Seeking High Impact Environmental Entrepreneurs

I wrote the post below for Startup America’s blog. You can find the original here:

For over twenty-five years, the folks here at Cherokee Investment Partners have focused on turning environmental liabilities into assets. Now, we want to make our expertise available to other environmental and clean tech entrepreneurs. That’s why we launched the Cherokee Challenge.

The Challenge is a competition and accelerator designed to identify, fund and develop high impact environmental entrepreneurs. Based in the Research Triangle, we have recruited an outstanding advisory committee to advise, connect and support Challenge ventures.

Up to three environmental ventures will be accepted to participate in the Cherokee Challenge. In addition to access to the advisory committee’s network and mentoring, benefits include:

  • $20,000 in seed funding
  • free office space for three months in Raleigh, June-September, 2012
  • complimentary back office support (incorporation, IRS compliance, accounting)
  • opportunities to meet and pitch numerous investors

The application deadline is April 15, so send in your application as soon as possible!

As for Cherokee’s experience, back in the mid-80’s, we bought a brick plant and began using waste biomass to fire the kilns and contaminated soil to make bricks. Our goal was to get our cost of goods sold down to zero, while also remediating contaminated soil and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels.

We never quite achieved cost of goods sold = $0, but we lowered costs enough to turn around a business in distress. In the process, we remediated over 15 million tons of contaminated soil and, by using waste biomass, we offset some 5.7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide over 16 years.

The brick business spurred the soil remediation business, which in turn alerted us to the opportunity to acquire environmentally distressed real estate. Eventually, we raised four private equity funds totaling more than $2B, focused on investing in and remediating brownfields. We’ve since remediated some 550 brownfield properties throughout the US, Canada and Europe. Along the way, we also invested in over 70 startups or venture funds.

And we’re not done yet. We are now investing in utility-scale solar on brownfields, as well as launching another internal startup focused on energy and brownfields.  And, of course, we’re excited about the startups we’ll support through the Cherokee Challenge!

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