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Frequently Asked Questions

About Third Derivative

What is Third Derivative?
As a vertically integrated engine for climate innovation, we are a unique combination of accelerator + venture funding + strategic partner network that offers seamless support for startups to succeed. In other words, we strongly believe that our whole is far greater than the sum of our parts.
Who are your investors and corporate partners so far?

Confirmed corporate partners (to date) include:

  • AT&T
  • Berkshire Hathaway Energy
  • BHP
  • BP
  • Engie
  • Envision Group
  • FedEx
  • Microsoft
  • Shell
  • Wells Fargo

Supporting investors (to date) span four continents and include:

  • Chrysalix Ventures
  • CRCM Ventures
  • Emerald Technology Ventures
  • FACTOR[e] Ventures
  • Imperative Ventures
  • Skyview Ventures
  • Social Alpha
  • Tsing Capital
  • Volo Earth Ventures

Investors also include an SPV of high-net-worth individuals. Note that we’re in the process of confirming even more global partners, and we’ll keep this FAQ response updated as soon as we can!

What sectors, technologies, and businesses are we looking for?

We're looking for clean solutions in the realms of:

  • Electricity production, transmission/distribution, and storage
  • Transportation
  • Buildings and built environment
  • Industry (including heating, cooling, materials, biofuels, data centers, recycling, plastics, etc.)
  • Food and agriculture
  • Carbon capture, utilization, and storage
  • Climate and world-positive software, hardware, and hard-tech
  • Business model and finance innovation around any of the above

We also encourage you to apply even if you don’t fit neatly into one of the above boxes. Solving energy and climate requires many fresh and out-of-the-box approaches; tell us about your venture through the short application and we promise to provide feedback on fit with our program.

What stages of companies do we work with, and what are the benefits?

Short answer: The minimum is 2 full-time employees (no upper limit) with a working prototype, and we enthusiastically encourage applicants from anywhere in the world. More details: 

  • Minimum requirement: You are a for-profit company, with 2 full-time employees (FTEs) and a working prototype / no basic science risk (about TRL 3 or 4). For earlier-stage startups, we help in particular with an optional $100K US convertible note, refining product-market fit, connecting with strategic corporate partners, capital partners and mentors, and working towards your next funding round. 
  • If you are a later-stage startup (series A or later), we encourage you to apply if you think we can help you grow. The program for later-stage companies will focus on helping you deploy with corporate partners (from within the program and beyond), getting the funding you need to grow, and coaching you through your growth process. The curriculum is flexible and is customized to what you need, when you need it (i.e., not one-size-fits-all). Our partner VC funds are multi-stage investors with hundreds of millions to deploy through the program, and later-stage startups benefit from working closely with D3's corporate partners and from the broader global network of RMI and New Energy Nexus — which spans private, public and social sectors and covers U.S., China, India, Europe, and other key international markets. If you’re a later stage company, don’t feel constrained by the $100K convertible note since it is completely optional.

About the program

What does the program do for me?

  • Investment: You have the option to take a $100k investment. Through our network of deeply engaged startup investors, you are also first in line for $100M+ follow-on funding as you progress through the program.
  • Partners: Our corporate partners are all investors in the program, and play a significant role in helping us select our focus areas and companies. We facilitate interactions with these corporate partners to help you close deals with them. Whether as customers, partners, investors, or acquirors, they want to work with YOU! 
  • Network: Access to RMI’s 250+ energy professionals’ expertise and network. RMI works across power, transport, buildings and industrial sectors on 6 continents and has deep connections to all parts of the energy value chain including government, corporates and NGOs.
  • Coaching: We offer ongoing opportunities to enhance our startup founders' business and technical acumen. 
  • Deal facilitation. We are continuously in touch with our VC and corporate partners, and partners outside the program, and we are always looking for ways to help you source, vet, and strategize on deals with partners. 
  • Social Proof: Getting chosen to be in the program means that you have been vetted and selected from a large field of companies. Investors, customers and companies often take acceptance into accelerators as a vote of confidence for your business. 
  • Community: Connections to a community of support, including the program itself, mentors, Rocky Mountain Institute, and New Energy Nexus.

Is there any exclusivity associated with the program?
No! We have specifically crafted a program that has NO exclusivity, either to the program or the partners. So, yes, you can do both D3 and another program, and you can also work with other funds, corporates, or customers as you see fit. We want to help you and keep your options open as much as possible.
What is the time commitment of the program, and what is the curriculum?

D3 is an 18-month, high-touch, light-time-commitment, virtual program that is dedicated to helping you at whatever stage you are in presently.

1 hour per week / 4 hours per month is a good expectation for the normal course of the program. Each month you will have an hour-long 1:1 call with your Market Sector Lead and an hour-long cohort call. Including prep and wrap-up, each is about 2 hours. Depending on your progress and what you need, you may be pointed to resources and other opportunities, and that amount of time will vary depending on you and your goals. The cornerstone of the program is making progress towards deals with VC and corporate partners, and that time will also vary depending on your business. We also have an internal slack network for continuous communications and networking for all of our startups, investors, mentors, and corporate partners. Lastly, we host virtual summits per year, which could be up to three full days, twice a year. D3 is here to support you in developing your business as efficiently and effectively as possible.

