Why We Invested in Zanskar

Geothermal heats up with a boost from AI

Andrew Beebe |
Image created by AI

Recent leaps in technology have given us many reasons to be optimistic about the future. Generative AI is opening a new era of scientific discoveries, crypto is defining new paths for processing, and the electrification of almost every sector is fueling the world’s decarbonization.

But there’s a catch: all of these initiatives require enormous amounts of energy. According to an estimate from U.S. energy utilities, we will need three times as much energy generation by 2040 than we have today—and possibly much more.

Aging fossil fuel plants can’t meet this demand, nor can renewables like wind and solar that have already tapped most of the easiest land. Nuclear fission is expensive to build and maintain, and nuclear fusion, while getting closer to reality, is still out of reach.

Thankfully, there’s a near-term solution right under our feet: Geothermal energy. Our newest portfolio company Zanskar is redefining how and where we find enormous new supplies of power. Obvious recently led Zanskar’s $30M Series B round, with participation from Munich Re Ventures, Union Square Ventures, and Lowercarbon Capital, among others.

Geothermal has traditionally been limited in two key ways: it’s hard to find and it’s costly to develop. The most accessible geothermal deposits sit under Iceland and Indonesia, which both countries have made a centerpiece of their energy infrastructure. But for the rest of the world, geothermal has been too difficult to locate and too onerous to harness efficiently and cost effectively.

Zanskar is building a powerful AI platform that eliminates these barriers. The company uses artificial intelligence to analyze maps of temperature, gravity, geology, and tectonic movement to identify new sources of commercial geothermal and guide decisions about where and how to drill. In the last few years, Zanskar’s technology has already outperformed the best human geologists, and much faster.

Geothermal is seeing a massive expansion of cost-cutting technologies from fracking to deep-well drilling. These are helpful technologies which will be combined with Zanskar’s discovery platform to usher in a new era of low-cost, accessible and fast development of baseload resources. 

We’re also investing in the people who are building Zanskar. Co-founders Carl Hoiland and Joel Edwards have rare expertise at the intersection of digital AI technology and industrial geology and seismology. Together with Zanskar’s wider team, they’re already demonstrating how breathing new life into an old industry can boost baseload power while also decarbonizing our world.

Zanskar is a world positive company, a term we use at Obvious to describe disruptive companies building sustainable solutions to humanity’s biggest problems. Zanskar’s mission is rooted in creating meaningful impact while driving responsible growth globally. In its success, we see a form of profit that enriches us all.

Andrew Beebe

Andrew helps build companies with category-creating entrepreneurs that are decarbonizing the global economy, electrifying all modes of transportation, and upgrading urban environments.

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