Postcards from Climate Alumni

 During a recent online event, five former Dalberg associates convened to discuss the experiences that drove and molded their commitment to climate action. Read on to discover the pivotal moments that set them on diverse paths, ranging from establishing environmentally sustainable startups to leading networks and initiatives dedicated to climate action and advocacy.

Sanchali Pal, Founder and CEO, Commons

As a Senior Consultant at Dalberg, Sanchali worked with companies, governments, and foundations across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Focusing on smart cities and urban development, she acted as Global Deputy of Dalbergs Cities Practice. She has been passionate about climate since college. “I tracked my carbon footprint in an Excel spreadsheet for the whole time I was at Dalberg and lowered my emissions by about 30% over those years, she says. 

The Ground Realities of Funding and Business Development

“I started Commons as a for-profit startup and because of the channel through which it’s distributed, i.e., a mobile app, scale is critical. I decided early on to take venture funding for this business. I won the first $30,000 from business plan competitions at Harvard and MIT, which was very helpful in getting started. I was also doing a research role at Harvard in the entrepreneurship unit for 30 hours a week while I was getting the company off the ground before I raised our first round of funding. Then I got into Sequoia’s accelerator, and with that, was also able to raise a million dollars in pre-seed funding.  

I had no idea how to pitch investors. I went to them with a presentation, a good slide deck, and no real product. My first ten pitches were all met with rejection. Then I found other strapped-together funding resources, built an early product and tested that for a few months. Once I had data and results and real users, I went back to the accelerators, and I was able to get in and attract more angel funding. We have raised a total of about $14 million from a mix of VCs, angel investors, and now impact funds as well.” 

From Climate Fatigue to Climate Hope

“I attended an event at Climate Week, where the fact was pointed out that a few COPs ago, we were talking about 8 degrees warming and then later, it was 6 degrees, and then 4 degrees. Now, we have a chance of hitting 2 degrees warming. I thought about the trajectory of the extreme calamity we were on track for and how much we’ve adjusted. Now, we even have a path to 1.5, which is amazing. There will still be a lot of destruction at 1.5, but exponentially less than if we had been at 4 degrees. So, people have been working on this issue for decades reminding us that things were way worse before. That keeps me going and gives me hope.”

Peter Wang Hjemdahl, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder, rePurpose Global

Peter had a short stint with Dalberg as Summer Consultant and went on to play multiple roles with Forbes 30 Under 30, BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt, and Unreasonable, to name a few. He co-founded repurpose Global, the world’s leading plastic action platform that brings together companies, innovators, policymakers and consumers to combat the plastic waste crisis.  

Lessons in Bridging Gaps from Dalberg

“The biggest learning from Dalberg was realizing the divide and the silos that exist in the development and the social impact space, particularly between the thought leadership realm of things, which is funders, multilaterals, DFIs, governments, big businesses, and capacity builders, versus the implementers. Languages spoken are different; the currency is different. We needed to find ways to bridge the systemic gaps.  

I think Dalberg is that bridge. Bridging these two worlds and many other worlds as well was the biggest thing for me. The capability of the people at Dalberg was another thing. The talent at Dalberg, not only in this panel but also just generally in the room, made me think we are actually very well equipped to tackle our challenges. I got the confidence that a problem can be solved and that there are pathways to address the silos.”

Flavia Howard, Co-Founder, Nairobi Climate Network

Flavia joined Dalberg in 2018 as Senior Consultant and went on to set up and lead its Climate Practice as Global Climate and Environment Practice Manager. She founded the Nairobi Climate Network in a bid to bring together people working in climate change in Kenya.  

From Evening Gatherings to a Pan-African Community on Climate

“I was managing Dalberg’s Global Climate Practice when my co-founder and I decided to start evening events to connect more with other climate change professionals in Kenya. From our first meeting of five people in late 2021, we have grown to a community of more than 1,000 people – almost entirely by word of mouth. We now have the momentum to expand and become ‘The Climate Network’ with new chapters across the continent.” 

Kabir Nanda, Director, Corporate Strategy and Public Affairs, Nature’s Fynd

As Senior Project Manager at Dalberg, Kabir worked across a string of climate projects across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. His focus areas included decentralized energy, solar lanterns, and solar home systems. During his final year with Dalberg, he helped set up the India Climate Collaborative.  

From Climate Collaboration to Food Innovation

Kabir currently heads Corporate Strategy and Public Affairs at Nature’s Fynd, a Chicago-based food tech company creating versatile alternative proteins. The company’s technology produces a complete protein using only a fraction of the resources required by traditional agriculture.  

“One of our co-founders discovered a fungal microbe in the acidic hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. The microbe is very efficient at converting any kind of carbon source into protein; we leverage fermentation to create that protein – called Fy – and convert that into meat and dairy alternative products. I have played several roles at Nature’s Fynd, all aided by the work that I did at Dalberg.”

Neil Yeoh, Founder and CEO, OnePointFive

After a short spell with Dalberg as an International Development Consultant, Neil held several positions across a range of organizations, at all of which he remained deeply invested in climate action: managing a climate technology fund, advising climate funding opportunities and startup incubation at the Yale Center for Business and Environment, writing on climate change and social entrepreneurial solutions as a Forbes Columnist, and contributing to the World Economic Forum.  

Catalyzing Climate Action

“The environment at Dalberg is extremely encouraging of innovation… When I was working on a pricing strategy piece in Nairobi, Marcus [Marcus Haymon, Partner at Dalberg Advisors] was really supportive of me doing a side project… That experience showed me both the agri-tech side and the solar side, and the change that technology can bring about.”  

He has since founded OnePointFive, a sustainability advisory and training company to mobilize a network of interdisciplinary experts with the unified aim to decouple emissions for sustainable growth of organizations.

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