Changing The Face Of Climate Innovation: A Conversation With Brandeis University

The Impact Seat Foundation
2 min readMay 18, 2021

At The Impact Seat, we’re incredibly passionate about investing in Climate Innovation — particularly, we’re passionate about investing in equitable and sustainable innovation that serves communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change. Last month, The Impact Seat’s President and Founder, Barbara Clarke, virtually visited her alma mater, Brandeis University, with three innovative Cleantech startup founders to discuss their revolutionary innovations, the future of clean energy, and the disparities within the Cleantech space for excluded founders.

During the chat, Steph Speirs, Co-Founder and CEO of Solstice, (a women-of-color run green energy organization that works to put Cleantech in the hands of low-income communities) had this to say about the inequities facing minority communities in the U.S:

“In the climate space we work in, the people that need energy savings the most (low to moderate income Americans, people who are Black and Brown who are disproportionately affected by climate change, etc.) are currently the least likely to get access to clean energy. They’re also the ones who suffer most from our environmental problems. They live closer to fossil fuels, they have higher energy burdens, they have higher incidences of asthma and air pollution, and they’re the least likely to get access to clean energy and energy savings. It’s not a question of whether or not we’re going to switch to clean energy, it’s a matter of whether or not it will be equitable.”

Not only are communities of color facing inequity, but so are BIPOC founders within the clean tech space: less than 3% of Cleantech startups are founded by people of color. Watch the full conversation below to learn more about how Steph, Michael and Paris are fighting inequities within the Cleantech sector, how Cleantech orgs can receive government funding through SBIR grants, new investment paradigms, and more!

Watch the full video, featuring Barbara Clarke (Founder & President of The Impact Seat), Paris Smalls (Co-Founder & CEO of Eden GeoTech), Steph Speirs (Co-Founder and CEO of Solstice) and Michael Burtov (Founder and CEO, GeoOrbital).


0:00 — Intro

5:00 — Q: “What message would you have to current students?”

7:50 — Q: “How are you battling systemic inequality?”

13:10: — Q: “What are the different sources of capital that you have had access to?”

19:30 — Q: “Have you applied for SBIR funding?”

25:30 — Q: “If you had a magic wand and could make one big change, what would it be?”

30:25 — Audience Q&A



The Impact Seat Foundation

Creating a world in which women can succeed as business leaders.