CleanTechies Podcast

#163 Rockefeller’s $1B for Climate, Nature-Based Solutions, Philanthropic Capital, & More w/ Thomas Belazis (Rockefeller Foundation)

March 11, 2024 Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor) Season 1 Episode 163
#163 Rockefeller’s $1B for Climate, Nature-Based Solutions, Philanthropic Capital, & More w/ Thomas Belazis (Rockefeller Foundation)
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CleanTechies Podcast
#163 Rockefeller’s $1B for Climate, Nature-Based Solutions, Philanthropic Capital, & More w/ Thomas Belazis (Rockefeller Foundation)
Mar 11, 2024 Season 1 Episode 163
Silas Mähner (CT Headhunter) & Somil Aggarwal (CT PM & Investor)

Today, we are speaking with a representative of the legendary Rockefeller Foundation. For those unaware, this foundation is one of the oldest well-organized institutions of its type and has been responsible for a massive number of efforts over the past 100 years. 

Our guest is Thomas Belazis, Director of Innovative Finance. He runs their Climate & Impact Investing arm. 

Some of the notable things we cover today are... 

  1. Their $1bn Climate and Net Zero Commitments
  2. How they end up unlocking a lot of other capital when they invest
  3. And why high integrity in EVERY investment matters because of the weight their name carries 

Enjoy this episode with Thomas from The Rockefeller Foundation. 🌱🌎

🌎 Want the full PodLetter? Go to our substack to see the written content that supplements the audio interview.  

📺 👀 Prefer to watch: subscribe on YouTube
🗣️ Take the Listeners Survey
📫 Get Written Summaries of Each Episode in Your Inbox
🌐 Join the CleanTechies Slack Channel 

**What Thomas Does at TRF
**TRF’s $1bn Climate & Net Zero Commitment 
**Why Nature-Based Solutions
**Catalytic Capital & Unlocking Funding 
**The Role of Philanthropy in Climate 
**Flexible Investment Approach 
**His Career Journey and Mentorship 
**Collaboration with Elemental Excelerator 
**Future Projects 
**Emerging Market Interest 
**Global Ambitions

**Thomas Belazis | The Rockefeller Foundation
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on X 

Support the Show.

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Show Notes Transcript

Today, we are speaking with a representative of the legendary Rockefeller Foundation. For those unaware, this foundation is one of the oldest well-organized institutions of its type and has been responsible for a massive number of efforts over the past 100 years. 

Our guest is Thomas Belazis, Director of Innovative Finance. He runs their Climate & Impact Investing arm. 

Some of the notable things we cover today are... 

  1. Their $1bn Climate and Net Zero Commitments
  2. How they end up unlocking a lot of other capital when they invest
  3. And why high integrity in EVERY investment matters because of the weight their name carries 

Enjoy this episode with Thomas from The Rockefeller Foundation. 🌱🌎

🌎 Want the full PodLetter? Go to our substack to see the written content that supplements the audio interview.  

📺 👀 Prefer to watch: subscribe on YouTube
🗣️ Take the Listeners Survey
📫 Get Written Summaries of Each Episode in Your Inbox
🌐 Join the CleanTechies Slack Channel 

**What Thomas Does at TRF
**TRF’s $1bn Climate & Net Zero Commitment 
**Why Nature-Based Solutions
**Catalytic Capital & Unlocking Funding 
**The Role of Philanthropy in Climate 
**Flexible Investment Approach 
**His Career Journey and Mentorship 
**Collaboration with Elemental Excelerator 
**Future Projects 
**Emerging Market Interest 
**Global Ambitions

**Thomas Belazis | The Rockefeller Foundation
**Follow CleanTechies on LinkedIn
**@Silas & @Somil_Agg on X 

Support the Show.

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

For us at the end of the day because we're the Rockefeller Foundation, we have to make sure that every investment is a good quality investment.

When we invest in something, the world pays attention.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Hey guys, welcome back to the CleanTechies Podcast. Today we have a really, really cool episode.

We had the opportunity to speak with Thomas Belazis from the legendary Rockefeller Foundation.

Thomas is the director of innovative finance team at Rockefeller Foundation, which can be characterized as the foundation's impact investing and climate investing arm.

