard Tech Companies
Milestones for Hard Tech Companies
Areas of Interest in Climate Startups
Advice for Hiring and Building a Team
Pitching and Fundraising Tips
Networking with VCs for Series A
Advice for Investors in Climate
Advice for Getting into VC or Investing