Anca Timofte is #MadeForKnoxville.

She tried on many professional hats (and countries) before finding her true love: direct air capture technology. Now, Anca has settled in Knoxville to deploy what she believes is the best solution to the GHG emission problem. 

Since our planet suffers a variety of plagues, it can be difficult to hone in on just one solution. As a natural born engineer and entrepreneur, Anca experimented with different career paths and relocated five times to discover her life’s work. She is passionate about moving the needle forward to sustainably reduce greenhouse gas emissions; as an MBA at Stanford, she co-founded Holocene, seeking to make the biggest impact in the carbon removal space. Strategically relocating to Knoxville, Anca and her team have utilized resources from ORNL and UT’s Spark Innovation Center to grow their business. 

“We are losing more trees than we are adding. We need direct air capture.”

In Their Own Words…

I’m the CEO and co-founder of Holocene, a startup working to develop and deploy direct air capture technology. Our machines remove carbon dioxide from the air with the purpose of storing it away permanently. 

I’m originally from north-eastern Romania and I first came to the U.S. to pursue a chemical engineering degree. I ended up continuing my studies at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, where I pivoted toward environmental engineering and ecological system design. I worked as a process engineer, project manager, and team lead in the carbon removal space for seven years, before deciding to pursue an MBA at Stanford University. I started Holocene while at Stanford after I fell in love with a new chemistry for carbon dioxide removal. I brought on two amazing cofounders as I started mapping out our company’s future and understood the expertise needed on several fronts – technology, market, and financing. We moved our company to Knoxville to enable our collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and because we’ve been offered significant help through Innovation Crossroads at ORNL and through the Spark Incubator at UTK.

What Led to Entrepreneurship:

My father was an engineer (like me!) and entrepreneur in post-communist Romania and he has inspired in me the courage to pursue entrepreneurship. In both my career and life so far, I’ve often taken unusual paths – I moved countries several times, changed fields of study, and moved from engineering into non-technical spaces. Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs at Stanford and the Bay Area and seeing others pursuing their dreams relentlessly is what finally pushed me to take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.

Lessons Learned:

Learning to disconnect and detach to get a fresh perspective on things matters a lot when navigating ambiguity as we do a lot in early-stage startups. I found that podcasts and yoga are easy gateways into new thoughts and easy ways to take a break from work!


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