July 3, 2024

Sailee Rane: My journey from working in the startup ecosystem to becoming an ACT For Environment Fellow

Before I joined the ACT Fellowship, I had spent my career first at McKinsey and later as the Business Head at Razorpay – I was an IIT Roorkee and an IIM Ahmedabad graduate whose professional career was on a steady upward trajectory and I could have chosen to continue on that path. But as an individual, I had begun to feel a strong need to play a part in addressing one of the biggest challenges of our time – climate change.

From a lens of purpose, I knew I wanted to pivot my career towards the climate action space but wasn’t entirely sure where to start or which interventional area to prioritise, and I realised that perhaps I needed the time and the space to first learn more before planning my path ahead. The ACT Fellowship helped me do just that; as an ACT For Environment Fellow, the past 9 months have helped me garner an in-depth understanding of the various nuances of environmental challenges but also the role that innovation and collective action can play in creating sustainable impact at scale.

Apart from being a venture philanthropy fund, ACT is also a platform for collective action – the organisation truly believes in the power of bringing the ecosystem together – and one of the most rewarding experiences during my Fellowship has been seeing the value of building collectives come alive through ACT’s partnership with the Avaana-Startup India Grand Challenge to discover high-potential climate-tech innovations.

It all started with a conversation with Anjali Bansal, the founding partner of Avaana Capital, at the Avaana climate conference on a Friday evening in Mumbai in January. I had heard the team announce the challenge during the event, and while talking to Anjali, we briefly discussed the overlap with ACT For Environment’s investment focus areas. We quickly got on a call together with ACT’s leadership team to discuss the possibilities and by Monday, I was already in touch with Avaana’s team to begin planning how ACT could collaborate on this initiative as a funding partner. ACT isn’t kidding when they say they have a bias for action and interestingly, I saw how that bias has the power to spur organic partnerships within the sector at a surprisingly rapid pace!

The Avaana and ACT For Environment team seamlessly worked together on evangelising the challenge, getting the jury panels onboarded and screening the applications. We even jointly designed the selection criteria and moderated the stream-wise juries to identify 10 finalists that presented before a grand jury, comprising senior leaders from the industry and government in Delhi. The challenge saw more than 15 partners join in different capacities such as funders, jury members, industry experts and researchers and as an ACT Fellow, it was my absolute privilege being at the frontlines.

The challenge was a great success, with more than 400+ applications across the different streams like energy, agriculture, industrial decarbonisation, circular economy, carbon capture/removal/storage and climate data reporting. Collaborating with Avaana definitely helped ACT For Environment identify promising startups that could be potential grantees but most importantly, play a collaborative role alongside the ecosystem in addressing climate change.

While I’ve worked on various different aspects of venture philanthropy and grant-making during my Fellowship (I’ve even successfully taken a climate startup to the IC!) – personally, learning how to collaborate with other organisations has been the most rewarding experience.

As I conclude my Fellowship, I’m now looking forward to building my journey ahead – no matter where I choose to be or what I specifically choose to do, I know that I’ll always be a catalyst of climate impact!

Applications for the 2024-25 cohort of the ACT Fellowship are now open! Click here to apply before the deadline of 13th August, 2024.

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