After years of working together at a global media platform, David Shaw and Andrei Baragan – both experienced tech leaders with a passion for sustainability – joined forces to establish the decarbonization company Cedara. With its end-to-end climate management software platform, the startup empowers media companies to track and reduce their emissions and accelerate the shift to a sustainable economy.
Cedara has just raised $2.7 million in a seed round and we sat down with the company’s CEO David Shaw to learn more about the firm’s origins, its plans to expand beyond the U.S. and the media sector, and the biggest opportunities he sees ahead on the path to net zero.
Eric Shih, Global Advisor at Cedara, also joined the conversation to provide us with an overview of the platform’s many functionalities.
How did your experience in the media tech space inspire your decision to establish Cedara?
D.S.: I was in the media tech space for 16 years. Previously, I was at a company called Teads. There, I built out the software division, which we took to the world’s largest brands, and agencies as well. Scaled that and turned out into a global software division.
I’ve had a passion for sustainability for many, many years. And I’ve been wanting to go that path during that time as well, I just didn’t have a window. Last year, there was a window where my partner Andrei Baragan, who’s a co-founder and CTO, and I left and decided to start Cedara. We wanted to put our expertise together and drive the most impact. So we thought: “In what areas can we drive the most impact?”
We obviously were highly skilled in the software side and knew how to scale big products and big teams and build great solutions. So we decided to build software, starting with the media industry because we understand its intricacies.
We also understand that there are a lot of carbon accounting companies out there. But the problem is that no one is measuring today, except for the world’s largest companies. And in order to fix the problem, we need data. And most companies are not that big in the media industry.
What are the specifics of creating a decarbonization platform that targets the media industry? What are the sector’s main challenges on the path to net zero and how does Cedara help solve them?
D.S.: There is a media industry initiative called Ad Net Zero, which aims to decarbonize media by 2030. Brands that are already leading this initiative with measuring their own carbon emissions are now running into hurdle bottlenecks with scope three emissions.
On the marketing side, they’re giving hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to their agencies, and they’re tasking them with tracking their investments to achieve net zero by 2030. So now the agencies have a new agenda. Sustainability has probably been one of the biggest buzzwords in media this year and it’s just growing stronger.
Agencies are tasked with trying to figure out how to showcase carbon data to their clients. And they don’t really have the technology and the solutions to do it.
There are a lot of carbon accounting companies but there are not many going out to the media industry. So we thought we could use this as a tool to scale up everyone in the media industry. And if they are already using another carbon accounting tool, then we can just ingest that data.
And we can then access our media solutions, which allow us to share the data, sync it into the agency, and give the agency a vendor management solution so that they could track all their vendors and get their intensity scores. They can also upload campaigns to build out a graph of the exact carbon emissions.
What we’ve answered are two things: the only way for an agency to achieve net zero is to know its own supply chain and not only track what its intensity scores are today, but what its year-over-year reduction strategy is. We are trying to make data both available and actionable.
Could you tell me more about the Enterprise product that you offer?
E.S.: There are two products of the platform that we introduced specifically for the media industry: the Enterprise and the Enterprise+. The Enterprise product is designed for any company, but specifically for ad platforms, vendors, or publishers, to allow them to measure their missions, ultimately reduce, and then take action on that data and share it with relevant parties like agencies.
In Enterprise, you quickly see what your total emissions are, we break it out by month, and by scope, and we further classify the data into traditional greenhouse gas protocol categories and break them further down into media-specific categories.
There are different media categories and missions. Think about data centers, business travel, media vendors, and anything else that is relevant in the media space. We also have separate emissions by offices. So if you have multiple offices, you can track each of them.
When you use the platform, you can immediately start offsetting your emissions. You can also see the offsets by project type, as well as the certifier for each of those projects, and the offset projects by region. In the home view on the platform, you can see what’s left to get your business to carbon neutral and then the cost that would be required. You can see various portfolios of offset projects, which show different costs to get to carbon neutrality.
Cedara tries to simplify the process of how a company measures its emissions. Most of the companies in our space are small and medium-sized, they don’t have large sustainability teams to dedicate lots of time to measure their emissions through manual calculations. On the platform, a company can manually calculate its missions, create individual records for each of its offices, define the scope of the emissions by category, and choose from tens of thousands of emissions factors from government and scientific bodies around the world.
We want to automate to make it simple for companies. The way we automate is we have APIs into the accounting and expense platforms for different companies. If a company uses QuickBooks, SAP, or another platform, we can take their data through the API, and map all of the expenses or activities with our climate experts in-house to the various emissions factors.
And then once the mapping is done, and every month thereafter, it automatically will calculate carbon emissions from the activity data that the company has in those platforms. A company can also import an Excel file, and we can map that.