A main focus of the D3 program is on developing and executing Deal Roadmaps with our investment and corporate partners. At the beginning of the program, we arrange meetings with relevant investment and corporate partners, and then continually facilitate discussions around what next steps, such as follow-on investments, pilots, becoming a vendor or partner, etc. Every month, we touch base with you and your partners to track your deals, find resources you might need, and do whatever we can to push the relationships along.

We have a large set of curriculum that we have written and curated. We are passionate about open-sourcing, sharing and growing this over time. You are free to look at, use, and share this, and if you are in the program we will be helping point you to specific resources over time.
What am I expected to do?

If accepted into D3, you are expected to:

  • Be a productive member of the community at large.
  • Review your business model in detail with D3’s team and interested investors.
  • Prepare for and attend your monthly meeting with your sector lead (approx. 2 hours).
  • Prepare for and attend your monthly meeting with your sector cohort (other startups at your stage of development or technology/market segment, approx. 2 hours).
  • Prepare for and attend all three virtual summits during the course of the program (approx. 20 hours, every six months).
  • Prepare for and attend all three virtual Summits during the course of the 16-month program. Note: two company representatives are required to attend each Summit.
  • Optional interaction with potential investors and corporate partners.
  • Share your startup’s amazing progress at a capstone Deal Day.
  • Work on your business (as much time as you can afford).

If accepted into D3, you are NOT expected to:

  • Move anywhere. The program is entirely virtual. 
  • Accept the $100K convertible note if you don’t want it.

What are the details about the convertible note?

There is an optional $100K convertible note with no valuation cap. Download a detailed PDF for more info. Participation in D3 does not require that you accept it.

About the application process

Who should apply?
If you are a for-profit climate tech startup from anywhere in the world, committed to building a better future, and you think that working with industry experts, advisors, corporations, and investors could expedite and scale your venture, then read this FAQ; if you fit, consider applying.
Do you take startups from around the world?
Yes! This is explicitly a global program, and we very much want companies from everywhere.
What if my team doesn’t speak English?
The program is only taught in English, so proficiency is required. We plan to add other languages in subsequent years.
What is your admissions process? And can I reapply if things have changed?

As part of our mission to accelerate the rate of change, Third Derivative has moved to a rolling admissions process. Quite simply, there are too many companies that need help, and the markets and partners we serve have more demand for innovation that we can fill with a once-a-year cohort. (We see this as good news for all!)

Once you apply, your application is sent to the appropriate Market Sector Lead, who reviews it and either asks for a follow-up conversation, or lets you know that you’re not a fit at the present time. (We really mean ‘at the present time.’ We keep you on file and will ping you as markets shift and our partners’ needs change.) We expect to welcome new companies every quarter, so we welcome you to apply as soon as you’re ready.

If you have already applied, we have you in our database and will proactively reach out to you as the program grows and as our partner network and their needs grow. (We are a customer/corporate-driven program, though we do make our own calls.) That said, if you have significant changes (e.g., new funding, new partners or deployments/pilots, technological or techno-economic breakthroughs or proof points, etc.), then you should absolutely apply again and make note of the changes so we can reconsider you.
What is the timeline for the program and application?
In our rolling application process, we aim to accept startups at the end of every quarter, and we’ll announce the new startups during our Summits occurring roughly every 6 months.
How will my application be judged?

Roughly, these are the categories:

  • Innovation and value proposition: Is it clearly superior to alternatives? Is the value proposition compelling to customers? Can it work?
  • Business strategy: Are there viable plans to develop, produce, market and sell the product?
  • Team: Is there a creditable team that can execute?
  • Investability: Is the market large enough? Is the competitive advantage defensible? Can it have a timely exit?

These are considered equally alongside program fit, impact, and risk. Our corporate partners and investors also weigh in, and our decisions are based on our collective assessment of program fit and how much we can add to your success.

What if I think I’m too late/early/not a perfect fit? Or, what if I apply and don’t get in?

Third Derivative (D3) is dedicated to the advancement of the broad fields of climate and world-positive technology. So, if you are working in the field, want to know more, or want to advise, we encourage you to join the New Energy Network, our open Slack community, which incorporates hundreds of people like you—learning, sharing, and striving for solutions and change from all over the world.

How will my confidential information be protected?
Although Third Derivative will treat all application data as confidential information, we will share such data with our investor and corporate partners. The purpose of sharing information with our partners is to accelerate potential access to investment and deployment opportunities for your venture. In your application, please do not disclose any proprietary information that you consider to be your “secret sauce,” but be as clear as possible about your competitive advantage and differentiation.

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