How To Invest in Green Startups in 2021

Do you want to invest in startups that are trying to solve climate change? There are plenty of opportunities to be involved, even if you aren’t a high-net-worth individual. We review the top equity crowdfunding platforms for clean energy investors.

SustainFi May 27, 2021

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To transition from fossil fuels, the world desperately needs innovations in battery technology, electric cars, and carbon capture tech. Many of the world’s wealthiest investors are lining up billions of dollars to finance clean energy companies. High-net-worth people and family offices can directly invest in clean energy funds or businesses.

But even if you aren’t mega-wealthy, you can still invest in green startups with the help of equity crowdfunding platforms like WeFunderRepublic, or StartEngine.  If you are an accredited investor, even better. You can access more startups and accredited investor-only platforms like AngelList.

Note: investing in startups is very risky, so you should only invest what you can afford to lose and spread your investment across multiple businesses.

What is equity crowdfunding?

Equity crowdfunding lets private companies (that don’t trade on stock exchanges) raise capital from the general public. You’ve probably heard of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or GoFundMe. Equity crowdfunding is like that, but instead of getting a product or making a donation, you get ownership in a startup.

Equity crowdfunding has been around for almost five years. In 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allowed everyone over 18 to invest in private companies thanks to a law called Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg CF). Until then, investing in private companies was only open to accredited investors, angel investors, and venture capitalists. You can learn more about Regulation Crowdfunding on the SEC website.

In addition to democratizing venture capital investing, crowdfunding platforms let historically underfunded groups like women and people of color get funding. For example, less than 1% of VC funding goes to people of color, and less than 3% goes to women founders.

Types of crowdfunding investments

Equity crowdfunding investments can take different forms, depending on the startup and the platform. In return for investing, you can get one of the following securities:

  • Convertible Note. This is what you usually get if you invest in a startup through a crowdfunding platform. A convertible note is a debt security that will typically convert into equity when the startup raises another round from investors. That round must determine the company’s valuation. You will make money if the valuation of the business goes up over time. The terms of the Note can vary and will be published on the platform’s site. 
  • Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE). A SAFE is similar to a convertible note, though it’s not legally a debt instrument.
  • Equity. You are buying a stake in the company. This is more common for later-stage businesses.
  • Debt. You loan money to the company. In return, they pay interest and promise to repay the principal at a determined point in time. Debt financing is less risky and more common for later-stage businesses with revenue streams.
  • Revenue Share. You get a percentage of future revenue.

Crowdfunding Regulations Explained

Once you start looking at various crowdfunding options, you will notice that not all options listed on the crowdfunding platforms fall under Regulation Crowdfunding (also known as Reg CF). You may also see investments that fall under Regulation A or A+ or Regulation D. What is the difference?

  • Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg CF, also known as Title III of the JOBS Act) lets companies raise up to $5 million from non-accredited and accredited investors. Eligible companies must be incorporated in the U.S. and do business in the U.S. or Canada. Reg CF lets private companies market directly to the general public without onerous disclosure requirements.
  • Regulation A/A+ (Reg A/A+, also known as Title IV of the JOBS Act) lets companies raise up to $75 million from non-accredited and accredited investors. Reg A lets private companies market directly to the general public with less onerous disclosure requirements than a filing on the stock exchange. However, disclosure requirements are more burdensome than for Reg CF, requiring much more accounting and legal spending. If you are a non-accredited investor, you can invest in Reg A offerings just like in Reg CF options, but you may notice that minimum investments for Reg A opportunities are higher. 
  • Regulation D (Reg D) lets businesses raise up to $5 million in a 12-month period from accredited investors only.

How much can you invest in equity crowdfunding?

Equity crowdfunding lets you support green businesses and potentially earn multiples of your investment. But it is also very risky. For this reason, the SEC has capped how much non-accredited investors can invest.

How do you know if you are an accredited investor? To qualify as an accredited investor, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have a net worth over $1 million excluding your primary residence
  • Make $200,000 a year ($300,000 for couples) over the past two years and expect to make the same in the current year
  • Have certain FINRA licenses, such as Series 7, Series 65, or Series 82

The SEC recently added several other criteria.

If you don’t meet any of the criteria, you are a non-accredited investor. With Regulation Crowdfunding, non-accredited investors can invest the greater of:

  • $2,200; or
  • If your annual income or net worth is less than $107,000, you can invest 5% of the greater of your annual income or net worth; or 
  • If both your income and net worth are equal to or more than $107,000, you can invest 10% of the greater of your annual income or net worth, not to exceed an amount of $107,000

There are no limits for accredited investors.

With Regulation A+, non-accredited investors can invest up to 10% of their net worth or annual income per offering, whichever is greater. There are no limits for accredited investors.

When making Reg CF or Reg A investments, accredited investors self-certify online before investing.

Regulation D offerings are exclusively for accredited investors, who can invest any amount. Issuers must take reasonable steps to verify that accredited investors are, in fact, accredited.

What are the risks of equity crowdfunding? 

Investments in early-stage startups are very risky. If you pick the right business, you can make multiples of your investment and support businesses you care about. But you could also lose your entire investment.

  • Startup success is often binary. Unlike big companies listed on the stock market, whose prices can fluctuate, startups either make it or run out of funding and fail 
  • New technologies often fail. If you are investing in clean energy and cleantech, you are likely investing in new technologies. Even professional venture capital investors expect that most of their investments will fail
  • Adverse selection problem. Some startups choose to crowdfund after being rejected by multiple venture capital funds. You should try and understand why that was the case. The venture capital industry is not perfect, and many non-traditional founders struggle to get funded. But some VCs are good at what they do and reject ideas and teams that are unlikely to succeed
  • You can’t resell your investment. Unlike stocks, equity crowdfunding investments are long-term, and you can’t sell them to someone else. WeFunder recommends a seven-year plus timeline for your investment
  • Information may be limited. Companies listed on the stock market are required to file comprehensive annual and quarterly financials. In contrast, private company disclosure is limited

All-in, equity crowdfunding is best if you already own stocks and bonds and want to diversify and back impactful businesses.

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Best crowdfunding platforms for green investing

We’ve looked at nine crowdfunding platforms that offer green startup investments. Most platforms have options for non-accredited investors. The two exceptions are AngelList and Fundable, which exclusively target accredited investors.

Equity crowdfunding platforms also differ in how they approach listing deals. SeedInvest, Republic, and MicroVentures vet all deals on their platforms. (Republic is a co-investor in all the deals.) In contrast, platforms like WeFunder and StartEngine are less selective; their stance is that it’s up to the market to choose which companies get funded.

While most platforms list all sorts of startups, Raise Green stands out by only offering clean energy options.

💰 Our pick

Our top picks are WeFunder, StartEngine, and Republic for non-accredited investors. For accredited investors, AngelList has the best opportunities. We are also closely watching Raise Green, a new platform exclusively dedicated to green investing.

Top Nine Crowdfunding Platforms with Green Options

PlatformMinimum InvestmentPlatform FeeNon-Accredited Investors?Curated?Green Option Selection
WeFunder$1002%-3.5%YesNoExcellent
StartEngine$1000%-3.5%YesNoExcellent
Republic$100%YesYesExcellent
AngelList$1,000VariesNoYesExcellent
Fundable$1,0000%NoNoExcellent
Raise Green$1000%YesYesGood
NetCapital$990%YesYesGood
SeedInvest$5002%YesYesLimited
MicroVentures$1000%YesYesLimited

WeFunder

Minimum Investment$100 (startups can set minimum investment requirements)
Platform Fee2%-3.5% per transaction
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsYou can search for cleantech, sustainability, and energy companies
Number of Investments267 (as of May 2021)

Pros

  • Good selection of green startups
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • Largest crowdfunding platform
  • Low minimum investment
  • Some past performance disclosure
  • Public Benefit Corporation status

Cons

  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time
  • Investment opportunities are not curated 

Review

WeFunder is the largest equity crowdfunding site based on capital raised. The platform was launched to accredited investors in 2012 and to non-accredited investors in 2016, when the SEC allowed private companies to raise capital from the general public. WeFunder’s founders were actively involved in trying to get the crowdfunding regulation pass.

WeFunder lets you search for cleantech, sustainability, social impact, and energy companies. In May 2021, our search found multiple options, including:

WeFunder doesn’t vet the firms they list on the platform. They do basic due diligence to weed out “bad actors,” but without boasting low acceptance rates. Their view is that the marketplace should decide who gets funded.

Most WeFunder startups have a Lead Investor – an investor who invests on the same terms as everyone else but takes an active role in helping the business grow. The Lead Investor deals with signing documents on behalf of all investors. So when you’re investing, it’s important you trust the Lead Investor as well as the management team.

WeFunder discloses the returns of the 2013-2016 startup cohort, which included 86 companies. They returned 5.9x the initial investment, though returns heavily skewed towards a couple of big winners like Zenefits. There is no guarantee that current opportunities are as good. Further, a few startups made most of the money, so your picks need to be good.

You can invest via bank transfer, check, credit card, or wire transfer. For payments made by bank ACH, wires, or checks, WeFunder charges investors a transaction fee of 2%, with a minimum of $8 and a maximum of $100. For credit cards, WeFunder charges a 3.5% fee.

WeFunder is a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) that publishes an annual Impact report.

StartEngine 

Minimum Investment$100 (startups can set minimum investment requirements)
Platform Fee0%-3.5% depending on the investment
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsYou can filter by industry, including environment and clean technology
Number of Investments129 (as of May 2021), including 14 cleantech options

Pros

  • Easy screens for green startups 
  • Good selection of green startups
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • The second largest crowdfunding platform
  • Low minimum investment
  • Secondary market for some investments

Cons

  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time (unless listed on the Secondary market)
  • Investment opportunities are not curated 

Review

StartEngine is the second largest crowdfunding platform, specializing in technology investments. The Los-Angeles based company was launched in 2015 by Howard Marks, the co-founder of Activision. To date, over $350 million has been invested through the platform in over 500 offerings.

We like that StartEngine lets you filter investment opportunities by industry, including “environment” and “clean technology” filters. The options that are currently listed on the site include:

  • StorEn Technologies, a maker of batteries to store solar energy  
  • Flower Turbines, a small wind turbine manufacturer 
  • GoSun Inc, a developer of solar technology for outdoor consumer products like solar ovens and portable fridges 

Like WeFunder, StartEngine has a more open approach to listing investments. Beyond weeding out “bad actors,” they let the market decide what should and shouldn’t get funded.

StartEngine offers a secondary trading marketplace, StartEngine Secondary. Companies may choose to apply to have their securities quoted, so you may be able to resell your investment. However, shares sold under Regulation Crowdfunding have a one-year lockup before you can sell them. Not every company that raises money on StartEngine will trade on the Secondary market.

You can fund your investments through a bank account, credit card (only for some companies and up to $10,000), or wire transfer. Although StartEngine doesn’t charge investors any fees (they make money by charging companies that raise money), some companies charge investors a 3.5% processing fee to offset their listing costs.

Republic

Minimum Investment$10 (startups can set minimum investment requirements)
Platform FeeNone
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsMultiple green options but no way to do a search or filter for them
Number of Investments64 (as of May 2021)

Pros

  • Third largest crowdfunding platform
  • Free for investors
  • Republic does diligence on the startups they list, advertising a <5% acceptance rate
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • Republic is a co-investor, owning 2% of all securities raised 
  • Low minimum investment

Cons

  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time
  • No way to search for green investments

Review

Founded in 2016 by AngelList alums, Republic is the third largest equity crowdfunding platform. In addition to startups, Republic offers opportunities in real estate, crypto, and video games.

Republic offers multiple green options, but there is no way to easily search for them. You have to go through the opportunities manually, though it doesn’t take a long time. As of May 2021, we identified several interesting options:

  • Manta Biofuel, a renewable fuel made from algae 
  • Pittmoss, an eco-friendly soil made from recycled fibers 
  • Irrigreen, a smart sprinkler system that saves water 

Unlike WeFunder and StartEngine, Republic does extensive diligence on the startups listed on the site, advertising a < 5% acceptance rate. Republic assesses categories including “founders,” “product,” “traction,” and “mission” for each business. They also do due diligence, including screening calls, founder background checks, and fact-checking. They like to see businesses that make a social impact.

Republic is free to investors. To make money, the platform collects 6% of the amount raised by startups. Republic also retains 2% of the securities raised, so they are a co-investor in all the startups on the platform. This aligns their interests with yours.

There is no secondary market for your investments, so you should be prepared to wait.

AngelList

Minimum Investment$1,000 (for individual deals)
Platform FeeVaries; each deal has a syndicate cost of ~$8,000, pro-rated among all the investors. Syndicates also charge 20% of the upside in carried interest, which is shared between the lead investor and the platform
Non-Accredited InvestorsNo
Green OptionsMultiple across managed funds and individual investments

Pros

  • Good selection of green startups to invest in
  • The most reputable crowdfunding platform
  • Multiple types of investment opportunities (funds and deals)
  • Long track record
  • Opportunity to learn for less experienced investors

Cons

  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time
  • Approved accredited investors only
  • High carried interest

Review

Founded in 2010, AngelList is a highly reputable venture capital funding platform. Initially launched to broker connections between startups and angel investors, it is now open to accredited investors. AngelList boasts deploying over $1 billion in startup capital in over 500 companies.

