Sylvera takes $32M to build trust in carbon offsetting ratings

Sylvera, a U.K.-based startup which uses machine learning technology to analyze a variety of visual data like satellite imagery and lidar with the goal of boosting accountability and credibility around carbon offsetting projects, has fast followed a $5.8 million seed round in May last year by closing a $32 million Series A.

The round was co-led by Index Ventures, which also led Sylvera’s seed, along with New York-based global private equity and VC firm Insight Partners. Also participating in the round: Salesforce Ventures, LocalGlobe and a number of angel investors.

The 2020-founded startup has now raised a total of $39.5 million.

It says the Series A will be used to fuel further business expansion, including by further expanding the team and beefing up technical leadership.

Expanding the platform to include universal coverage of all offsets is also on the cards.

Commenting in a statement, Dr. Allister Furey, co-founder and CEO, said: “The market is one of the world’s most powerful tools against climate change. But we need reliable data to determine the quality of carbon offsets, in order to incentivize people to invest in the projects that are actually doing good — and to reward the project developers doing good work.

“That’s why we’re building the most accurate ratings for the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM). We’ll use the funding to expand our coverage so that, with our ratings, corporate sustainability leaders, carbon traders, and policymakers will have clarity, confidence and choice when evaluating and investing in carbon projects. This is how you move billions of dollars into carbon abatement, sequestration and removal.”

Sylvera is not disclosing how many customers it has for its ratings — which it makes available via a web app and API — but says customers so far span a mix of industries, and include the likes of Delta Airlines, Cargill, CBL (an Xpansiv market) and Bain & Company.

“We have a mix of customers spanning corporate buyers, traders and exchanges,” it adds. “Our customers are typically large institutions who have made net zero commitments, and who are the biggest buyers of carbon credits in the market.”

While Sylvera’s ratings framework is proprietary, the startup says it’s committed to publishing details of how it makes project assessments to support its goal of becoming a leading trusted source of carbon offsetting data (importantly it does not trade carbon offsets itself to avoid direct conflicts).

Its pitch is “independent, in-depth and up-to-date assessments of carbon projects” — a worthy-sounding goal in a space rife with bogus offsets and greenwashing — albeit a claim that will need independent, in-depth and up-to-date external verification of the methods, data and algorithms involved if it’s to actually gain trust.

“We are working towards making Sylvera the most trusted source of truth on carbon offsets across all types of offsets within the next two years,” the startup notes when we ask about this, adding: “To be a trusted source of data, we must be transparent. This is why we will publish our ratings framework, our model accuracy assessment protocols, and underlying model accuracy figures. We will be also publishing peer-reviewed academic papers on our advanced biomass inference work later this year with our partner researchers at leading universities around the world.”

Commenting on the Series A round in a statement, Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, partner at Index Ventures and Sylvera board member, added: “We won’t stand a chance of reducing the world’s carbon emissions without a well-functioning carbon offset market. Billions are spent on carbon offsets every year, yet there is a lack of transparency and accountability and, therefore, a lack of trust. Trust is absolutely essential to reach the scale required to address the climate emergency. As an independent data provider, Sylvera has seen exponential growth in demand from some of the world’s largest companies, governments, and other entities. It highlights how critical their work is, and we’re excited to expand our partnership with Sylvera.”