Given the history of the foundation being one of the first formalized and well-organized philanthropic funds created over a hundred years ago this is really an honor and specifically I'm a big fan of history broadly so this for me was really really special getting to speak with somebody who represents a fund that is really really kind of monumental in this space

Some of the notable things we covered today are how the foundation is going all in on climate, how the foundation is often a moment of kind of catalytic capital where once they invest, other people are more interested or kind of it unlocks capital for a particular investment class or space and why it's so important that they ensure each investment is of high integrity because of the weight their name carries.

Enjoy this episode with Thomas from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Oh, and one last thing before we get to the episode, if you haven't already, please take a moment to fill out our listener survey.

It only takes a few minutes, but it really, really helps us tailor the show to your liking.

Thank you so much.

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

All right, Thomas, welcome to the show.

How are you?

Doing well.

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

How about you all?

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

Doing great.

Philanthropy and climate is a huge topic right now.

We just had another episode recorded on this.

It will be out by the time this episode is out on the same topic.

So really excited to have you on.

Please, Thomas, introduce yourself.

What is your quick one liner for the audience?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, well, thanks again for having me.

My name is Thomas Belazis.

I'm a director on the innovative finance team at the Rockefeller Foundation, which you could effectively characterize as a foundation's impact investing climate investment arm.

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

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Innovative finance, a lot of buzzwords there, like really, really, really exciting ones though, especially in philanthropy.

I want to set the stage.

The Rockefeller Foundation announced its new climate strategy in a letter from Dr. Rajiv Shah on September 14th about the Rockefeller Foundation going

All In on Climate.

And this was really exciting because this was announced ahead of New York Climate Week, where myself and now formerly Silas was based.

So this was really, really big for us.

And the first thing I want to do is just start with a quote on what he said, which was, and I quote, Moving forward, we will leverage every part of our foundation, including our resources, convenings, and voice to help transform the four systems that are essential to the well-being of people and the planet.So you were at the Rockefeller Foundation while this was both happening and then officially launched.

What was it like being there before this announcement and then now seeing all of the change?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, absolutely.

Well, for one, this is super exciting.

You know, I think going into this discussion, it's important to maybe provide just a little bit of history on the Rockefeller Foundation.

So the Rockefeller Foundation was founded in 1913, and I think it's perhaps in the world.

And ironically, we were founded on the back of oil money, right?

It was John D. Rockefeller's money that was granted to the foundation.

And over the course of our 110-year history, our work has always really been centered around humanitarian causes.

The mission of the foundation is actually to promote the well-being of humanity, and so

Human beings have always been sort of at the center of our work.

And over the course of that 110 year history, there have been some really impactful work that have been funded over the course of the last century.

We helped launch the Korean Revolution.

We funded a whole series of breakthroughs in science.

We funded a lot of the major vaccines, including yellow fever.

But climate was never really sort of a focus point for the organization.

We certainly had programs that focused on the environment and different aspects of climate change, but it was never really the centerpiece of what the foundation was set up to do.

And so fast forward to 2022,

uh we we as an organization came together and basically came to the realization that climate change is not just a ghg or gigaton impact issue it's also a humanitarian issue and if we don't do something as an organization to

to help address the fight against climate change, all of that amazing humanitarian work that we had done over the course of the last century will likely be fundamentally underlined.

And so that's why Rockefeller decided to take such a big step into this space.

And that's why we're putting such a, that's why we're making such a large commitment

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

We are excited to announce that we have launched a Patreon!

You can find this newly linked in our substack and audio platform descriptions.

We are both really just so grateful for each and every one of you and wanted to create a way to interact with you and for you to support us on our journey as we continue and try to talk to the best people doing amazing things in climate tech.

We do all of this on the time we can muster outside of our day jobs, so any support means the world.

Now gushing over, back to the show.

That's really great.

And I think part of it was the announcement that was given following that on September 15th announced a billion dollars towards climate solutions as part of the Rockefeller Foundation's first ever five year plan.

Could you walk us through the high level overview of what this is about?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

So, yeah, so we announced a one billion dollar commitment to climate, which basically means that we're going to be putting a billion dollars to work over the course

Just to put it into perspective, we as an organization spend somewhere between two and three hundred million dollars a year.

So that basically means that we're going to be putting about 75% of our resources towards some type of climate aligned initiative.

So quite significant.

I think before that we were probably putting maybe 25% or less of our resources towards anything related to climate.

And before making this announcement, you know,

For some of those programs, climate is very much at the center of what they do.

