Climate

Opna wants to help companies hit ‘net zero’ by finding and funding carbon projects

Comment

Opna site shown on laptop

The race to net zero has led thousands of businesses to commit to eliminating their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a commitment that falls short of what is needed to counter the growing climate emergency.

The problems are manifold. Insufficient action and planning among governments and corporations is part of it, but even with the best will in the world, the Herculean undertaking required to get businesses to net zero in less than three decades presents a vast gamut of challenges.

Among them is how to help well-intentioned institutions invest in carbon projects, and — by extension — how to help carbon projects get investment. This is something that Opna is setting out to solve, with a platform that helps corporations find, fund and monitor carbon projects as part of their offsetting endeavors.

The London-based company, which rebranded from Salt some three months ago, today announced it has raised $6.5 million in seed funding as it looks to connect projects with corporates seeking to address their emissions as part of the so-called voluntary carbon market (VCM).

Fully vetted

Founded in 2022, Opna serves as a direct artery for corporates to find fully vetted project developers, saving them time and money sourcing projects to fund as part of their net-zero efforts. Additionally, Opna also helps facilitate the financing aspect through standardized processes and agreements, while enabling businesses to monitor their portfolio of projects over time through by key performance indicators (KPIs) and risk reporting.

According to Opna founder Shilpika Gautam, the status quo for carbon project discovery and financing is largely an arduous, manual process with little in the way of digitalization. And there is little consistency across sectors, adding to the due diligence difficulties.

“The processes and tools are driven by the sophistication and expertise of corporations, and how business-critical their net-zero strategy is,” Gautam explained to TechCrunch. “The most ‘active’ businesses are swamped with emails from project developers — as the process is entirely manual, it’s hard for businesses to tell good or bad or duplicate projects, leaving them to default to working with project developers they know.”

Opna's founder Shilpika Gautam
Opna’s founder Shilpika Gautam. Image Credits: Opna

On the project side, there are a wide range of developer types, including larger private players such as South Pole and Ecosecurities that have access to their own capital pool. And then there are small and mid-sized players that typically need to raise upfront financing to fulfil their carbon projects. It’s these latter ones that Opna is looking to support, whereby a financier (i.e. a corporation) provides some of the funding upfront with the promise either of future carbon credits, or commits to purchase carbon credits when they are delivered.

“We focus on projects where there are frameworks and standards available, and where the science is more known,” Gautam said. “In other words, where we can really focus on tackling the financing challenge.”

In terms of business model, Opna plans to charge a set percentage on completed financing transactions, as well as an annual subscription for monitoring, tracking and reporting in projects that become financed.

In its 18 or so months since its founding, Gautam says Opna has signed up “tens” of project developers from around the world who need upfront financing.

“We work closely with these projects, which range from reforestation projects in South America, restoring degraded lands and conserving biodiversity, to biochar projects that create biofuels and achieve carbon removal, across several countries in Europe, Africa and South Asia,” Gautam said.

On the financing side, meanwhile, Gautam said that Opna has been privately beta testing its platform with several enterprises across different sectors, though she stopped short of naming names. But its latest cash injection will be substantively used to scale things and boost customer awareness over the next couple of years.

Carbon copy

There are a number of players operating in Opna’s space, including carbon removal marketplace Supercritical, which recently raised $13 million in Series A funding. However, Gautam said that Opna is setting itself apart by not simply allowing companies to purchase carbon credits that have already been generated, but instead moving further upstream to help get new projects off the ground.

“Opna’s platform enables businesses to directly finance carbon projects, way before the projects generate a carbon credit,” Gautam said. “This is a crucial distinction, because we currently have a supply shortage of high-quality credits, and by financing projects at the start, businesses help bring them to life, thereby locking in the future supply of credits that these projects eventually generate to match their net-zero goals.”

Opna’s seed round was led by European VC Atomico, with participation from Pale Blue Dot, MCJ Collective, Angelinvest, Tiny VC and several angel investors.

More TechCrunch

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine