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Key Challenges and Strategies for European Carbon Removal Startups

European carbon dioxide removal (CDR) startups face numerous challenges as they work to sustain and grow their operations within an emerging market characterized by uncertainty and evolving governance structures. A systematic analysis involving a survey of 40 European CDR startups and eight in-depth interviews highlighted common challenges and the strategies employed to navigate them. Despite optimism about the future market size, startups struggle significantly with lead generation and conversion, with only 26% satisfied with customer lead generation and 20% with conversion rates. This disparity between market potential and actual sales is due to complex and time-consuming sales processes. Additionally, the CDR market’s blend of B2B and B2C elements complicates customer identification, segmentation, and pricing strategies, making it difficult for startups to effectively position their products or services.

The complexities of obtaining non-dilutive funding further hinder the growth of CDR startups, with only 22% finding such funding accessible and a mere 10% able to access it quickly enough to meet their financial needs. Bureaucratic grant application processes and inflexible fund use exacerbate these challenges. Consequently, European CDR startups employ diverse survival strategies, from leveraging personal networks to exploring alternative revenue streams and co-benefits of their solutions. Flexibility and adaptability in business models are crucial, as market uncertainties continue to shape the challenges these startups face. While startups are confident in their technology and technical expertise, and staffing is not currently a major issue, the anticipated scale-up of the CDR market could introduce new challenges. Ensuring the survival of CDR startups during this transitional period is essential for the effective scaling of CDR solutions as the market matures.

This report has been created in colaboration with remove. remove is Europe’s premier non-profit accelerator program designed to support early-stage CDR startups. The remove team has worked with European CDR founders since 2021, connecting them with relevant ecosystem stakeholders, addressing individual challenges on their entrepreneurial journey, and providing non-dilutive funding through a two-stage accelerator program. In their role as the core partner of remove, sus.lab shapes the program with thought leadership and ecosystem development.


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Surviving in a Nascent Market - Unveiling Key Challenges and Strategies for European Carbo
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