Hub In Focus: Bernie Burgener

Jun 1, 2023

An Interview with Bernie Burgener, Executive Director, Greenhouse Accelerator and Founding Task Force Member, Georgia Cleantech Innovation Hub

Greenhouse Accelerator, a volunteer-led organization, operates on the principles of reciprocity, where successful entrepreneurs, executives and startups give back to the next generation by volunteering their time and expertise to help early-stage startups lacking in revenue or collateral. The Accelerator supports early-stage entrepreneurs in building their businesses, specifically in climate tech, AGtech, and Cleantech. This includes assistance in building their business models, creating prototypes, introducing them to funders, and providing other essential services.

Since 2010, Greenhouse has received 66 applications, supported 22 startups, and has 14 organizations currently participating in the program at various stages. Over the years, more than 40 individuals have volunteered their time to help Cleantech entrepreneurs and helped create jobs that support the ecosystem’s growth.

Bernie Burgener, the executive director of Greenhouse Accelerator, has brought extensive experience in investment analysis, negotiations, and M&A to the non-profit organization. His frustration with being unable to substantiate “sustainability” was the catalyst years ago to get educated on sustainability and climate, co-found the accelerator and think tank. Bernie’s work contributed to the success of several startups that graduated from the Accelerator, including Grubbly Farms, which creates animal protein from sustainable sources; Upshots, a company that is turning coal ash into energy; Energy, which provides modular, portable small hydropower; and more.

After years of leadership in driving sustainability and Cleantech innovation in Georgia, Burgener believes Greenhouse is ready for its next step.

But what does that look like? Burgener envisions innovation and technology driving societal and environmental impacts in Georgia through continued growth in the sector, attracting more investors to the space. He also believes that supporting entrepreneurs in sustainable practices and attracting more partners to the space will result in more entrepreneurs, jobs, and economic impact in the region.

This vision has led to the development of the Georgia Cleantech Innovation Hub, a non-profit coalition of Cleantech ecosystem partners across the state. It aims to increase the speed and scale of Georgia’s Cleantech ecosystem via a unique private-public-academic partnership that helps translate innovation into products. The hub’s purpose is to harness innovation and build a robust pipeline of Cleantech startups that drive economic growth, create the jobs of the future, and make significant societal and environmental impacts across all segments of our society.

“The emergence of a physical hub fills a significant gap in the ecosystem for Cleantech and climate tech entrepreneurs’ support,” explains Burgener. “With government policies and grants focusing on Cleantech projects post-pandemic, entrepreneurs have begun to see the value in Cleantech, leading to more successes and investors. We believe this is the next evolution of Greenhouse Accelerator and has the potential to build a robust pipeline of Cleantech startups across Georgia.”

The Georgia Cleantech Innovation Hub is focused on the initial build-out, fundraising and partner onboarding, and community development. Intending to create the jobs of the future, it drives economic growth while making significant societal and environmental impacts across all segments of our society, it is actively seeking advisors, mentors, corporate sponsorship and community support in fulfilling its vision.


Get to Know Bernie

Name a business in Georgia that has inspired you.

  • The investment fund, ‘Purpose Group.’ I hope this inspires more of the same, as it could have a huge impact on new business formation by enabling exits of early investors while preserving the startup’s purpose and values.

What is something people don’t know about you?

  • I’m from Switzerland, but I’m really a wanna-be Canadian. I interrupted college in Switzerland for a year to work my way across Canada, where I came to love Canadians and their country.

If you could invite three people to a dinner party (thought leader, celebrity, etc.), who would they be?

  • John Fullerton (Capital Institute, Impact Investor), Paul Hawken (Natural Capitalism, Ecology of Commerce), and Bono (Africa, finance/investing).

What are you currently reading?

  • The Ministry for the Future by Kim Robinson. It is a very attractive, informative and inspiring way to think about climate change.

Favorite place in Georgia.

  • The Chattahoochee River.