Hanyuan (Karen) Wang is the founder of Climind, a data-as-a-service startup that translates climate data into actionable business intelligence. Wang is the first Chinese woman to be selected as a United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She is also a research assistant at Imperial College’s Centre for Climate Finance and Investment (CFFI), where she focuses on the voluntary carbon market, climate risks, and nature-based solutions. Previously, she worked at Merrill Lynch and Microsoft.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Can you tell us about the work that Climind does, and what gap in the industry you hope to fill?
Climind is a data-as-a-service platform that measures and analyzes climate change information.
As a company, Climind is still young. But my team and I — spread out across Cambridge, London, and Hong Kong — have been working in the climate sector for quite a while, both in entrepreneurship and in public sector research. We started Climind because we realized that climate change was too complicated of an issue for many people to know how to take action. We realized that it was important for people to have better access to climate information, so that they could have a better understanding of climate issues, especially in the finance sector.
We wanted to go where market demands lead us: to Asia, where more than half of the world’s population lives. We also found that in many Asian countries, compared to countries like the United States and the U.K., fewer people that we reached out to knew how to enact effective mitigation and adaptation actions. So we also do a lot of work in capacity building.
What kind of climate information do you track?
Climate change is a complex system, so we track several different types of data. Firstly, we track both risks and opportunities. Climate risks include both physical risks and transitional risks. Opportunities include data such as carbon assets and nature-based solutions, which are an important category of financial assets. We also have a carbon emissions inventory, which tracks carbon dioxide to measure global warming at different levels of granularity.
Can you give examples of some of the different clients you have worked with?
Let me give you a recent example for the public sector. We worked with the technology transfer department of the Bangladeshi government, which we were introduced to through a nonprofit organization called the Good City Foundation. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable places impacted by climate change, as a result of sea-level rise. They were one of our first clients, and we are helping them build a climate database to better measure climate risks and to help decision-makers in the Bangladeshi government to make better decisions. We hoped to bring a more scientific perspective to their work on NDCs [nationally determined contributions], which are at the heart of the Paris Agreement, and are the long-term goals that each country commits to.
Can you give an example from the private sector?
Our primary target market is the financial sector, because it is the biggest category of users who need climate data. Climate is a new type of risk, and climate risk is a financial risk. We want to be able to translate scientific data into actionable solutions. This includes everything from risk assessments, compliance, the development of new products (particularly important for the insurance sector) to helping with investment decisions. These include carbon credits and green bonds, which provide financing for products like reforestation.
What kinds of platforms inspired you in the process of building Climind?
I have worked in the data field for a while now, first at Microsoft and then Merrill Lynch. There are a couple of examples of companies that we were inspired by, which use AI or data science in a way that is valuable. The first was the Silicon Valley company Palantir. The second was a startup called Gro Intelligence, which is also in the climate field. They provide data on climate and agriculture, helping farmers and commodity traders to make better decisions.
What plans do you have in store for Climind in 2023?
2023 will be an important year for us, the year that we bring Climind from the laboratory to the market. In Q1, we plan to open up an office in Hong Kong, and from Q2 to Q4, we plan to explore the mainland China market as well. I was recently chosen as a Young Leader by the United Nations Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, which is a two-year commitment to doing work in advocacy and publicity, so I’m hoping to also explore other regions to bring into our database.