Greenshot Teams Hard at Work on Planet-Saving Startups

News subtitle

Dartmouth’s newest startup accelerator is linking new and experienced entrepreneurs.

Robert Halvorsen
Robert Halvorsen ’17, Thayer ’17, from Pacto Medical practices a pitch during the Greenshot orientation last month. At back right, Emory Baldwin of Woodwall does the same with another group of participants. (Photo by Alberto Paniagua)

For the past two months, nine groups of entrepreneurs, taking aim at devastating problems arising from climate change, have been climbing a steep learning curve in Dartmouth’s fast-paced new accelerator, Greenshot.

Led by the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship, in close partnership with the Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering as well as external partners including Cleantech Open, which, since 2005, has trained over 3,750 entrepreneurs, Greenshot aims to prepare sustainability-minded startups to shape and perfect their business plans in preparation for securing the venture capital they need to turn bright ideas into marketable products and processes.

Starting with an on-campus orientation session in January, at which several experienced company founders came to campus to share success stories and strategies, Greenshot participants jumped into a 14-week boot camp, each team learning from experts, including sustainability specialists from Thayer, Irving, and Tuck, how to scale their start-ups, expand marketing reach, and attract capital. 

Courtney Pierson
Management professor Courtney Pierson, Tuck ’01, goes over conversation strategy during the Greenshot meetings on campus last month. (Photo by Alberto Paniagua)

The immediate goal: Demo Day in May at the Magnuson Center’s Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum in New York City, where finalists will pitch their green ideas to top climate venture capitalists. Winners will be eligible to receive up to $75,000 in funding to move their projects off the drawing board.

Greenshot originated as a joint venture between the Irving Institute and Magnuson Center to develop climate solutions and deliver on the promise of a West End innovation district, working together to collaborate and solve big challenges. Irving Institute Director April Salas and Magnuson Executive Director Jamie Coughlin brought on expert leadership with Liana Frey ’92, Tuck ’98, to bring the vision to reality and support the launch of Greenshot. Frey has worked with some of the world’s largest corporations—as well as small start-ups—to transform strategies for sustainability into real-world commercial ventures.

An adjunct professor at Tuck and senior fellow at the Irving Institute, Frey says Dartmouth’s close-knit community of collaborative researchers spanning business, technology, and science creates an ideal launchpad for climate-crisis solutions. 

“There is tremendous educational value of having successful entrepreneurs involved, both on and off campus,” says Frey. “We’re finding so many ways to integrate faculty, alumni, and students into the process of choosing and developing these projects and bringing them to market. Through Greenshot, Dartmouth is bringing in climate-change problem-solvers from around the world, and they, in turn, are discovering the remarkable work being done here in Hanover.”

Salas says the Irving Institute’s Advisory Council has been integral to the launch, because “many of them are alumni actively working in climate tech venture firms or leading and scaling their own entrepreneurial ventures.”

At Magnuson, Coughlin sees Greenshot as closely aligned with the center’s mission to offer faculty, researchers, and students entrepreneurial know-how, support from Dartmouth’s technology transfer professionals around intellectual property and licensing opportunities, and access to an alumni network of entrepreneurs, executives, and investors who can provide mentorship and investment to help propel early-stage startups.

“We’ve focused our accelerator model on some of the most challenging problem sets of our time, such as cancer and behavioral health, and now we’re turning our attention to climate-related areas that are in need of innovation,” he says. “The magic of Dartmouth’s impact is often found in cross-collaborative ways, and our work with the Irving Institute has been mission-critical in realizing our goals.”

Greenshot participants and staff
Greenshot participants and staff pose for a group portrait in the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society building last month. (Photo by Alberto Paniagua)

The first-round Greenshot participants are: 

  • Block Carbon
    Unlocks global market for climate assets 
  • Greener  
    Sustainable residential landscaping services platform.
  • Green Golf Carbon
    Carbon sequestration for golf courses and managed turf
  • Mach Electric
    Sustainable aviation and materials technologies
  • NET Offset
    Transforming biomass residues into carbon credits
  • Pacto Medical
    Sustainable medical packaging
  • Rune Aero
    Sustainable autonomous aircraft for regional cargo transport
  • Vybe Energy
    AI-assisted and optimized building energy management
  • Woodwall  
    Natural wood walls in partnership with regional forests

Driving Solutions in Real Time 

The educational programming is virtual, so groups can join from any location, but those who choose to work in Hanover—and seven out of the nine teams do have close affiliations with Dartmouth—may use work and lab space in the Irving Institute building. Areas of focus in Greenshot’s inaugural cohort range from low emissions regional air transport to a wood-based alternative to sheetrock. 

For Michael May, Guarini ’25, a doctoral candidate at Thayer, Greenshot is helping to jumpstart NET Offset, a company he co-founded with Masters in Liberal Arts candidate Baptiste Gibrot. Their collaboration took root in a course taught by Associate Professor of Engineering Mark Laser, which included a class trip to Africa.

“And what we found on that trip is that there is a remarkable amount of agricultural waste that could be leveraged, ” says May. “And so the question was, could we take that waste and make a product out of it that can solve different societal needs?”

One answer lies in a substance called biochar, which can help enrich soil. 

“It’s basically taking the waste, burning it without oxygen to isolate and solidify the carbon, combining that biochar with, let’s say, compost,” says May. “You can package that up and introduce a very low-cost soil amendment.” 

Another Greenshot proposal seeks to bring certain types of large-scale recreational property, especially golf courses, closer to net-zero operation. That team, led by Brian Morrison ’21, is being advised by Professor of Earth Sciences Mukul Sharma and Vikrant Vaze, the Stata Family Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering at Thayer.

“There are tens of thousands of golf courses around the world, and each of them is a big parcel of land. We can mix the top surface of the golf courses with a certain type of basalt sand that, with the right proportion of materials and the correct porosity, moisture, and so on, can combine with atmospheric carbon dioxide and create certain chemicals that can be locked inside the soil for many, many years,” Vaze says about the Green Golf Carbon project. “We believe this process also creates plant nutrients, potentially reducing the need for fertilizers.” 

Vaze says landowners who incorporate such innovative cultivation practices could potentially earn carbon credits and, given the substantial energy and water usage by golf courses and large athletic arenas, going greener could significantly shrink their carbon footprints.

Through these and seven other equally promising projects, Greenshot is widening and deepening collaboration on the West End of campus, linking students and faculty at Thayer, Tuck, Magnuson, and Irving, says Vaze. 

“If Dartmouth wants to do something big at this point in time—and we do—then it makes a ton of sense to bring talented people together around climate and environment, combining the tools of technology, business, and entrepreneurship to make a real and lasting difference.”

Charlotte Albright