For others, maybe it's a little bit more on the periphery.

But at the end of the day, everyone is thinking in a very substantial way around what climate means for them. And this goes beyond just our program team.

We made our net zero announcement, which is really exciting.

And even our endowment has actually committed to decarbonizing, which was really a landmark announcement.

I think the Rockefeller endowment is probably the largest endowment in the country to have made a net zero commitment.

So really, this new strategy is really spanning across every aspect of our operations.

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

So now going off of that, you have announced this large amount of capital.

It's based on a lot of things.

One of the things that I'd love to dive into just as a high level, the net zero commitment.

What is that and why is that innovative?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Well, for one, you know, I think as a philanthropy, it's really important

to really sort of set the standard for what it means to be driving high integrity, high quality impact.

I think the biggest source of emissions for us is travel, so nothing compared to a lot of the major corporates.

I think what's also really interesting about that is I think we were probably one of the first major foundations to make a net zero commitment.

And so from the back of that, a lot of our peers ended up following suit and a lot of similar organizations in philanthropy or development finance or civil society, I think are also following suit.

Yeah, absolutely.

And to be clear, so, so we have our, we have our program teams, right?

So of the two 300 million that I mentioned in sort of annual spend, about 90% of that is pure philanthropic grant funding.

And then you have our team, which is basically, you know, our team is the investment team that is not the endowment.

that is making investments across three, I would say three different prongs or three different objectives.

We invest for financial return, we invest for impact return, and then we also invest for catalytic return, which I can go into later in the discussion.

And our team has been around for a long time and we can get into the history of the team and

You know, the work that we've done over the last 20 years.

But alongside this big announcement and big commitment that the foundation decided to make, we also thought it was important that we incorporate finance investing into that commitment.

And why is that important?

We think about the climate crisis from a capital markets perspective.

I think the latest report that McKinsey

And so that's a very daunting task for the capital markets.

The positive of all of that is that we've reached this extraordinary moment in time where the entire world is moving towards net zero, including a foundation like us.

And as a result of that, I think the latest numbers

Over $100 trillion in balance sheet that's sitting on the sidelines, committed to investing in climate solutions in service of net zero goals.

The problem here is that there's the capital that's sitting on the sidelines that does not necessarily match the projects that are on the ground.

And so that's basically where we come into play because there's a need for groups like Rockefeller or Elemental Accelerator or even the major corporates out there.

There's a need for major groups out there that are willing to provide sort of that early funding to essentially gin up the pipeline of investable solutions that to eventually make their way into the portfolios of large scale institutions.

Financing Gap.

So that's why our strategy was launched in the first place.

And that's kind of our reason to be.

And so over the course of the last 18 months, we've basically been building out a pilot portfolio to think through what this strategy could potentially look like at scale, investing, you know, investing across two very high level topics.

One is nature-based climate solutions.

Philanthropy is a relatively underrepresented and overlooked part of the market, and then decarbonization or more classic climate tech solutions.

Not only thinking about how we scale those solutions and deploy them faster, but also thinking about how we can leverage those

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, this is great.

I'm glad we're getting to the topic of nature-based solutions.

This is something that's come up quite often in my discussions over the past year.

I've gotten the chance to work on a couple of nature-based solutions searches, and I'm just really, I guess, curious to see in that light of funding projects before they're kind of, let's call them

The Nature-Based Solutions market is becoming ever defined and I think we take a pretty broad

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

view of what that looks like.

So for us, what we've been looking at over the course of the last year and a half is everything from market oriented models that drive conservation or restoration, or thinking about more agriculture plays and thinking about land use and thinking about how we actually use that land more productively and in a more climate positive way.

And so, and then there's also the ocean, right?

You could think about, you know, seaweed,

for Climate, Nature-Based Carbon Removal, Enhanced Rock Weathering.

So you can take a pretty broad view of what a nature-based solution is.

Just to give you an example, one of our first major deals was actually into a reforestation developer in Brazil.

And so what this team does, and this to me is kind of like the sweet spot for where we like to play in the market.

This company was founded by two of Brazil's probably most prominent entrepreneurs.

The CEO was the former CEO of Brazil's First Unicorn.

The CFO was a former CFO of New Bay Bank.

And they both banded together to create a company that was focused on climate change.

And the model is very simple.

