7 Key Learnings From the Telesto Climate Tech Accelerator


Having just wrapped up our inaugural Climate Tech Accelerator Program in Ghana, we take a moment to reflect on the key learnings we can take forward to future iterations.

After more than 15 weeks of programming – which included ~160 hours of workshops, fireside chats, office hours, and 1-on-1 sessions – we recently concluded our inaugural Climate Tech Accelerator Program at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs’ (ANDE) annual conference in Accra, Ghana. The culminating event of the 15-week Accelerator Program was the industry showcase, during which all 7 of our participating startups delivered their inspiring pitches to the audience at the conference.

While the ending of our Accelerator Program has been bittersweet, we are eagerly looking forward to the next one(s), both in Ghana and elsewhere in the Global South. For future iterations of the Accelerator Program, we intend to fully leverage key learnings from the inaugural program to continue to deliver evermore impactful programming that brings entrepreneurship and innovation to bear on the incredibly pressing challenge of climate change

Telesto Climate Tech cohort of startups

Here are some of our key learnings so far:

  1. It takes a village… to support a climate entrepreneur: As the African proverb implies, no entrepreneur can be an island, and no climate tech accelerator program can operate in a vacuum. From our partnership with ANDE, Academic City University College, and the US Department of State Office of Global Partnerships and the Coalition for Climate Entrepreneurship to bringing in over 20 different experts to speak with our entrepreneurs through fireside chats, the Accelerator Program would not have been possible without the commitment of a full village of practitioners and experts dedicated to the cause.

  2. Close-touch support models are most effective: Although the potential of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to reach large swathes of entrepreneurs throughout the world has been alluring, studies show that MOOCs have not lived up to the hype. To succeed, growing startups require close-touch and tailored support that they cannot get through self-taught platforms and pre-recorded lectures. Climate-centered hubs, like the US State Department’s CCE Labs program, provide a physical space for these kinds of interactions to take place. Indeed, as was often stated by our Accelerator participants, their most valuable learning opportunities occurred when they were working one-on-one with experts and partners.

  3. Capital is key, and more concessional grants are needed: Whether a startup is about to go to market or already has a demonstrated business plan and is looking to scale, access to capital is vital for climate tech startups to grow. Unfortunately, access to capital is often the greatest obstacle for an entrepreneur in a developing economy and entrepreneurs are unable to demonstrate proof of concept to investors without initial concessional financing. For one, interest rates on commercial loans tend to be prohibitively high (especially in the recent high-rate paradigm), and equity investors tend to be more risk averse in the Global South than the Global North. This leaves climate tech startups in the developing world – especially those who are just getting started – in a wickedly tough bind that only grants can help fund. Unfortunately, grant finance made up only ~6% of global climate finance flows during 2019-20.

  4. Climate tech is both a horizontal and a vertical: There is a tendency to treat climate tech like another vertical or sector (e.g., agriculture, health). However, the reality is that climate tech is as much a horizontal as it is a vertical. Indeed, climate tech can cut across many different sectors, ranging from energy and transportation to agriculture and logistics. Embracing climate tech as a horizontal presents opportunities for DFIs, governments, and the private sector to see how climate tech can drive climate-positive business models and outcomes across the board.

  5. The definition of climate tech is evolving: A traditional view of climate tech would suggest that its primary focus is on solutions which decarbonize our world. However, new businesses – ranging from tech-enabled circular business models to digital solutions to promote biodiversity – are pushing the boundaries of what climate tech means. It’s about climate mitigation, certainly, but we must catalyze solutions focused on climate resilience and adaptation in a world of increasing climate risks.

  6. Financial interest in climate tech is growing, but connective tissue is in short supply: Whether it is private investors, DFIs, or governments, the level of financial interest in climate-related or green projects has grown enormously (more than 100x during the last decade by some estimates). However, efforts to connect the dots – helping climate businesses engage with climate investors – are lacking, threatening a massive missed opportunity for the world to channel significant financial flows towards climate-positive projects. Solutions, like Telesto’s Climate Capital Exchange, are seeking to address this very challenge and create links between entrepreneurs and investors.

  7. Climate tech accelerators are popping up everywhere, presenting collaboration opportunities: New programmatic efforts are rapidly emerging to ready and enable climate tech entrepreneurs across a range of topics and verticals – AI, SDGs, carbon finance, agriculture, blue carbon, etc. However, most are operating in a standalone capacity, collaborating and partnering little with others. Rather than viewing one another as competitors, accelerators/incubators in the climate space have the opportunity to act as collaborators, working together towards a common goal of driving private sector solutions to pressing climate challenges. If you are working on a climate tech accelerator and want to be a part of Telesto’s Accelerator Network, please reach out to us at

Want to learn more about our Climate Tech Accelerator Program
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