AngelList only accepts accredited investors who have either worked for, invested in, or advised a startup. If you qualify, AngelList offers several investment options:

  • Investing behind venture capital fund managers who pick startups (Rolling Funds). You can pick a venture capital fund to invest in. Some of the funds are sustainability-focused.
  • Investing in a broad venture capital fund through the AngelList Access Fund. You get to invest in an AngelList-backed venture capital fund that invests in multiple deals. The fund boasts good historical returns, but this is not a green fund. Investors must commit to investing $250,000 annually. 
  • Picking companies to invest in. AngelList offers deal-by-deal investments. Accredited investors partner with Syndicates led by experienced investors to invest in specific companies. 

Although you can’t view the deals on the site until you’ve been approved, you can typically find multiple green investing opportunities. You can invest in a sustainability-focused Rolling Fund or join one of the 160 Syndicates. Green Rolling Funds include:

AngelList suggests backing 10-15 Syndicates. Syndicates give you access to their deal flow and let you pick investments on a deal-by-deal basis. When you join, you can pick “cleantech” or “social impact” as the markets you invest in, and “impact,” “female founders,” or “minority founders” as a special interest. AngelList will then match you with relevant Syndicates. There are Syndicates such as “Climate Capital” that specialize in investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

AngelList has backed many success stories, including corporate credit card provider Brex, dog-walking startup Wag, and food delivery app Postmates.

Fundable

Minimum Investment$1,000
Platform FeeNone
Non-Accredited InvestorsNo
Green OptionsMultiple, but no screens or filters

Pros

  • Good selection of green startups

Cons

  • Accredited investors only
  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time
  • Investments are not curated 
  • Transactions take place off the platform
  • The site is targeting companies that are fundraising rather than investors

Review

Fundable offers both equity and rewards-based crowdfunding (like Kickstarter). Equity crowdfunding is available to accredited investors only.

Unlike the other platforms we’ve reviewed, Fundable only lets you view investments and register nonbinding interest. All transactions and shares take place off the platform.

There are multiple green options but no way to screen for them. The sheer number of businesses listed on the site can make it challenging to manually go through all of them. Further, Fundable doesn’t do diligence on potential investments, so you are on your own.

Our May 2021 search revealed multiple green opportunities, such as:

  • Proteus Ocean Group, a marine habitat and observatory 
  • Sustaine, a software platform that helps businesses find the cheapest source of renewable energy 
  • Frontier Farms, a hydroponic farm targeting the Las Vegas market 

Fundable doesn’t charge investors any fees, and the minimum investment is $1,000. In contrast, companies pay a flat monthly fee to be listed on the platform. This incentivizes Fundable to have as many companies listed for as long as possible, which may not be aligned with your goals.

Raise Green

Minimum Investment$100 (projects can set minimum investment requirements)
Platform FeeNone
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsAll options are green
Number of Investments2 (as of May 2021)

Pros

  • All startups listed on the site are green
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • Raise Green does due diligence on each offering
  • No fees to investors

Cons

  • Recently launched platform
  • Few options (2 open to new investors as of May 2021)
  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time

Review

Launched in mid-2020 and licensed by FINRA and the SEC, Raise Green exclusively offers crowdfunded investments in green energy projects. As of May 2021, the platform has raised $1.5 million through six offerings.

Current opportunities include:

  • National Energy Improvement Fund (NEIF) Climate Notes. NEIF is an organization that finances energy efficiency improvements for buildings. They provide financing to small business, commercial, and non-profit projects. The notes have a minimum investment of $1,000, pay a fixed 5% interest, and have a five-year maturity.
  • Elm Lea Renewable Energy LLC. Elm Lea is an operational project providing solar energy to a school campus in Vermont. The project is owned by a diversified solar developer. The investment takes the form of senior unsecured debt, which pays a fixed interest rate of 4.25% annually during the five-year term of the Note. The minimum investment is $500. Investors are getting both interest and a portion of their money (or principal) back semi-annually.  

To date, Raise Green listed six projects on the platform, including three other climate notes from NEIF. 

Raise Green does due diligence on each offering using the proprietary RAISE framework. You can learn more about the framework here

You can invest with as little as $100, though projects can increase the minimum investment. There are no fees to investors.

Raise Green is a very new platform, and there aren’t many options on the site. However, it is the first green impact investing platform in the U.S., and we hope they see growth going forward.

🔔 Read the complete review here.

