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Meet Sweep’s co-founder, who scored highest Series A for any carbon management platform ever

Sweep-team

Sweep, a Paris-based carbon management platform, has secured a record-breaking $22 million in series A funding. Sweep automates the process of data collection and analysis, allowing companies to measure not just their carbon footprint but to assess the impact of their carbon-reduction policies.

Although the pressing need to reduce carbon emissions is well-known, it’s estimated that over 90% of companies are not accurately and regularly measuring their emissions. Instead, businesses use slow and cumbersome methods to collect and analyse data, meaning it is never timely and making it almost impossible to take informed action on it.

The funding round was led by Balderton Capital, who were joined by New Wave, La Famiglia and 2050. In total, Sweep has raised $27 million since its 2020 founding, and the Series A round is the highest published figure for a carbon management platform. Balderton Capital’s Bernard Liautaud felt Sweep was a good match for Balderton, “Sweep’s mission and vision are perfectly aligned with our Sustainable Future Goals,” he said. “We were incredibly impressed with the strength of Sweep’s team, and the thoughtfulness and maturity of their product.”

Bernard Liautaud, Managing Partner at Balderton Capital, has joined Sweep’s board of directors. “Sustainability is a huge priority for us at Balderton and Sweep’s mission and vision are perfectly aligned with our Sustainable Future Goals. When we looked at the market, we were incredibly impressed with the strength of Sweep’s team, and the thoughtfulness and maturity of their product. We’re excited to support them as they help companies to effectively take responsibility for their carbon footprints.”

Carbon as a business intelligence problem

Sweep’s CEO and co-founder, Rachel Delacour, sees carbon management as a data problem. Businesses need accurate and timely data to inform their plans, but, before Sweep, this was not possible for carbon. Although many businesses have attempted to track their carbon footprint, the lack of accurate tools and good data meant these efforts frequently amounted to little more than a selection of questionable data on an Excel spreadsheet.

Sweep works by automating the collection process, including from suppliers, to produce regular carbon audits. “You absolutely need to understand that carbon is a data problem. And most importantly, it’s a network problem, a company can’t claim to be carbon-neutral if they haven’t been able to map their whole value chain,” Delacour explains. And carbon auditing is not effective if it is just a one-off project, but needs to be an ongoing exercise that informs the business. “Once you’ve mapped and have an understanding of your carbon, you must repeat the exercise as frequently as possible to really reduce your emissions. Then you can understand the complexity of your business data and augment it with the right carbon knowledge.”

Ten years as a female founder

Delacour is a repeat entrepreneur, having founded a business ten years ago that was then sold to Zendesk. She has brought that experience to Sweep. She’s also been one of relatively few female founders, while being a mother of two.

Being in a male-dominated arena does have some benefits, Delacour told us, “it has always been very positive for me because it was a differentiator to see a female tech CEO in this world of business intelligence and data. Being a female entrepreneur in those conferences where there were only males draws attention.”

However, although the gender balance is improving, it’s still not enough, Delacour told TFN, “from a statistical perspective, it’s not fast enough. There is a definite change, but not fast enough. There are very few female CEOs in the CAC 40 or the Fortune 100. It might trend on Twitter, but it’s not a real trend.”

Climate change might present an opportunity to improve the gender balance in business leadership. Observing that many women occupy positions related to sustainability and social responsibility, Delacour suggests the growing profile of those roles means they are well-placed to step up when the time came.

Intentionally global from the start

The record-breaking funding reflects Sweep’s, and Delacour’s, intention to be a truly international business from the beginning.

“We envision Sweep as a global company from day one,” Delacour says. “It’s important for us to have an international story as soon as possible. The mission we have is global.”

That ambition has been backed up with interest from major companies and governments. Since its launch last April, Sweep has been working with FTSE 500 companies, with annual CO₂ emissions of 30-50 megatons. It was also one of the few companies that presented at the Tech for Our Planet programme at this year’s COP26.

However, Delacour is also proud of how well Sweep is representing her native France. It was recently named as the country’s top startup to watch. And Delacour points out that, while the Series A amount was a record for carbon emissions platform, it might also represent an increased interest in the French tech sector. “It was great news for the French ecosystem, and an amount that would have been Series B funding before,” Delacour said. “There really is something happening in France.”

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