Basically, what they do is they either buy or they lease land

for Climate, Nature-Based Solutions, Philanthropic Capital,

and um and so we invested in their first uh pool of projects um which was 100 million dollar financing that brought in actually some you know some pretty commercial players like cppib bank capital access natural capital fund and the most recent milestone that we're really excited about is they actually signed a uh

$75 million offtake agreement with Microsoft, which is the largest nature-based, at the time at least, was the largest nature-based offtake agreement of carbon to date.

So that I think is a really interesting example because you have a strong team trying to do something really ambitious and with some early

If they can prove out what they're doing, then this is a model that could ultimately make its way into the portfolio of a Brookfield or one of these major pension funds.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

So broadly speaking, the main value add is that these ideas are just ideas.

They're not truly proven in the world.

And basically the private equity is uncomfortable with it.

Is that correct?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis


I mean, there's lots of different ways in which you could kind of think about it.

One is through what we call demonstration projects.

So whether it's companies or technologies or other sort of

New concepts in the market that no one's actually seen before and they need some capital to prove themselves out and once proven then yeah the private equity comes and follows on.

There's a lot of talk around you know first of a kind climate solutions and the need for the need for capital to just

I'm kind of curious, do you have any particular stats on, you mentioned there's a lot of money sitting on the sidelines, how valuable is doing a project that Rockefeller helps with to get it proven?

And how much more money does that unlock once you've done that?

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

I mean, there's got to be some type of multiple there.

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

So our Zero Gap Fund, which is kind of like our flagship impact fund, that fund is fully invested.

And to date, we have tracked about 34 times our money catalyzed.

So it was a small fund, it was only a $30 million fund, but there was about, I don't know, do the math.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Are there particular ways in which you ensure quality?

Like say, for example, if it's a proven technology in a new market or an emerging market, does the Rockefeller Foundation have specific ability to ensure the outcomes are positive and that's why other people are willing to co-invest with you?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis


In fact, that's one of our biggest value additions in this market.

If you think about the carbon markets, for example, where there is a lot of skepticism around what high impact and high quality really means or what a good project really means, the market is constantly looking to groups like Rockefeller, for example, who can help developers think through what that looks like.

And so for us, if we're going to invest in a carbon project, we're going to do a ton of due diligence on that project to make sure that it's a solid project.

We're going to work with the developer to make sure that the way they're thinking about impact measurement and monitoring is best in class.

But we're finding that that role in and of itself is quite catalytic.

A lot of groups are wanting to partner with us.

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

In your experience, especially as even though it is a small portion, philanthropic capital has grown in climate and the influence specifically within the philanthropy space has risen over the past decade.

Last episode that we discussed this, we talked a little bit about science-based philanthropies and the new coalition that had come about and this excitement behind it.

I'm curious, a big part of that is like you said, partnering and team working and being a good player within the system.

How are you often either approached or received as a philanthropy in this space?

Some positives maybe that you seem benign and not as aggressive perhaps as a funder, but you may also have questions about your legitimacy in terms of knowledge.

I'm not insinuating that those are the circumstances, but what is that experience like?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, no, it's a really good question.

I think there's a lot of confusion in the market around my, you know, my team specifically.

And I don't think people, you know, especially within the world of maybe climate tech, where philanthropies are, you know, climate tech maybe has been more government funded, perhaps philanthropies are newer, newer kids on the block.

I'm a little bit unclear, but I don't think, I think a lot of people think about the world in terms of grants and investment and nothing in between.

And so oftentimes people will come to our team asking for a grant.

but that's not really the core of our business.

And so there is a little bit of confusion and sort of market education that we're constantly trying to supersede around what we have to offer as an investment team, which at the end of the day, we're gonna be looking at our deals very commercially.

We're investing off the back of Rockefeller's philanthropic balance sheet.

We do have the opportunity to structure our deals maybe a little bit more creatively, invest in more pioneering ideas.

There's a role for us in the market, but we have to be very careful about that role.

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

And I think that investor education, that's almost a perfect segue.

I feel like the diligence component of it is probably undersold.

Oftentimes funds who have very strong diligence processes often end up being leads for different rounds, but it's not always understood what about that diligence and process is so remarkable.

And I think that's a very niche point that great funds like yourself are great capital groups like yourself really do pride themselves on.

So you said it a few times.

I'd love to dive into it really quick.

