Home Venture Capital 5 cleantech startups that didn’t survive to see 2024

5 cleantech startups that didn’t survive to see 2024

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Canary Media chronicles many of the bold venture-capital investments made in cleantech, but the flip side of that coin is that most VC-funded startups fail. While billions are being invested in shiny technologies such as nuclear fusion, carbon dioxide removal and sustainable aircraft fuels, billions will surely be lost in these and other sectors.

Perhaps there are some hard-won lessons to be learned by taking a look at the VC-backed climatetech startups that went bankrupt or shut down in late 2023.

Hyperloop One eighty-sixed

After failing to find a customer for its vision of zipping people or freight around in vacuum tubes at aircraft speeds, Hyperloop One is now selling off its assets and laying off the remainder of its staff.

Co-founded by Shervin Pishevar in 2014 as an alternative to trains and planes, the startup raised more than $450 million from investors including Dubai-based majority owner DP World, Caspian Venture Capital, Sherpa Capital, Formation 8, Zhen Fund and The Virgin Group.

A large cylindrical metal object in a dark interior space
The Virgin Hyperloop One XP-1 test pod on display at Rockefeller Center in 2019 (Z22/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

The hyperloop dream lives on at startups such as Hardt Hyperloop, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Swisspod.

Lessons to be learned: Dramatically changing transportation systems is hard. The Segway, which supporters once claimed would forever alter the way people move around cities, is now largely relegated to mall cops. (See also the monorail episode of The Simpsons.)

Bankrupt Bird

On the topic of new transportation paradigms, six-year-old shared electric scooter startup Bird has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company rose to unicorn status in less than a year and at its peak was valued at $2 billion, back in the days of zero-interest-rate-induced irrationality. Lured to the public markets via a special-purpose-acquisition-company merger in 2021, Bird was spanked by those same markets in 2022 and delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in September 2023 after its share price plummeted.

Bird is not the only scooter player to hit the wall: Shared e-scooter startup Superpedestrian is shuttering its operations 18 months after raising $125 million in equity and debt, according to TechCrunch. Micromobility.com was delisted from the Nasdaq in December for failing to maintain a minimum share price.

Lime now stands as the biggest micromobility player in a volatile, consolidating market that is nevertheless still growing. The number of micromobility trips is increasing in the U.S., and the market for e-bikes, owned or rented, is a standout.

Lessons to be learned: Municipalities cannot depend on VC-funded transportation startups to solve mobility problems.

Failure to flow

After losing its CEO and cutting most of its staff in September, Zinc8 Energy Solutions, a flow-battery aspirant, is struggling to survive. The startup, which never managed to generate any revenue, has a market capitalization of $1.4 million and a flatlining stock price.

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