UT investment fund supports energy, crypto startup

Catherine Cahn, General Life&Arts Reporter

In high school, Xander Klein and his longtime friend, Chance Washburn, spent time working for an oil and gas operator in California. Klein said this experience prompted a business partnership with Washburn, which resulted in the creation of Sweetwater Mining Company, a startup that aims to use stranded natural gas as a primary energy source for Bitcoin mining. 

“Not only are we solving an issue of vented or flared methane being released into the atmosphere,” said Klein, a biomedical engineering senior. “But by using stranded natural gas as a primary energy source for mining, Sweetwater can produce electricity at ultra competitive rates by converting this trash into treasure.”

Once Klein and SMU student Washburn solidified their idea, the duo began looking for a mentor and funding to escalate Sweetwater’s impact and help achieve their goals. Klein said he heard about Genesis, UT’s student startup investment fund. 

Jacob Cordova, UT alumnus and Genesis’ co-founder and managing director, said when Klein approached Genesis, the fund solidified partnerships with Shell Global, Affinity Engineering and Chevron Corporation — a union that aims to help student entrepreneurs fight climate-related issues. Now, Klein said Genesis selected Sweetwater to receive a grant because of its potential impact on sustainability and the environment, which resulted in the startup receiving funding and vital mentorships for the young entrepreneurs.

“It’s been really great having another set of eyes and an experienced group of investors who are well connected with UT alumni around the country to take a look at some of the challenges that we’ve been facing,” Klein said. “They’ve given us some invaluable advice and helped point us in the right direction.” 

Cordova said Genesis’ recent partnerships will expand the fund’s impact through increasing the awareness of Genesis and the startups it invests in and will allow relationships between potential customers and investors to happen even faster.

“Our main mission here has always been, ‘How can we help the world be a better place by enabling talented people the opportunity to reach their greatest potential? How can we help people get on that track, not just after they graduate but while they’re still at UT-Austin?’” Cordova said. “We look for opportunities to help unlock that, and the results have been pretty fantastic.”

Looking towards the future, Klein said he fosters ambitious goals for Sweetwater and hopes that maintaining a long term relationship with Genesis will help achieve them as they continue to help other student-led startups at UT. 

“Genesis has a very unique impact across the Forty Acres, and a major part of that is how Genesis is able to leverage both the alumni and students who work together,” said Dana Tran, a marketing junior and Genesis’ lead of digital presence. “This partnership with Shell and Chevron is just another iteration out of that bigger scope for student founders getting to work alongside people in the energy industry and get that mentorship for their startups and themselves.”