Why do you think there's such a high emphasis on diligence and where does it come from?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

You know, it's almost incumbent on us to make sure that every deal is a high quality deal because we know when we invest in something, the world pays attention.

That's not to say that we don't rely on others' diligence.

In fact, we think that there's a lot of investors out there that are way smarter than us.

And we actually like investing with partners who might have the technical chops to underwrite, you know, a forestry deal

or a technology that we don't understand.

So we like bringing partners to the table that can fill knowledge gaps in the diligence process.

But we also want to make sure that the company or the fund or the project that we're investing in is sufficiently vetted.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner


One of the things that we kind of discussed in our, I guess, pre-call would be

Your ability to invest flexibly.

So can you talk about that?

I'm assuming that's specifically referring to your group within the fund, but can you talk about why you're able to invest in a flexible manner and why it's important?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

So, as I mentioned before, you know, we're investing

ideas, whether it's, you know, new funds or other types of climate solutions that we think are, are really kind of on the tipping point of institutional adoption.

So with, with some capital from Rockefeller, if we can invest in this thing and push it over the edge, it'll ultimately make its way up the J curve into institutional adoption.

And that's a very, you know, that's a very scarce resource in the market.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, no, I think that that's quite interesting, given especially that there's a lot of, you know, uncharted waters within climate.

So that's quite fascinating.

I do want to go back a bit.

So, you know, we're talking about all these things, but we never really talked about how did you get here?

Like, what's your journey to making it into the Rockefeller Foundation in this particular role?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, absolutely.

It's a good question.

I guess a little background on me.

I mean, I'm currently sitting in New York, and I've been living in New York longer than I can probably count at this point, which probably makes me a quasi-New Yorker.

But I actually grew up in the Midwest.

I'm a Rust Belt kid, and I grew up in a somewhat multicultural family.

and I actually had parents who sort of carved out their own impact career.

You know, my dad was a poverty lawyer, my mom was a nurse, and I don't think I necessarily realized it at the time, but, you know, that I think served as a pretty significant inspiration for me in thinking about what I wanted to do when I eventually grew up not knowing what that was.

um and when i was in college i had a lot of just i think just through my family upbringing i had a lot of international curiosity and i studied in luxembourg i did internships in chile and tunisia and then when i graduated i decided to go into the business world um which almost gave my dad a heart attack you know i when i when i just got out of college i had a short stint on wall street

and shortly thereafter, I landed an opportunity with a consulting firm actually based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And that was in 2010, 2011 during the commodities boom when Brazil was really thriving.

And so the company I was working for, we were consulting for

for big companies like Bali, which at the time were expanding pretty aggressively internationally.

So I was working on a whole host of international expansion projects through that experience.

And when I came back to the States, I decided that I wanted to transition into investing.

And so I came back to New York and I worked for a, uh, I worked for a sort of a hedge fund, private equity fund, um, that did both public equity investing and emerging markets, and then some kind of lower middle market, uh, buyouts in the U S and which was

Very different experience from my impact investing roles.

You know, very much kind of like the cutthroats or hedge fund culture.

And that was probably around 2012.

And around that time, that's when I started learning about this brand new sort of novel idea called impact investing.

I think I got coffee with a friend and he had mentioned this new idea to me and the more I learned about it, the more I realized that this was

the experiences that I was accumulating professionally, the experiences that I accumulated personally, and sort of like the, I don't know, manifest destiny for what I might potentially want to be when I grow up.

And so, so I decided, you know, this is, I think this is what I want to do.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

What specifically about your time, you mentioned there was a couple things that were eye-opening during your time in Brazil.

What was eye-opening that caused you to go into investment and did you seek something else outside of investing before you ended up making that choice?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, the experience in Brazil, I mean, for one, I think everyone, I think every professional should have some type of international experience.

You know, more market and business oriented solutions to drive and development.

And when I was in Brazil, you were kind of seeing it firsthand because Brazil was growing like 9% a year at that time.

You know, I think just through that experience, I sort of developed a passion for the emerging markets and, you know, being a consultant and kind of being more at the company or operator level, I thought was really interesting, but, and I,

at the investor level.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

And at what point, so you mentioned something that I guess kind of resonated a bit with me, which is, you know, you got to a point where you learned about impact investing and it seemed like almost like the stars aligned.

You realize, oh man, this is what I've been, this kind of lines up with everything that I've been doing and it makes me a really good fit for this.

