The Vatican might seem an unlikely backdrop for cutting-edge climate change technology, but Stephen Forte of Fresco Capital Fund and Imagine Ventures’ Eric Harr are helping turn the Holy See into a hub for sustainability through their fledgling Laudato Si startup accelerator. Inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on climate change, the program, which launched in May, received around 300 applications for its first run. The accelerator has now announced the names of the nine startups that have made it to the final round of the challenge.
Selected startups received $100,000 in equity investments from social impact investors including Ibrahim Alhusseini, Founder of FullCycle Energy Fund, Chade-Meng Tan, an early Google engineer and The Future Fund’s Andrew Mangino, as well as mentoring from leading industry experts and Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope’s advisor on environmental issues. 20 countries were represented in Laudato Si’s inaugural class, and 56 percent of the selected startups were founded by women.
“The Vatican has opened doors for us with investors. It put a stamp on us,” said Josh Israel, Co-Founder of Pāpr, a software application designed to reduce the use of paper in offices. “The return on investment for coming to the Vatican has been high.” The accelerator helped the New Jersey-based startup raise $300,000 in investments.
Though it has yet to announce dates, Laudato Si has said it will run a second round of the challenge in 2018.