CleanTechies Podcast
#178 Investing in Water, IRA's Missing Link, Long Sales-Cycles, Network Compounding, & More w/ Tom Ferguson (Burnt Island Ventures)

#178 Investing in Water, IRA's Missing Link, Long Sales-Cycles, Network Compounding, & More w/ Tom Ferguson (Burnt Island Ventures)

How Burnt Island Ventures became the leading VC in the world Funding the best water entrepreneurs in the world.

🌎 Welcome back to the CleanTechies PodLetter, investor edition.

Today, we are talking to Tom Ferguson from Burnt Island Ventures.

What do you get when you put Chris Rock, Timothée Chalamet, Greta Thunberg, & Marc Andreessen together?

You get Tom Ferguson! The King of Water VC!

Tom is by far the funniest guest we have ever had, so maybe you’re not even into Water Tech; no worries, you can skip that comedy show you were going to attend and listen to this pod.

As you’ll see, Tom is a fascinating textbook example of compounding your network. His focus on the water space allowed him to build Burnt Island Ventures, which is now THE leading global VC focused on Water.

Some core topics discussed today include…

  • How staying focused on water compounded his network and allowed him to build BIV

  • The missing piece of the IRA: Investment Into Water

  • How long sales-cycles are okay as long as you plan for them because they have a large payoff AND create a time moat

  • Team building

  • Big opportunities to build in water: Water Testing

  • And how their network compounds daily to increase their own unfair advantage

And more…

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The Guest: Tom Ferguson

Today, Tom is a Founding Partner of Burnt Island Ventures - the Leading Water VC Globally.

His career is a great example of how a focused network compounds since he’s spent ALL of it in water.

After graduating into the Financial Crisis, he took his first role in environmental consulting with ERM. There, he did a lot of work with water-related projects.

He eventually decided to do a masters at Harvard and then landed at Imagine H20—the leading water accelerator globally.

Having compounded a network of people innovating and funding project in the water space, allowed him to start Burnt Island Ventures in 2020.

All of these things together have caused the gravitational pull he and the team has to compound—they are known. Being known leads to more people reaching out. A reputation is formed, and their moat increases.

The Company: Burnt Island Ventures

One Liner: Funding the best water entrepreneurs in the world.

After an entire career spent in supporting WaterTech founders, the team founded BIV with the intention of helping these founders.

Their portfolio companies are called Islanders, of which they have 18. Some incredible names you’ve probably heard like ZwitterCo, FloodBase, Aclarity, daupler, and SewerAI. (Check out the full list 👉 meet The Islanders)

Because they have built a name for themselves, they are the place to turn for any Water Entrepreneur. The network compounds by supporting each other constantly.

In other words, if you’re a Water Entrepreneur, they are the one you want a check from!

Do you have suggestions on future guests or topics? Leave a comment!

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📝 Show Notes:


  • 05:00 Introduction

  • 08:10 Why Sustainability

  • 10:34 Time with Imagine H2O

  • 16:13 Other Considerations for BIV

  • 19:27 Story behind the Name BIV

  • 20:55 MBA and Business School

  • 27:22 Focus on Building Team

  • 31:32 Pricing in Velocity of Sales Process

  • 38:35 Compounding Network as a VC’s Moat

  • 47:24 Biggest Problems in Water

  • 56:17 Companies that BIV work with

  • 1:00:42 Startup Opportunity; Water Testing Market

  • 1:04:19 Takeaways


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CleanTechies Podcast
CleanTechies is a Podcast and Newsletter where Somil & Silas interview the leading ClimateTech Founders and Investors to share their advice and journeys with other Founders and Investors to help others succeed.