20 December 2017

The Vatican backs competition for climate change start-ups

The Vatican has announced the first round of finalists of its competition calling for climate change focused start-ups from around the world to submit innovative ideas that contribute to the mitigation of global warming.

The initiative started  approximately one year ago when California-based venture capitalists Stephen Forte of Fresco Capital Fund and Eric Harr of Imagine Ventures, asked the Vatican to support a competition among technology start-ups which address climate change, energy and sustainable resource management issues.

Out of more than 300 participants, 9 start-ups spread across a wide range of backgrounds were chosen to receive $100,000 each in equity investments, at a gala dinner organised by the Vatican.

Although the funding does not come from the Vatican, the influence of Pope Francis and Cardinal Peter Turkson-  the Vatican’s top adviser on environmental issues acted as leverage for the start-ups to attract more funds and take advantage of the ‘The Vatican stamp’.

Josh Israel, the co-founder of Pāpr, a software application designed to reduce the use of paper in offices, said: “The Vatican has opened doors for us with investors. It put a stamp on us”. As reported by Reuters, his firm has now received more than $300,000 in investment after the networking opportunities it received during the awards.

Investors included Ibrahim AlHusseini, founder of the FullCycle Energy Fund, which supports entrepreneurs focusing on turning waste into energy, Badr Jafar- an Emirati social entrepreneur and Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer.

Cardinal Turkson, said: "Hi-tech, artificial intelligence, and all those elements can contribute to the well-being of the Earth”.

"High technology is a product of the human mind. And in this encyclical the challenge of science plays a very crucial part”, he added.

Valeria Sanchez, one of the co-founders of Protrash, an app aimed to help communities collect plastic and aluminum waste, said: “We are here because of Pope Francis; he made a revolution in climate change”.

In 2015, Pope Francis addressed the ‘Laudato Si’ encyclical mandating policymakers worldwide to make climate change a top priority for the 21st century, calling environmental protection and the mitigation of global warming a moral obligation. 

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