See the pitch deck that green-cement startup Terra CO2 used to convince Bill Gates’ VC fund to co-lead its $46 million Series A round

DJ Lake Bill Yearsley Terra CO2
  • Terra CO2 makes a more environmentally-friendly alternative to cement for construction projects. 
  • The company makes a construction binder out of recycled feedstocks rather than carbon-rich ones. 
  • The team raised a $46 million Series A round which Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures co-led.

Terra CO2 wants to reduce carbon emissions in construction by replacing traditional cement with a new, lower-carbon binding agent, or the chemical that holds concrete together. 

DJ Lake, a Ph.D. candidate in mineralogy at the University of British Columbia founded the Vancouver and Golden, Colorado-based startup in 2016. Its main product is a cement alternative made from different feedstocks and silicate, rather than the carbon-rich limestone base that goes into traditional cement.

The buzz around Terra’s new cement alternative has attracted the interest of Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the investment arm of Gates’ larger project to combat the climate crisis. Breakthrough Energy Ventures originally co-led Terra CO2’s seed round with Creative Ventures. Now, they’re co-leading the startup’s $46 million Series A round with LENx, the investing arm of Lennar, a home-building company.

Terra CO2’s cement can still bind concrete together well, but it produces 70% fewer CO2 emissions compared to regular cement. Lake based his original products for Terra on his own research and then teamed up with Dr. Bill Yearsley, a 30-year veteran in the construction-materials industry, in 2019 to lead as the CEO, Yearsley told Insider.  

The cement-production industry is ripe for green alternatives, Yearsley said, because it’s one of the largest contributors to carbon release into the atmosphere, a process that has been the main contributor to the climate crisis. According to a 2021 report, it’s estimated that cement production accounts for eight percent of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide. Terra CO2’s two core products currently can replace around 20-30% and 30-50% of the cement a batch of concrete calls for. 

Yearsley saw a huge market opportunity with Lake’s new products, because manufacturers could add them into concrete construction using existing mixing technology. “We don’t think the construction-materials industry is going to pay a premium to be green,” Yearsley said.  “It’s got to be cost-competitive and work within the existing infrastructure.” 

The market for environmentally friendly cement products is also growing. According to recent construction-industry market research, it was estimated to be around a $25 billion global market in 2021. Many of Terra CO2’s biggest competitors are based internationally, such as ECOCEM in Ireland and CemGreen in Denmark. 

The Terra CO2 team has raised $61 million to date, a spokesperson told Insider. Terra will use the funds to scale up its research-and-development team to build a complete cement alternative and to expand its manufacturing capabilities, including opening a manufacturing site by the second half of 2023. 

Check out the 25-slide pitch deck that Terra CO2 used to raise $46 million from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and LENx: 

Terra CO2 Pitch deck

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