If you are a publisher, and you’ve decided to share your data with an agency, you could see who you’re sharing with, you could also have your own supply chain, and see who’s sharing their carbon data with you. So you could get more accurate on your own carbon footprint.
Going a bit further, once you have your emissions calculated, you could purchase offsets that are integrated into the offset marketplace. We have a number of curated and verified projects on the platform. Companies can research projects and certificates for each one. But again, we want to simplify the process, as most companies don’t have time to do that. So we’ve created portfolios of different types of projects based on innovation level. The higher price portfolios will typically be higher innovation, more permanent carbon capture technologies, or projects. And the lower priced ones would be cheaper options like forestry.
The companies also have the opportunity to customize their portfolio. So you could be really interested in biomass, but also want to introduce some forestry in there. As you customize the portfolio, the costs and projects will change in real-time. Once you know your emissions in the platform, you can buy one time and offset all your emissions or you could set up an automated recurring buy. So every month thereafter, you’re purchasing the offsets needed to become carbon neutral month to month.
What is the aim of Cedara’s Enterprise+ product?
With Enterprise+, any company that uses our platform can also provide employee access and give every one of its employees a log-on to Cedara. This way employees can be more empowered. We know that people love to work for sustainable companies, but they also want to be proactive and take action. As an employee, you could come in, and take a simple questionnaire, and this will generate your personal carbon footprint. You can then access the offset marketplace yourself.
You could buy offsets and the company can set up a matching program. So let’s say for every dollar you put into a project, the company can match 50% or 100%. And then we give you analytics as an employee. So you can see what you’ve invested in offsets over time, what carbon you removed as a person, what the total employee base is doing from an offset perspective, and which of the employees are carbon neutral today. And finally, you could look at what the company’s doing on the path to being carbon neutral.
You just raised $2.7M in a seed round. How are you going to invest the money and what are your expansion plans beyond the US?
D.S.: We’ve just hired a sales leader in London, it is an extremely important market because it is turning into the de facto carbon market, but also in the media world, that’s the access point to international markets. And a lot of the global investment heads and important publishers are set out there. But you can only do so much with 2.7 million, right? It’s enough to get everything off the ground and start focusing on execution. We’ll keep the team pretty slim, around 10 people.
We have a commercial team that focuses on sales, an innovation team, which focuses on coding, we have a mapping automation team, and we will be adding on a technical solutions lead to help with onboarding and ensure a path to success. Our whole goal is automation. We are trying to move away from a lot of the manual touch points and consultation, which might be necessary, for example, to a Fortune 500 company. But most companies need something simple, just like the rest of the world needs something simple.
If we want to get the whole world on board, then the solution needs to be simple and automated. And accurate, of course, but accuracy comes over time as we add in more databases that pull in activity-based data, more workflows, and more methodologies. We are trying to make it simple and then take that concept and go to other areas of growth, other industries where we can replicate. The good thing about the media industry is that it is already built on interoperability.
What is your long-term vision for the platform?
D.S.: We expect to go back out to market next year to do a larger round so that way we can scale the team further. We are going to focus on media solutions to help advertisers, tech platforms, and agencies not only understand their supply path but also work more on real-time solutions and campaign activations.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you identify when it comes to carbon accounting in the media industry?
D.S.: I’d say the biggest bottleneck is that there are a lot of companies and a lot of this is very new to them. There is an education gap. You certainly need a lot of people at a company to be able to promote the agenda of sustainability and what it means. Now, the good thing is that things tend to move fast when there’s an incentive in place. If you look at Fortune 500 company, the incentive is, well, “I have to report to the government. And also my bank is now shifting traditional finance into sustainability funding, to the tune of trillions of dollars.”
But a smaller business doesn’t have any of those incentives. The agencies will have to really push down their decarbonization agenda and follow their net-zero targets. So that’s helping, but there’s still a big education gap and knowledge gap. But that’s a challenge that can be taken.
And what are the biggest opportunities ahead? What are you most excited about and what trends do you see emerging in the near future?
D.S.: I think we’ve hit a point in time when we’ll see a big dent in carbon technology. I’m seeing amazing products being built all over the place. And they’re being adopted, which is epic because it hasn’t really been successful in the past. But now it is, and you’re starting to see on-boardings and implementations happening, as well as the willingness to pay.
And there are these various incentive points that are making it happen, which is great to see. I’m excited about what this is going to mean in the next five years, I think we’re just scratching the surface.
I think in the next five years, there are going to be lots of companies that are entering this space. And that means the world is becoming more efficient when it comes to measuring carbon, reducing carbon, and really tackling climate change. We are at a crossroads and software is an important force for climate change. A lot of money has been going into carbon sequestration, which is super important and is going to be heavily needed. But it comes at a very high cost and it takes time to scale up. Software is the opposite. It’s lower costs and extremely fast to scale up. And both of these have been developing at the same time, which is exciting. I think we’re on the right path.