Capital Nature is one of the leading investment funds in climatech in Israel, and was recently included in an international list of outstanding climatech venture capital firms by CTVC Ltd. “We’re gaining international attention and recognition which is amazing. We cultivate some of the leading cleantech technologies in Israel,” Orit Marom-Albeck told CTech in an interview.
She serves as the Co-Chair and Partner at the law firm Shibolet & Co, and is also one of the co-founders behind Capital Nature. The firm recently celebrated its ten year anniversary. Back when it was founded, things looked a whole lot different. Capital Nature was then-based in the southern kibbutz of Yotvata – popular to Israelis for its dairy factories and nearby Air Force Base. Cleantech was a nearly unheard of sector, and interest waned.
In 2011, the Israeli government issued a proposal, asking companies to establish an investment entity for renewable energy startups in the Negev and western Arava regions. The call aimed to create incentives for investing in the renewable energy sector, which was relatively unknown at the time, and generate revenue for outlying peripheral towns. Marom-Albeck partnered with Shai Schiller (currently a Partner at JVP), and Richard “Richie” Roberts, of Shibolet, to build a group that would answer that quandary. Thus, Capital Nature was born. Its first strategic partners were defense giants Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, while its financial partners include Direct Insurance and Ratio Technologies. Later on, the Eilat municipality and Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy, as well as Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, joined the group, which won the government tender.
Cleantech aims to promote clean air, whether that is done through renewable energy or other technologies that aim to reduce greenhouse gasses. “In 2012, renewable energy wasn’t the sexy sector that it is today. Getting together shareholders from different worlds is challenging, and we decided to specialize in something new: cleantech,” she said, “for a cleaner future.” As part of the tender, for every dollar (or shekel) that the group invested in cleantech startups, the government contributed one as well. (Through the agreement, the government and Capital Nature split funds between investing in startups and running the fund’s operations.) After five years, the tender’s concession ended, but the group didn’t use all its funds, and managed to continue its operations, after adding on angel investor Jack Gelman (a former Andersen Partner), the Consensus Business Group, and the Ardom Group, an agricultural cooperative association which manages the commercial side of kibbutzim in southern Israel.
To date, the firm has invested in 17 companies, 12 of which are currently active. Five of those are public: Electreon Wireless, which has engineered a wireless electrification system that enables electric transportation, reducing the need for large car batteries. Augwind Energy Tech, which is working to revolutionize energy storage by storing compressed air underground. Augwind uses compressed air to activate hydro turbines, and produce electricity. Chakratec is another company that creates an easier solution for charging EVs, by relying on a kinetic energy storage system which provides unlimited high-power charging. Trucknet offers a cloud-based transportation platform that optimizes smart freight. The company assists long-distance cargo trucks, which saves on energy by coordinating deliveries, and cutting down on gas use. And Blade Ranger, which has created robotic drones that swiftly clean and inspect solar panels without water. The drones can be used to clean setups on rooftops and at solar facilities, and operate well at night, working to detect malfunctions.
“We support all of the companies, and work side by side with them,” she reiterated. The other companies are private or startups, and include Enervibe Ltd., ViaCool, RoadSense, Silib Ltd., Viridix, Make My Day, and Algalife. The latter creates eco-positive solutions by converting algae into biofibers and eco-friendly dyes that cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, which is another goal for Capital Nature.
While interest in climatech has sparked over the past decade, it has seen a boom over the past three to four years. Many believe this is directly related to renewed interest in climate change as natural disasters increase at an alarming rate. “Ten years ago, no one really thought this field was that important, but now the world realizes the need to deal with the climate crisis – and find solutions – is huge. We’re in a totally different place.” Reasons for that, she surmised, are due to several factors including dwindling energy sources that are polluting the environment like oil fields. Reducing carbon emissions has been marked as an environmental goal for several governments, and many realize action must be taken, but so far few countries have set forth realistic goals to achieve zero net carbon emissions. On the geopolitical side, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has also sparked a new debate due to Russia’s threat to shut down their energy sources to Germany and other European countries. This has led countries to search for alternative sources of renewable energy. “Countries want to achieve energy independence, especially in global conflicts,” she added.