By Davida Herzl, Co-founder and CEO, Aclima
Ten years ago, I moved to Silicon Valley to start building Aclima, inspired by the stories of mission-driven and brilliant people coming together to solve the world’s hardest problems. Legendary companies like Fairchild Semiconductor and Xerox Parc, responsible for technology advancements that moved society forward by leaps and bounds, spoke to what was possible. I couldn’t imagine a more important problem than climate change. And I was convinced that the technology community had a big role to play in giving people the tools to understand and reduce emissions and their impacts on both human and planetary health.
From that mindset grew Aclima’s big idea – that technological advancements like cloud computing, data science, machine learning, and miniaturized sensors could disrupt the integrated cycles of polluting emissions. The same emissions that are changing our climate are also polluting the air we breathe and creating a public health epidemic. Measurement helps us diagnose problems, take action, track progress and scale what’s working. And while we understand emissions at the planetary scale, and air pollution at the regional scale, we haven’t had access to measurement at the local and human scale.
We set out to fill this critical data gap by building a diverse and multidisciplinary team of hardware and software engineers, atmospheric and data scientists, statisticians, designers and mapping operators. Together, we’ve pioneered an entirely new way to measure air pollution and greenhouse gases, block by block, at the scale of entire cities, and around the world. Doing this well, at the levels of scientific rigor needed to drive lasting change, required years of development and validation.
A decade later, the orange skies hanging over Silicon Valley during a historic wildfire season were a visceral reminder that nothing is possible without a breathable atmosphere. In that time, much of the technology community had moved away from its roots. This year represents an inflection point. Mitigating and adapting to climate change is the challenge of our time. We are called to return to the roots of Silicon Valley, back to solving the world’s hardest problems. This time, however, it requires a deepened commitment to public good and equity – not as an afterthought, but as the central driver of business value.
In 2020, we saw many environmental records broken: the highest recorded temperature on Earth, the most named-hurricanes ever, and historically destructive wildfire seasons. Amplified by climate change, wildfires exposed millions to unhealthy air for weeks, killed hundreds of people, hospitalized thousands, and dumped many millions of tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. We are in a climate emergency and air pollution is directly and inequitably harming our health and prosperity. The increasing connections between air pollution and COVID-19, are just one more critical lesson that clean air is essential – for life, for our economy, for our collective future.
Aclima’s hyperlocal air pollution and greenhouse gas measurement and analytics platform helps people accelerate emissions reductions, protect public health, and prioritize solutions for those who are most vulnerable. Today, we’re announcing that we’ve expanded and reinforced our capabilities to serve governments, businesses, and communities with two key updates:
Aclima has secured more than $40 million in Series B funding, led by Clearvision Ventures with a global coalition of strategically aligned investors including Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, the investment arm of Bosch, Plum Alley, Rethink Impact, and Social Capital.
Aclima has become a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC), making our commitment to science and technology in service of public good a fundamental business responsibility.
Accelerating climate innovation
To pinpoint hyperlocal emissions and exposure, the Aclima network of roving and stationary sensors is expanding in North America, from Mexico to New York to California -- including mapping all nine counties and 5,000 square miles of the San Francisco Bay Area. And with our fleet partners, our sensor network extends across continents, including Europe, Asia, and Latin America. We have collected hundreds of billions of hyperlocal air quality data points in more than 150 cities and 14 countries. And we have the largest dataset of hyperlocal greenhouse gas levels in the world.
Drawing from that dataset, we learned that the swift, collective action to slow the spread of COVID-19 led to a sudden drop in transportation-associated emissions across the San Francisco Bay Area. Carbon dioxide decreased by 43% in the first seven weeks after shelter-in-place compared to the seven weeks before.
But we don’t want or need a destructive pandemic to reduce emissions. We need bold climate action that recharges and strengthens our economy. Scientists, policymakers and environmental advocates can take this new evidence -- measured and analyzed at the hyperlocal level with the Aclima sensor network -- and apply it to data-driven climate action anywhere to show what is possible when we change how, where and when we travel.
Purpose-built to serve
From day one, we have applied science and technology in service of public good. By becoming a Public Benefit Corporation, we’ve hardwired this original intent and commitment into our corporate charter. This means we can build on our years of research and development with environmental justice leaders, and extend that to more places and people as a corporate responsibility.
Frontline and fenceline communities like those in Richmond-San Pablo, West Oakland, and the portside communities of San Diego, bear the brunt of prolonged exposure to disproportionately higher air pollution year-round due to historical racial inequities. To address this, transformative legislation like California Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617) is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to improve air quality in environmental justice communities, representing a new paradigm in community-led emissions reductions. We’re honored to serve AB 617 communities across the state.
Clean air, public health, and equity on a global scale
Our journey has been a unique one in the world of startups the last decade. We took a decidedly different route, building something incredibly hard, integrating everything from leading-edge scientific discovery to entirely new hardware, software and data science. In the process, we’ve made significant contributions to science and built groundbreaking technology already making a transformative impact and poised for even more. All of this wrapped in a high-growth business model with strong fundamentals, delivering outsized financial, social and environmental returns.
Today, with our incredible coalition of investors by our side, we’ll expand our business into new markets and extend our capabilities to better support more customers, partners and communities. Thank you to existing and new investors, including Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Bosch, Plum Alley, Clearvision Ventures, Social Capital, Rethink Impact, Splunk, KTB Ventures, The Schmidt Family Foundation, GingerBread Capital, Kapor Capital, Radicle Impact, and Emerson Collective. Together, we’re entering this next chapter a dedicated alliance, catalyzing local climate action that adds up to cleaner air, public health and equity on a global scale.