The highs and lows from a year that was
Reflections on the first 8,760 hours of DirtSat
The close of 2021 brought a flurry of new opportunities for both DirtSat as a startup and for me as a founder. Given the pace of change, my window to stop, think, and write was severely tested, resulting in a quiet public-facing Q4.
This was in no way a reflection of the company slowing down, in fact it was quite the opposite. So, my first newsletter of 2022 is a TL;DR on all that wasn’t broadcast at the tail end of the year and a quick look ahead.
The Highlight Reel
I ingested a ton of year-end reviews in December and saw a wealth of ambitious forecasts in early January. While I am well-versed in the power of positive thinking, I think it’s equally important to embrace the lows, provided you can absorb and learn from them. You’ve likely heard the following trope:
‘The startup road is equally paved with big highs and deep lows’
Given our social media penchant for shielding anything but the positive or provocative (debbie downers need not apply), much of the underbelly goes unseen. While there’s much debate surrounding the public image startups put forward, there is something to be said about exposing an equally unflinching resolve toward thorny and sometimes messy challenges.
As an antidote, I’d like to share both extremes. Here’s a high-level overview of the wins and challenges for DirtSat, as we closed out 2021:
February through August we deployed PoCs on rooftop farms in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. These precision agriculture IoT sensors performed extremely well in heavily urban areas with minimal issues regarding sensor and geospatial data capture.
August saw us complete V1.0 of our Index technology, a GIS that identifies and ranks all rooftops in a geographical area for agriculture viability. We overlay a host of climate and socio-economic data to help cities and property owners prepare a roadmap for implementation of the agriculture network (more on this in the next newsletter).
September brought deep insights and connections to other amazing technologists via Renaissance Collective (RenCo). If you want to build relationships with an exceptional array of individuals brimming with talent and humor, look no further.
Also in September, DirtSat was named a deep tech pioneer in the Mobility & Urban Sustainability Global Challenge by Hello Tomorrow, the largest deep tech organization in Europe.
October brought an invitation to join the On Deck platform as a ClimateTech fellow for cohort 3 (ODCT3). The caliber of fellows is really quite high, and I’ve built an amazing network of like-minded climate professionals who are deeply invested in solving massive global challenges.
Finally in December, we joined Greentown Labs, the largest ClimateTech incubator in North America. I’m still getting my head around the contours of the ecosystem, but it is an equally impressive and inspiring collection of startups working toward climate mitigation from a range of perspectives and sectors. I feel extremely lucky to be among such deep thinkers and passionate professionals.
Applied to and denied by 10 incubators. Lesson: my due diligence wasn’t on point. Not every ecosystem will be a good fit (even if it seems like you are an ideal company). Every program has its flavor and it’s important to understand how you slot into their portfolio.
Applied for funding and grants, via institutional and other routes. Still crafting the framework of an ideal partnership and an ideal champion to help propel us further and hone the pitch. Lesson: Never too early to get in front of investors, but imperative to appreciate that every “perfect” idea will evolve with each new conversation. Kill your darlings.
Spent many months on co-founder dating, with no viable long-term prospects. This is a notoriously difficult and consequential decision, but you don’t fully appreciate its weight until you’re wading upstream. Lesson: I don’t miss dating.
I’m part of a small group that convenes once a week to discuss professional issues, limitations, problems or conundrums (part of the ODCT cohort called Masterminds). At the start of the year, we spent time going over our goals for the coming year, and a cohort member shared that they’d approached goal setting by designating a theme for the year. Taking that to heart, developing a theme strikes me as a much more relatable way to approach the year ahead.
It may be reminiscent of a mantra, but using a theme to drive decisions is a nice reminder for me to approach the year with intentionality. I’m using this to help focus, literally, on everything to come. Often, despite the best of intentions (scheduling and planning), externalities come at you at a ferocious pace. To stay proactive and derive value within limited timeframes, there must be space to prepare and reflect, even on short notice.
For me, this means care and space are given for every interaction. Sometimes, we rely on instinct to carry us when time is tight, but it can prevent both forethought and hindsight where critical signals are missed. Creating space allows for sharp focus on what/who is in front of you, and the opportunity for ideas to coalesce.
I’ll circle back at year-end to see if this actually worked.
Next up for DirtSat - 2022 and beyond
A late year pivot exposed interesting opportunities to look at the thermal advantages of adding Rooftop Ag to the overall energy profile of buildings. DirtSat is looking for both corporate partners and fundraising support to secure funding and deploy our MVP.
The broad strokes involve validating energy usage reductions and GHG avoidance on a commercial property through the addition of a rooftop farm through building energy modeling (BEM).
If you or someone you know wants to assist us in taking this important next step, please share this newsletter or contact us directly at: hello [at] dirtsat [dot] com. We’re happy to walk through the support we’re looking for in more detail.
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