Can you just talk about maybe some of the challenges of going through that?

Maybe there's kind of part of your career where you, you may not have felt, hey, is this the right thing, ultimately, but then in the end, it kind of led you to where you needed to be, because I believe there's a lot of people, especially in their early career, who are just uncertain if they're in the right place.

I mean, you mentioned your your family upbringing, and you

You may have had an underlying thing saying, ah, I don't know if this is the right thing for me to be doing, going in the cutthroat hedge fund world and then eventually moving into this role.

Can you just talk about that experience and maybe some of the key thoughts you have for other people who may be uncertain if they're on the right track currently?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis


So one thing that I have come to realize in life is that I don't think you'll ever, I don't know, maybe, maybe it's just me, but I feel like there's never certain

I think this is quite fascinating.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

This is something I've heard many, many people mention in their career journeys when asked on panels, like it's a super common theme.

And a lot of people say, oh, you know, following your passions, that sounds so stupid, it sounds so corny, whatever.

But I think it's very true, right?

If you look at people who are happy in the work they do, that's kind of what led them there.

I do want to ask one other key thing too, which is a lot of people end up having mentors that kind of play a role in their career journey.

Do you have any specific people that played that role for you and why were they important?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, I've definitely accumulated mentors over the years.

I don't know if I want to name any names on this podcast, but

I think in my early career in particular, I worked with some really impressive investment professionals that I think taught me almost everything that I know today, and I still leverage those individuals as mentors.

I think I was really lucky in having gotten exposure to some pretty senior people in my early career who could sort of help me chart.

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

I think the whole point about developing that mindset and then choosing to go into it is especially relevant in climate where the paths aren't very defined for you, right?

So at some point you do have to decide, hey, I've just developed either enough of an alternative skill set and I'm ready to go into climate.

or you dive in kind of saying okay i don't know where i'm gonna end up but let me let me start right i think silas you probably see this more than anyone uh given recruiting but i think that's especially relevant uh for people who are trying to develop some sort of climate knowledge skill set because it really doesn't exist it's really some subset that you're really good at um

In a very bad segue, I'd love to take that idea of a subsection that you are really knowledgeable about.

One of the amazing things about philanthropies is that you get to work a lot more tangibly with carbon removal projects.

And like we mentioned before, it's the idea that philanthropy can support out-of-market solutions that people won't want to back and try and make it more fundable.

I want to talk about one of the most exciting things that you worked on, which is, I hope I'm not mispronouncing it, MomBak.

Is that how you say it?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis



SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

So, so MomBak again, sorry if I'm saying that wrong.

It's a carbon removal startup based, to my understanding, in the Amazon rainforest.

So what are they and how did you work with them?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

So yeah, on the MUMBOC deal.

So as I mentioned before, you know, they're a carbon removal startup focused on reforestation in the Amazon.

I think for us, what was really interesting about that deal

was, it was less, I think it was less kind of the knowledge that we were bringing to the table and more the signaling that we were bringing to that specific model.

Because reforestation in the Amazon, leveraging carbon credits, you know, that's a model that someone, that people haven't necessarily seen before.

But within the context of ecological

restoration and given the maturation of the carbon markets over the course of the last 10 years this in theory is one of the more scalable nature-based solutions out there at the moment and so for us we saw that opportunity and we thought it was a very exciting we thought this

team that has a really impressive track record that's bringing in deep science alongside, you know, industrial-grade execution and with some capital from Rockefeller

You could see how a pension fund or an endowment might actually want to have something like this in their portfolio because at the end of the day, you're talking about a long-term asset that would have

SPEAKER 3: Somil Aggarwal

Another great collaboration that you've been able to see, and I think is probably one of the most exciting announcements of the Rockefeller Foundation's, I say this biasly, of the Rockefeller Foundation's work was in late October, the announcement of their collaboration with Elemental Accelerator.

And I think it is a beautiful synergy between two bodies that people see as relatively high community builders and more amicable funders in the space.

So can you talk about what that was all about?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Really excited about the collaboration with Elemental and no need to be shy about the bias.

I think it's an amazing team.

This sort of partnership came to be on the back of both our climate investment work, but also some of the programmatic work that we have here at the foundation.

So we actually have a team that focuses on U.S.

climate policy.