NetCapital

Minimum Investment$99
Platform FeeNone
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsMultiple options but no screens or filters
Number of Investments38 (as of May 2021)

Pros

  • Good selection of green startups
  • Strategic partnership with TechStars, a top startup accelerator
  • Secondary platform offering potential liquidity
  • No investor fees

Cons

  • High risk
  • Liquidity is not guaranteed
  • Limited curation
  • The founder has a medical background and no investing experience prior to founding NetCapital

Review

Founded in 2014, Boston-based crowdfunding platform NetCapital has a partnership with TechStars, a well-known startup accelerator. It was founded by Jason Frishman, who has an interesting background as an oncology researcher.

Although there is no way to search for green startups, there aren’t that many options listed, and you can manually go through them. As of May 2021, our search revealed:

  • EnergyX, a maker of next-gen battery technology 
  • Hercules Electric Vehicle, a startup working on sport trucks and SUVs with integrated solar charging 
  • WaterWorks, an investment platform helping you invest in water technologies 

NetCapital has an “open” listing philosophy. They don’t do extensive vetting, letting the market decide which businesses are worth funding.

NetCapital lets you invest with as little as $99, and there are no fees to investors (the companies that raise money pay 4.9% of the amount raised.)

SeedInvest

Minimum Investment$500 (startups can set minimum investment requirements)
Platform Fee2% (up to $300)
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsLimited
Number of Investments5 (as of May 2021)

Pros

  • Curated investments; SeedInvest says it accepts < 2% of startups that apply
  • Open to non-accredited investors

Cons

  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time
  • Limited startup selection (and no green options in May 2021)

Review

Founded by two Wharton classmates in 2011, SeedInvest has since raised over $300 million for over 235 startups. SeedInvest’s point of differentiation is a tight vetting process. As a registered broker-dealer, SeedInvest does diligence on the startups listed on the platform. According to SeedInvest, they accept <2% of startups that apply. Co-founder Ryan Feit has even criticized other crowdfunding sites for accepting poor-quality deals.

You can’t search for green options, but they are not hard to find because the site doesn’t list many investments at any given time. Although the site listed green options in the past, there were none in May 2021.

The minimum investment is $500. Some offerings are limited to accredited investors.

In 2019, SeedInvest was acquired by the crypto startup Circle, which is now reportedly looking to offload it.

MicroVentures

Minimum Investment$100 (startups can set minimum investment requirements)
Platform FeeNone (for Reg CF offerings)
Non-Accredited InvestorsYes
Green OptionsCurrently none, but some availability in the past
Number of Investments13 (as of May 2021)

Pros

  • Secondary trading marketplace
  • Open to non-accredited investors
  • Curated investments

Cons

  • High risk
  • Long-term investments you can’t sell for a long time
  • Limited startup selection, no green options may be available

Review

Founded in 2009 and based in Austin, Texas, MicroVentures offers equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors, private investments for accredited investors, and a secondary trading platform. MicroVentures was founded by Bill Clark, who previously worked as a credit manager for Dell and PayPal.

Since its inception, MicroVentures raised over $400 million for over 900 investment opportunities. Although the platform didn’t list any green options in May 2021, prior relevant investments included:

  • Oscilla Power, a wave energy converter manufacturer
  • Renu Robotics, a developer of autonomous tractors for solar farm maintenance 
  • Primo Wind, a maker of residential and commercial micro-grid solar/wind systems

The minimum investment is $100. The platform doesn’t charge investors fees for Reg CF offerings. Accredited investors may incur fees depending on the type of private investments they are making.

How to diligence green crowdfunding opportunities

Crowdfunded investments are very risky, and it’s particularly important to do your diligence and to diversify.

Some crowdfunding platforms say that they vet the companies they list. But you should still do your own work. Crowdfunding platforms make money by charging startups fees as a percentage of the funds raised. So their incentive is to get as many companies raise as much money as possible, not to make sure that these are good businesses and investors don’t lose their money. (Republic, which retains equity in the companies they list, may be an exception.)

We recommend finding answers to the following questions as part of your due diligence:

· What are the founders’ backgrounds? Are they qualified for the type of business they are launching?
· How big is the market they are targeting? Why are they best positioned to win in the market?
· How will the company make money?
· How do they expect to use the funds? Does this use of funds make sense?
· What are the likely challenges to the business?
· Are there any available financials and how are they trending?
· Who are their competitors?
· What is the likely exit strategy?
· What are people saying about the company on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook? Are there any reviews on Google?
· How is the deal structured (are you getting a convertible note, equity, revenue share, etc.)?


Investing in green companies lets you bet on the transition away from fossil fuels. If you make good picks, you can make money by investing in companies you believe in.

🔔 Also interested in public market investing? Learn how to invest in sustainable exchange-traded funds.

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