Josh is an Investor at Gigascale Capital focused on early-stage deal sourcing, diligence, and techno-economic analysis.

Prior to Gigascale, Josh invested in energy, manufacturing, and transportation startups at Prime Movers Lab and co-founded Third Derivative, a climate-tech startup accelerator supporting 190+ startups that have raised over $1.5B. He spent 10 years at Rocky Mountain Institute driving clean energy solutions with corporations, governments, and startups globally.

Josh holds an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico.


On Balancing Skepticism and Optimism in Climate Tech

Josh discusses how his love for motorsports sparked an interest in mechanical engineering, the making space for skepticism, and shares his love for the Grand Canyon, in a conversation with Kristen, Gigascale’s Head of Communications.

Tell me about your career and how you got into working on climate.

I started out as a mechanical engineer because I’ve always been into taking things apart, learning how they work, tinkering, fixing and building. I wanted to work in motorsports, like being an engineer on a Formula 1 team.

Then I came across Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute, which made me realize there were much more important things to work on. That’s how I became passionate about energy and climate change. What appealed to me about Amory’s writing in particular is how he framed the issue more as a design opportunity — i.e., through technology and better design we can solve the environmental challenges, but it’s also cheaper, works better, improves energy security, and more. My favorite old school RMI bumper sticker says “abundance by design.” That’s what inspired me to go back to school and focus on energy.

Coming out of grad school I landed a job at Rocky Mountain Institute, which was a dream. Over the 10 years I spent at RMI, I got to work on all things energy, including industrial, grid, building efficiency, transportation, and help start programs in Africa and China.

I was drawn to the more client focused work at RMI, which was essentially management consulting, working with Fortune 500 corporates, governments and regulators, trying to make the business case for energy efficiency and renewables. It was a great opportunity to combine my technical background while learning about the business part of the equation. I got to see what corporations are good at, but also some of the limitations. That was the genesis of Third Derivative, the climate tech accelerator I co-founded. A lot of promising technology that should be cost effective and scalable is still stuck at early stage. We need to work more quickly commercializing this tech.

What motivated you to move from RMI to venture capital?

At Third Derivative, I spent a lot of time convincing investors to participate, and so I wanted to learn that part of the ecosystem firsthand.

Now with experience as an investor, I’ve seen how the best technology often does not win. There’s more to it, namely the team. The team enables all other things, like how you can fundraise, how much you inspire people, and how fast you can push forward. Of course you can’t rule out the technology, the energy requirements, fundamental laws of physics, and costs at varying scales need to pencil out. If you can line up a really good tech with the best team, then they’re unstoppable.

You’ve seen the climate tech ecosystem evolve. What’s one gap that still needs to be addressed?

We still need more hardware innovation, but for VC, it can be hard to make the math work. Luckily in the last 3–5 years, we have had a lot more corporations move into the space as strategic partners and investors. This helps a lot in reducing the capital intensity and helping startups get to market more quickly or giving a more reliable path to exit aside from IPO, especially if the revenue ramp is longer.

The other thing that I think is even more positive is how much top talent is newly starting to focus on the climate opportunity. We need all the help we can get and it’s more than just science and engineering. Lots of amazing entrepreneurs who have had success elsewhere are now building climate related businesses.

So if you’re new here or wanting to move into the space – first, welcome! And let me know if I can help you think about this new space and make connections.

Energy can be an intimidating topic. What do you wish people understood about it?

The first thing that comes to mind, and why I love this space, is that we know pretty well what things need to cost. Energy is a commodity. And you can use the basic thermodynamics to rule out a lot of what won’t work. Maybe some early customers are willing to pay more, and that helps to get on the cost curve. Off the top of my head I’m gonna say probably 75% of emissions are directly related to energy. So if we’re being direct and pragmatic about climate solutions, we know what needs to be done and there are a ton of benefits to doing it — saving money and helping local economies, improving reliability and security, reducing pollution and making communities safer and more healthy.

Cost is the thing worth repeating over and over. Solar has come down more than 90% in 20 years. For wind, batteries and LEDs, it’s something similar. Electric vehicles are on that same path. People thought these things were crazy. But the ones that did the math and looked at the technology were like, yeah, of course it’s possible.


Josh recharging his human solar-powered battery.


Any advice for someone thinking about moving into climate tech?

If you’re thinking about becoming a founder or joining a startup, talk to people who have been in the space for a while. Folks in climate are super willing to help, bring you up to speed, and share insights on how we got here. In those conversations, bring a critical lens. Ask hard questions. The best teams have a mix of people and because diverse perspectives are what drive solutions forward faster. It’s important to hold space for both skepticism and optimism. What we’re doing is hard, which doesn’t have to be demotivating. I think it’s good to understand what we’re up against, but find inspiration by taking action together with lots of other amazing and inspired people.

The last thing is to make time to charge your battery. Personally I find my inspiration in nature. That’s why I’m doing this work.

Where’s your favorite place to spend time in nature?

Probably the Grand Canyon. I recently took a raft 280 miles down the whole thing from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. It’s paradise on Earth. What else can you ask for? Going to Mars actually doesn’t do a whole lot for me. But there are so many good spots all around and even in the city if you learn to pay attention.

OK, last question. What do you think the world will hopefully look like in a decade?

I think the technologies we’re developing right now will become mature and boring assets, like a home mortgage or a public-private partnership for a highway express lane.

Also, I think more people will understand the power of cost curves and economies of scale. Just because something is expensive today doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. We need to look for the possibilities and find a way to get there.

Josh’s Go To Resources

I’m a super fan of The Economist. For climate specifically, CTVC is great. Don’t underestimate EIA Kids, especially the energy calculator.