Othersphere has closed over $3 million CAD in seed financing to develop its location optimization platform for sustainable commodities.
The Victoria, BC-based cleantech startup is building software designed to help stakeholders figure out where it makes the most sense to build new production assets for zero- and low-emission commodities such as clean hydrogen.
“The reality is, we are moving too slowly to decarbonize a lot of parts of our economy, particularly heavy industry,” Othersphere co-founder and CEO Robert Murphy told BetaKit in an interview.
“We can invent the solution in the lab, but if we can’t scale it, who cares?”
– Robert Murphy, Othersphere
According to Murphy, who has spent his career working in the energy sector, one of the most difficult challenges is determining where green-infrastructure projects should actually be put. Amid an increasingly complex market with shifting regulations, in many cases, it can be tough to align the folks required to get sustainable commodity production projects off the ground.
“If you can find the spots where the economics will be best, the emissions will be lowest, and then also be a good fit with local surroundings, that’s how [climate tech projects] scale, that’s how we get all the money that we need off the bench to drive industrial decarbonization,” Murphy said.
Leaning on his past experience and armed with capital from notable cleantech investors, Murphy has set his sights on addressing this bottleneck with Othersphere, which is developing a platform designed to help balance all these factors to determine where to locate green infrastructure.
Othersphere’s round, which closed last month, was led by Vancouver-based early-stage cleantech fund Active Impact Investments. Raised via a simple agreement for future equity (SAFE), the round was supported by Thin Line Capital, KDX, and Keiki Capital.
For Active Impact, Murphy was a big part of what attracted the firm to Othersphere. Active Impact founder and managing partner Mike Winterfield described the CEO as a “rare talent,” citing his years of experience in the energy sector.
Murphy said he has been working in energy “in one way, shape, or form” for most of his life. The Othersphere CEO has previously spent time in oil and gas consulting, focused on energy projects in international markets with Enbridge and Chevron, and tracked climate-changing pollution with San Francisco-based cleantech startup Aclima.
After leaving Aclima, Murphy joined Bill Gates-founded climate tech platform Breakthrough Energy as a business advisor in late 2021 through its fellowship program. While he was there, Murphy was helping various Breakthrough teams figure out where to build these projects, when he quickly realized that there was a broader need.
With buy-in from Breakthrough last year in the form of a $250,000-USD grant to support initial research and development and build a proof-of-concept, Murphy launched Othersphere.
Per Murphy, Othersphere’s platform will take a variety of data sources into account, and analyze this info to help customers evaluate the best geographic fit for certain projects. Factors include things like power and natural gas costs, the carbon intensity of those inputs, transportation options, demand for low-carbon tech, and human and environmental variables.
As Winterfield put it, even though “all the ingredients exist” for green-commodity production projects—from demand to willing developers and financiers—the stakeholders often “end up stuck in a planning phase.”
“You’ve got the builders, you’ve got the funders, you have the policymakers, you have communities, and a litany of others, and if they’re all looking at the world differently … that’s where things slow down,” said Murphy. “We can invent the solution in the lab, but if we can’t scale it, who cares?”
Within this context, Othersphere sees room to serve as an “alignment mechanism” that helps these parties determine where it makes the most geographic and economic sense to build green commodity projects. “They’re basically providing that data layer for all of the different incumbents to enable these projects to happen,” said Winterfield.
Othersphere plans to start by focusing on green hydrogen-production projects, which Murphy described as a “gatekeeper” given the chemical and technical overlap hydrogen shares with other physical commodities.
Using its latest funding, Othersphere intends to turn its proof-of-concept into a full-fledged product that it hopes to launch by late 2023 or early 2024.
Feature image courtesy Freepik.