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Vatican Unveils Climate Change Accelerator Finalists

Image credit: Gary Ullah

The Vatican might seem an unlikely backdrop for cutting-edge climate change technology, but Stephen Forte of Fresco Capital Fund and Imagine VenturesEric Harr are helping turn the Holy See into a hub for sustainability through their fledgling Laudato Si startup accelerator. Inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on climate change, the program, which launched in May, received around 300 applications for its first run. The accelerator has now announced the names of the nine startups that have made it to the final round of the challenge.

Selected startups received $100,000 in equity investments from social impact investors including Ibrahim Alhusseini, Founder of FullCycle Energy Fund, Chade-Meng Tan, an early Google engineer and The Future Fund’s Andrew Mangino, as well as mentoring from leading industry experts and Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope’s advisor on environmental issues. 20 countries were represented in Laudato Si’s inaugural class, and 56 percent of the selected startups were founded by women.

Earlier this month, startups culminated the eight-week accelerator by presenting their ideas during a demo day at the Vatican. Among the solutions chosen to come to Rome were an affordable water filtration technology that can process 99.9999 percent of all pathogens (AQUS); a technology that turns brewery waste into a high protein flour (RISE); a patented microwave pyrolysis process that transforms toxic sludge into energy and water (INNOV8TIA); and a social enterprise working to optimize the recycling industry in Mexico by paying community members for recyclables (PROTRASH).

The Vatican’s influence played a large role in the success of the accelerator, offering startups opportunities, funding and exposure that may not have otherwise been available, while also providing participants with an additional layer of credibility.

“The Vatican has opened doors for us with investors. It put a stamp on us,” said Josh Israel, Co-Founder of Pāpr, a software application designed to reduce the use of paper in offices. “The return on investment for coming to the Vatican has been high.” The accelerator helped the New Jersey-based startup raise $300,000 in investments.

Though it has yet to announce dates, Laudato Si has said it will run a second round of the challenge in 2018.

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