And as part of that, they are actively thinking about tools like the IRA or the GGRF and thinking about one, how do we actually unlock that funding and deploy it faster and more efficiently?

But two, how do we make sure that that funding goes to the right

was create a portfolio of demonstration projects that prove that these technologies not only deliver high climate outcomes but could also deliver significant community impact that would meet the requirements of the greenhouse gas reduction fund and and so for us that was kind of the perfect this was actually one of the few grants that we have we had done in our portfolio but that was

That was kind of the perfect marriage between, you know, what we were thinking about doing in the US around the decarbonization and scaling and deploying early stage climate technologies and also bringing in some of the work that we're doing from the programmatic side to help influence some of the climate policies out there.

So we're super excited about this partnership.

You know, hopefully this is something that we can expand upon.

I think a lot of, I think there are a lot of natural synergies between our

Subtitles by the community

Yeah, absolutely.

Well, there's a lot that we're excited about.

We talked a lot about nature-based solutions and we talked a lot about reforestation in Brazil.

There's a lot, hopefully more, in the works that we'll hopefully soon be able to announce in the coming months.

Regenerative agriculture is actually an area that we've been thinking a lot about

transition and we're in the process of hopefully soon closing another opportunity in the region ag space.

So that's one area where we see a lot of potential if we just think about the future of agriculture.

Another area that we find to be particularly exciting is supply chain decarbonization, particularly in the emerging markets.

So if you just think about all of these major corporates that have committed to net zero, 80% of that emissions profile is in supply chains.

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which has already changed in the way major corporates are thinking.

So that's another category that we think is interesting.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Well, I'm curious which, because obviously you mentioned it several times that you do a lot of work in emerging markets.

Geographically speaking, do you have particular areas that you're very interested in or excited about in the near future and maybe any comments around how they're developing and how they're supporting getting other players in to support them and you can be a catalyst in that way.

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

yeah so we realize that we can't be everywhere um we do have kind of global ambitions but we realize we can't be everywhere so for the time being at least with this sort of first pot of money we've been very much focused on opportunities in the united states and uh south america so south america has kind of been the hotbed for nature-based solutions and the u.s has been kind of the center of a lot of our work around

for Climate, Nature-Based Solutions, Philanthropic Capital,

So that's but yeah, we kind of need to pick and choose where we play for the time being.

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, no, even though it's the Rockefeller Foundation, there's still have to be focused, right?

If you, if you spread too thin, you probably won't get much, much done, maybe, maybe do some bad deals.

So you wouldn't want that.

But, but this is, you know, this is really fascinating.

I really, I really do appreciate this.

I just kind of highlight one thing that stood out to me when you were talking about the diligence process to back up a little bit was when I recall kind of reading the impetus of not, not from our discussion, but reading about the impetus of, of where Rockefeller Foundation came from.

I just recall how focused he was on quality and making sure that we do the things that are most impactful.

It's very interesting to see many, many years later how that kind of quality and focus on the right things and doing the things that are the most impactful is still carried through.

So it's just a really interesting thing to note for people listening, but I really appreciate you coming on.

This has been quite a pleasure to speak with you and learn from somebody doing

Some pretty important things in the market.

Do you have any kind of final thoughts to close us out with?

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis

Yeah, I mean, well, for one, thanks so much for having me.

It's been a lot of fun recording this podcast.

I would just say, you know, we are really excited to be partnering for anyone that's listening.

I think one of the most interesting things about the climate space is that there are new players popping up every day.

including the likes of Rockefeller who are making billion dollar commitments to climate and so that's lending itself to to new opportunity to work with um with groups that i think many uh investors or corporates or others in the market never perhaps thought uh envision themselves investing alongside of or just working alongside of in general and so i think we're really excited about the road ahead and excited to be hopefully working with those that are listening

SPEAKER 2: Silas Mähner

Yeah, absolutely.

It will be very fascinating to see how continued collaboration happens.

And in particular, as it feels like there's a little bit of steam in some ways kind of coming off the sails of the climate tech movement.

I really hope we see new ways of people working together because there's a lot of people who recognize the importance of what we're doing and what we're investing in.

And we want to see that momentum continue, even despite, you know, some rough patches.

We don't want to we don't want clean tech or climate tech 2.0 to happen.

Appreciate you coming on and looking forward to being able to share this with the world.

SPEAKER 1: Thomas Belazis


Thanks again guys.