Editor’s note: This profile is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing series by Crunchbase News examining diversity and access to capital in the venture-backed startup ecosystem. As part of this project, we’re following seven seed-stage entrepreneurs over the course of several months as they build their businesses. Read our previous profile of Sanchali Pal and her path to closing a $2.5 million seed round from Sequoia Capital for her startup, Joro, here. Access the full project here.
For the first time since raising the seed round for her startup, Sanchali Pal finds herself back in an office with her small team by her side as they work to grow Oakland-based Joro, an app for consumers to track their carbon footprint.
Pal launched Joro just over a year ago, in April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We previously covered the challenges Pal faced in raising seed funding as a sole founder. From a cold outreach, she ended up securing a pre-seed round in 2019 led by Sequoia Capital, which also led Joro’s 2020 seed round of $2.5 million. The company has now raised a total of $3.5 million.
When we caught up again with Pal, five members of Joro’s 7-person team had just had their first week back in the office, a boutique co-working space in Oakland.
“My meeting heavy days have become much more energizing” and conversations with team members are more open-ended, Pal said, after more than a year of virtual meetings.
The focus for the team now is its recent launch of a subscription product for users to cancel out their carbon emissions. While companies like Microsoft and Shopify are engaged in purchasing carbon removal, Joro allows consumers to take action.
“Living a net-zero life is a new concept. It just hasn’t been possible — until now — to track, reduce, and automatically offset the carbon footprint of everything you buy,” said Pal.
The challenges for Joro in preparing for this launch were two-fold.
The first issue was confidence in Joro’s ability to accurately estimate carbon footprint. “The team spent several months in late 2020 working with researchers at Yale University and Stanford University to refine our algorithms that convert spending data to carbon footprint data,” said Pal, explaining how her team built Joro’s Carbonizer analytics.
The second challenge was sourcing the best projects for offsetting.
The team at Joro spent six months looking into the portfolio for carbon offsets and approaching the analysis with a skeptical lens. They tested their framework with experts from the Environmental Defense Fund and CarbonPlan and a couple of other nonprofit third parties.
Their first criteria was integrity, or that carbon is removed when programs say it will be removed.
The second consideration was looking at whether those offsets actually “contribute to creating the world we want to live in,” Pal said. In other words, do the offsets have transformative potential for equity and justice, or biodiversity, beyond carbon removal?
The team balanced projects with the Oxford principles for credible carbon offsetting, which warns against greenwashing and offsets that don’t do proper carbon accounting.
“The construction of the portfolio and rebalancing of the portfolio, on behalf of users, is almost as valuable as the calculation of their footprint itself,” said Pal, who studied economics at Princeton University and earned her MBA from Harvard.
Joro users buy into the blend that the team constructed, with 66 percent on forestry across two different projects, 33 percent for soil offsets and finally 1 percent on bio-oil projects. “We will be monitoring and rebalancing this portfolio on behalf of our users every few months with the best projects on the market.”
“It’s not enough to just reduce their emissions, using the app. They want to go to zero carbon,” said Pal of Joro’s most active users.
The key finding for Joro is that their most motivated users have opted for carbon offsets.“I would classify our most dedicated users as those who connect a card in their first or second experience with the app,” said Pal. “That is not the majority of users, but it’s a significant percentage.”
The typical Joro user spends around $25 per month for carbon offsets. Removal for the projects cost around $20 a ton. Joro takes a 20 percent fee for its service.
“I worry that the climate community can sometimes be alienating. There is a lot of doomsday language, fearmongering, cynicism, and shame in coverage of climate,” said Pal on what keeps her up at night. “It’s easy to feel like only a politician or a CEO in a boardroom can make decisions that matter for our shared future, or that we have to take extreme action like becoming vegan or living off the grid to have any credibility at all.”
Photo illustration by Dom Guzman
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