As many societies shifted from agrarian to industrial in the 18th century, one unintended consequence was increased carbon emissions, exacerbating the climate crisis. We are fast approaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold predicted to tip the scale and cause 14 percent of Earth’s population to endure severe heat waves every five years that increase drought, hunger, and conflict. At General Catalyst, we are committed to doing something about it.
We have long believed that the most successful and enduring businesses will be those that have outsized financial and societal returns. And we believe that technology–designed with intentionality and deployed responsibly–can and will solve the world’s biggest problems—such as reversing global warming’s course. We have conviction in audacious greentech founders who build with purpose, think at scale, and unwaveringly adhere to their mission for a sustainable planet. Which is why we are so excited to lead the $100 million Series B investment in Charm Industrial.
While elusive promises and logistical, financial, and regulatory hurdles have riddled carbon sequestration, we believe this effort is essential to the climate crisis equation. Direct air capture (DAC) solutions broadly define the carbon sequestration landscape but require substantial capital injection for pilot programs. High energetic input needs also reduce DAC systems’ feasibility. When searching for quality options to offset his former company’s hard-to-abate emissions, Peter Reinhardt, Charm’s CEO and co-founder, grew frustrated with the low quality of available offsets and removals, so he shifted gears from leading Segment’s customer data platforms (acquired by Twilio) to helping make permanent decarbonization and carbon removal a reality.
This highly competitive, oversubscribed round has been decades in the making. Hemant first met Peter at MIT 15 years ago and was impressed by his combined qualities of thoughtfulness and technical expertise. Peter and Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison were MIT classmates and they all separately took Hemant's course on entrepreneurship. We participated in Charm’s Series A in 2021, and since then we have been impressed with the momentum of the business. It’s poetic that Stripe is among Charm’s corporate clients, which include Alphabet, JPMorgan Chase, Meta, McKinsey Sustainability, Shopify, Zendesk and more. Peter has assembled a visionary leadership team with a shared resolve to move the carbon removal needle.
Engineering a Well-Oiled Permanent Carbon Removal Process
We believe Charm’s carbon removal is differentiated from incumbents in that it utilizes bio-oil as a product in contrast to gaseous carbon dioxide, which is more difficult to store. Nature’s machinery catalyzes carbon removal, employing plants–e.g. corn stalks—to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide. The resulting biomass is then converted into bio-oil, biochar (charcoal that is a soil additive), and syngas (rich in H₂) in a process fueled by carbon-neutral energy sources called pyrolysis that takes place in pyrolyzers. Modularly designed pyrolyzers control the scale of operations and facilitate transportation. These byproducts are then injected into nearby wells or potentially used for fossil-free iron-making to promote decarbonization in a sector that represents 7% of global carbon emissions. This prospect is incredibly compelling to us, in addition to Charm’s noted 10,000-year storage duration, processes that ensure additionality, and scale potential. In its relatively short lifespan, Charm has expeditiously delivered on carbon removal purchases from corporate buyers, and now leads the market. A running tally of carbon removals, deliveries, and accounting is transparently available on Charm’s registry.
With this funding, Charm plans to expand engineering and bio-oil R&D efforts, scale operations with tens of thousands of pyrolyzers, and improve transportation capacity. In addition, as Charm scales operations in both developed and emerging markets, we envision an influx of job opportunities, thus promoting inclusive prosperity, one of our Responsible Innovation pillars.
We believe the pre-industrial atmospheric level of 280 ppm CO2 is possible with Charm and is imperative for our planet. To echo Charm: “Gigatons or bust!”