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Cambium Carbon and Floe win 2019 Sobotka Seed Stage Grants

Two startups to receive $10,000 in support of their eco-ventures

Above, Jun Chen (MBA '20) and Ben Christensen (MEM ’20) of Cambium Carbon

Over the past nine years, the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY) has provided funding and mentorship to new eco-ventures through the Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant program. The two startups selected to receive the $10,000 grants this year are Cambium Carbon (formerly Restoration Carbon) and Floe.

Both teams also received Climate Change Innovation Seed Grants offered by CBEY this fall. 

Cambium Carbon is creating a project finance mechanism to help increase natural carbon removal.  In this plan, the upfront costs of tree planting and urban mill infrastructure are covered through investment.  Investors will recover costs through the transformation of currently wasted urban biomass into high-value products — think taking a street tree and turning it into furniture instead of sending it to a landfill.

“Tree's have a huge potential to address climate change, and we are working to create a company that can be the catalyst for restoring tree cover across America at a pace that matches the urgency of the climate crisis,” says Ben Christensen (MEM ’20), co-founder of Cambium Carbon. “By partnering with cities to invest in urban mills and improving how they manage their existing trees, we can create revenue streams that drive new planting and investment into natural solutions into communities across the US.”

Cambium Carbon plans to use this $10,000 to directly support the development of city partnerships to drive replanting efforts.

Floe is a smart, safe, and environmentally friendly solution to prevent the extensive water damage caused by ice buildup on roofs and similar infrastructure in the winter. Compared to the benchmark product, Floe’s system offers customers significant cost savings and emits 1% of the emissions.

“This funding will be critical in fueling our beta pilot this winter where we are launching dozens of systems across the country with the help of our partners to finish validating our technology,” says David Dellal (Ph.D. ’24), co-founder of Floe.

Since 2011, David Sobotka (BA ’78), CBEY advisory board member and Principal at Go Yard, has supported entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers who want to build ventures addressing the needs of both the market and the planet.  “When our family first began this program, the need for innovation in sustainability was the driver and Yale’s unique blend of strengths in environmental studies and management made it the right home,” says Sobotka.  He’s delighted to see marked growth of the innovative culture at Yale, evidenced by the establishment of the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale and the annual Startup Yale event.  “We are happy to have been part of this growth and to be able to help keep it going.”

This year, rather than participate in the selection process, Sobotka acted as a mentor, advising those who considered applying for one of the two $10,000 grants that he sponsors each year.  In doing so, he enjoyed working with students and seeing the ideas develop in real-time. “I personally have come to enjoy being a part of the journey more than just seeing the end result,” says Sobotka.

Cambium Carbon and Floe are eligible to enter Yale’s Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize for a chance to win a further $25,000 this spring as part of Startup Yale.