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Regenerating the planet
Walking around Munich earlier this week, I was struck by just how many lederhosen and dirndl clad Americans were in town, for the first Oktoberfest since the pandemic began.
One German I was with got straight to the point. ‘They’re welcome to show off just how strong their currency is! We’ll take it!’ Was he worried about Covid, I asked? I got a bemused look and a shrug for my answer. It now predictably turns out, Oktoberfest has become a super spreader event!
All those Americans weren’t just in town to drink the copious and strong Bavarian beer in the 17 large and 21 small tents at Oktoberfest. Many were doing double duty early in the week, at the Bits and Pretzels. What’s that you ask? Well, it bills itself as ‘Europe’s largest conference for founders and enthusiasts from the start-up scene’. There was plenty on offer — Innovations showcased, pitches made and investors to be found. And even an inspiring talk on how to view a world divided, by the Terminator himself - Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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What I found inspiring in Munich though, was the focus of the women I met from across the world. They were single minded in their push to innovate regenerative technologies for a planet that currently looks very distracted from ‘Climate Change’ issues.
Chosen as part of a highly competitive program (more than 2000 applications from across the world, for only 10 spots!) run by Respond, the accelerator program initiated by the BMW Foundation — these women aren’t bogged down by net zero targets. They want to go beyond —to undo the damage mankind has inflicted on the world and regenerate it.
The founders I’m highlighting below are all at different stages of fundraising. If you know investors looking for that next amazing start up, please connect them. If you’re inspired by their work, share this note and amplify their profiles. Whatever we can do as a community to bring these ideas to scale, is how we contribute to fixing a broken planet!
Based in Switzerland and run by an all-female founders’ team, rrreefs was set up by group made up of scientists, an international relations expert and an artist. What do Dr. Ulrike Pfreundt, Hanna Kuhfuß, Hannah Jasper, Josephine Graf and Marie Griesmar share in common? The love of the ocean and a determination to help coral reefs survive the next 30 year
Rrreefs combines marine science with an artistic vision and state-of-the-art technology to restore underwater ecosystems. The ETH spin-off uses 3D-printing to develop modular reefs with a structurally complex design and aims to target markets with the development of biodiversity credits. And guess what? In the past year despite Ocean temperature changes —they’ve actually managed to grow a baby coral! That is a miracle indeed!
When Shriti Pandey returned to India after a few years in New York City she was appalled at the massive straw burnings that are now globally famous for choking India’s capital city, New Delhi. This solo-female founder took her civil engineering background, the agricultural waste no one wanted, put them together and created Strawcture.
The start-up manufactures India's first carbon negative engineer building panel for furniture, ceilings, and walls to offset the carbon footprint of buildings and discourage biomass burning. How? The panels are made of 96% agricultural residue. And have already generated sales of above $1million in the last 12 months. The start-up’s also gone beyond a local Indian focus and has the formula to be globally scalable. It’s range of sustainable building materials (with the potential to redefine the construction industry) can be adjusted to any region’s Agri waste. So straw in India, wheat residue in eastern Europe, corn in the U.S. coconut in south east Asia - you get the point!
Founded in Slovakia by Darina Štyriaková, Ekolive is a Biotech company that is not like any other. I mean how many start-ups can claim their technology contributes to as many as 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
How do they do that? With an interdisciplinary biotechnological approach to clean contaminated and regenerate depleted soil and use the by-product of this process as an organic bio stimulant in agriculture. Ekolive opens up new sources of raw materials for industrial minerals and returns used raw materials to the value cycle, while also increasing production and nutritional value in agriculture with the by-product. The start-up is made up of a highly technical team, doing highly technical work and has even won the first edition of the Feike Sijbesma Sustainable Innovation Award of university Wageningen, the highest ranked Agricultural University in the world.
The game changing investors
Clear, passionate, driven and a realist - that’s how I’d describe Cilia Holmes Indahl, CEO of EQT Foundation, and responsible for not just developing and executing on the Foundation's strategic agenda - but being the voice influencing EQT’s (which touts itself as a responsible investor and owner) actual investment decisions.
What’s is the foundation and EQT trying to achieve? Impact investments and a real tangible way to ensure that those positive impacts are measurable!
Cilia's experience is invaluable to that - She was CEO of Katapult Group, Sustainability Director of Aker BioMarine and core to the Norwegian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, where she negotiated the SDGs.
The reminder we all need!
If anyone ever needed a swift and to the point reminder why innovations like the one above are non-negotiable, I’d point you in the direction of the fabulous Prof. Dr. Maja Göpel!
Maja is an award-winning transformation scientist, a political economist working at the intersection of economy, politics and society. Her new book, We can also do things differently: Departure into the world of tomorrow focuses on what the world of tomorrow can look like. The co-founder of the Scientists for Future initiative and secretary-general of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, is clear:
Humanity is in a tremendous transformation process. The number of things to be tackled, repaired and realigned seems overwhelming. How do we find compass, creativity and courage to not fight these challenges as much as to create them? And: Who are we and why is that so important?