Laid-off tech workers: There’s a potentially lucrative opportunity waiting for you in climate tech, if you want it.
That’s the message the burgeoning industry is sending to many of those affected by the massive layoffs at major tech companies like Meta, Twitter, and Stripe in recent weeks.
Former senior leaders at Lyft, Stripe, and Twitter who now work in climate have been coordinating over the past week with workforce development groups including Climate Draft, Terra.do, and Work on Climate to help support laid-off tech workers, as well as provide job and learning resources for transitioning to the climate sector.
The result is a slew of job fairs, boot camps, coordinated social posts, and email blasts, as well as a non-exhaustive but growing job board of over 4,000 jobs in climate tech specifically geared toward those with traditional tech skills like software engineering and product management.
Alex Roetter was an early Twitter leader and the company’s former head of engineering. Today he’s a managing director and general partner at Moxxie Ventures, which invests heavily in climate tech startups, as well as the founder of Terraset, a nonprofit that funds carbon removal.
He is, to put it mildly, bullish on climate tech. “This is going to be bigger than the internet,” he said, and he’s been getting the word out to former Tweeps in the Twitter alumni Slack community about resources like Climate Draft and opportunities in the industry overall.
In his view, climate tech isn’t just a vertical, but “a redoing of the entire economy,” with the potential to transform entire industries like transportation, buildings, and agriculture. “The people who achieve this are going to be fantastically rich,” Roetter said.
He’s not alone. Influential techies-turned-climate warriors like Chris Sacca, Katie Jacobs Stanton, and Peter Reinhardt have been tweeting out support for laid-off workers and pointing them to opportunities in climate tech.
Raj Kapoor, a co-founder and managing partner at climate tech VC firm Climactic (and Lyft’s former chief strategy officer), has a similar message for those affected by recent layoffs. For some people, “This is a blessing in disguise for them to go in and do something with impact that they care about,” he told Protocol.
Kapoor said he has been working with Lyft CEO Logan Green on sending a message to former Lyft employees, including the almost 700 who were laid off, about opportunities in climate tech and linking them to Climate Draft resources.
This is a blessing in disguise for them to go in and do something with impact that they care about.”
“He’s a huge proponent of climate. That’s why he started the company. And he’s so loyal, and every CEO feels really bad about having to lay off people,” Kapoor said of Green.
To Kapoor, the transferability of skills is obvious. What climate tech needs right now is “experience in commercializing and scaling,” he said. “These people, whether it’s Lyft or Facebook or Salesforce, have experience in that.”
Kapoor pointed out that an increasing number of major companies have net zero pledges, which means they’ll require tools and software to help them get there. Folks with experience at places like Salesforce, which laid off hundreds of employees on Monday, “are amazing people to bring on, because they understand how to sell and deal with the enterprise,” he said.
There’s sometimes a perception among tech workers that they don’t have the skills to work in climate tech, which is an industry that often deals with hard sciences like chemistry and materials engineering. While that is sometimes the case, what people fail to realize is that these startups still need software engineers, and they still need product managers, said Anshuman Bapna, the founder and CEO of climate jobs and learning platform Terra.do.
Of the approximately 2,000 active jobs on Terra.do, 30% are for traditional deep tech roles, like industrial process automation and chemical engineers; 30% are in software, data science, and product management; and 40% are in fact traditional business roles like marketing, enterprise sales, legal, and public relations, said Bapna.
Even in such a short amount of time, those affected by layoffs are responding. Climate Draft co-founder Jonathan Strauss said he’s seen over 2,000 new profiles created on the platform since last Friday, when he and others started coordinating to get the word out.
Bapna said Terra.do has seen a similar jump in interest, with over 1,400 people attending its online climate tech job fair Wednesday, its largest ever. (Typically, anywhere from 300 to 400 people attend.) During the two hours of the job fair alone, companies that participated saw over 200 applications come in on the Terra.do portal.
Climate tech has, in some ways, been relatively shielded from the recessionary wave hitting the mainstream tech industry. It’s exploded as an area for venture capital in recent years and has stayed high, even while the rest of the market and public tech companies alike are getting pummeled.
Industry insiders say the reason is twofold. One is the obvious moral imperative: People and businesses alike are realizing there’s no time to waste in confronting the climate crisis, and people feel compelled to act. The other is that, as a result, companies large and small are starting to make bold climate commitments that require breakthrough, industry-disrupting tech solutions to make them achievable.
Strauss said he’s heard from some tech workers who are excited about climate tech but have raised understandable concerns about pay, job security, and benefits, but those inside the industry are quick to assuage those concerns. “The equity upside can be massive,” he told Protocol, and base compensation in climate tech is comparable to that of any similarly staged tech company.
Bapna started his career in tech a few decades ago, and he said this period reminds him of previous recessionary cycles like those in 2001 and 2008. “Every time there is a bit of a recession or the markets take a downturn, that is an opportunity for people to also reassess their lives,” he said.
And right now climate tech is well positioned for those people. “What’s happening in climate is we have the perfect storm of political will, capital, and the maturity of technology all happening simultaneously, especially in the U.S.,” he said.
In other words, it’s the perfect time for people to get in on the ground floor on something that could be huge.