Elemental Excelerator: Redesigning systems at the root of the climate crisis

Elemental Excelerator is on a mission to redesign the systems at the root of climate change… We understand that technology is only half the solution and that the communities in which these technologies are deployed make up the other half.

Danielle J. Harris Managing Director, Elementral Excelerator

Danielle J. Harris, Managing Director, Elemental Excelerator
2022 WE Empower Awardee, North America Region

Danielle J. Harris puts her undivided attention into pushing for the transition to climate-friendly solutions and equitable practices. Harris is the managing director of Elemental Excelerator, a non-profit organization established in 2009 with a mission to fund climate tech deployment. 

Elemental does not only deploy projects, but also integrates policy, market innovation, and a place-based model to come up with sustainable solutions for communities and governments. Elemental works alongside entrepreneurs to get information on policy, market, and technology innovation required to build systems to transform and help people and communities around the world.  As of this year, Elemental has invested in more than 130 growth-stage companies, celebrated more than 20 exits, funded more than 100 technology projects, and built a platform for scaling equitable, market-driven solutions to climate change.

Elemental supports the following SDGs – GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality and GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Elemental is built on the idea that funding alone does not produce success. It also focuses on surrounding its portfolio companies with support across equity and access, fundraising, policy, corporate partnerships, community engagement, and a network of other innovators. Elemental also supports building strategies to help their entrepreneurs scale rapidly. In fact, 62% of founders they work with stated that they changed their business models after working with Elemental.

Elemental assists companies with the deployment process by buying down the risk of deploying a transformational project. For example, Elemental funded a business model pilot for SOURCE, a company that created drinking water from sunlight and air. This pilot enabled SOURCE to deploy in more than 50 countries worldwide, created 500,000 liters per year of water, created 50 jobs, and counteracted 100+ tons of CO2 per year. 

Reduced Inequality

Elemental hopes that in the future building a company with Equity & Access at its core will be the status quo. In 2017, Elemental piloted the Just Innovation Prize “with three projects accelerating access to clean technology in California’s low-to-moderate income neighborhoods that have been traditionally excluded from early access to technologies. The projects included installing solar PV, home energy efficiency, and supporting ranchers using regenerative practices.”

In 2018, Elemental launched the Equity and Access Track, a curriculum that is used for all their portfolio companies. For example, Elemental partnered with Remix, a group assembled by Oakland-based non-profit TransForm and other California DOTs to come up with geospatial data designed to understand how city planning impacts communities.  

I recognize technology alone won’t save us because this is a heart and mind movement. We need to compel people to act by raising awareness, meeting them where they are, and appealing to their interests.

Danielle J. Harris

by Fahima Ali

The WE Empower UN SDG Challenge is a first-of-its-kind global competition for women entrepreneurs who are pushing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and leading innovation in sustainability and climate change through their businesses. This Contributing Series highlights finalists of the Challenge whose work demonstrates how business models and social entrepreneurship can drive global impact.