When it comes to climate change, 2019 was a disappointing year, to say the least; visible signs of global warming came in the form of global fires, and the UN Climate Summit and COP25 both ended in more talk and less action.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to start looking into the market for underground bunkers just yet. It could be that the planet’s knight in shining armor may come in the form of a hoodie-wearing techie… or several.
While governments across Europe are taking the first steps in setting ambitious emission reduction targets for 2030, it’s the continent’s startups which are truly bringing the innovation we need to tackle climate change, before it’s too late.
Tech5 2020: On the search for Europe’s hot young scaleups
Every year TNW and payments tech giant Adyen have been scouring the European tech scene for the fastest-growing scaleups. The top five winners per country are then invited to join Tech5 — an exclusive network of the best companies, investors, and experts from across the continent. This year’s winners will be revealed at TNW’s Founders Day event in Amsterdam on June 17, 2020.
This year we’re focusing on the ways technology can help create change and have a positive impact on the planet. The first batch of startup finalists we want to highlight are those innovating in the category: Circular Economy & Sustainability.
From providing consumers and businesses with options that curb our carbon footprint to helping us take a proactive stance against climate change, these hot young scaleups are our top picks.
What happens to our beloved phones when they die? Some end up in the lost world that is the back of our junk drawer. Others wind up in landfills, letting the rare earth materials inside them quite literally go to waste (not to mention the toxic chemicals emitted from e-waste).
Instead of opting for the latest model, studies show purchasing a refurbished phone can have a far better impact on the environment. In fact, the energy needed to produce a new phone is roughly equivalent to the energy needed to operate your current phone for the next 10 years.
It’s time to give your phone, or someone else’s, a new life. Finnish founded startup, Swappie, is helping to cut down e-waste in the Nordics by providing a marketplace for people to sell and buy smartphones. With a 12-month warranty and the latest technology, their platform ensures only high-quality phones make the cut. The company is currently active in Finland, Sweden, and Italy.
Swedish Tech5 finalist, Northvolt, is on a mission to create the greenest battery in the world. It plans to do this through a process that’s sustainable from end to end ensuring its:
- Value chain is free of conflict, child labor, and human rights abuse
- Manufacturing is powered by 100% renewable energy
- Batteries are recyclable through its end-of-life Revolt program
In 2019, the company raised $1 billion — enough to finally begin building their first battery plant in Skelleftea, Sweden which plans to start production in 2021. With partners like BMW, Siemens, and Vattenfall, it’s clear they’re ready to revolutionize the future of energy.
Urban Volt (Ireland)
The consumer market for LED light bulbs is alive and well. What rational consumer wouldn’t choose an option that’s 80% more energy efficient (making it both better for the environment and your wallet)? Well, many large scale businesses, especially those with vast lighting needs such as warehouses, factories, and clinics wouldn’t.
To help businesses transition to more sustainable lighting systems, Urban Volt created a simple straightforward proposition. As a Lighting as a Service (LaaS) company they:
- Provide the initial capital investment needed to install the new lighting (no down payment needed)
- Ensure installation won’t disrupt business operations and continue to take care of lighting maintenance and upkeep
- Make it fully off-balance sheet
Ultimately, what this Tech5 finalist’s customers have found is that the resulting reduction in energy costs more than make up for the monthly subscription the company charges. What startups like Urban Volt are showing the world is that the decision to go green often pays for itself.
Speaking of sustainability paying off, Norwegian startup Otovo is helping individuals harness the power of the sun. Through its online platform, homeowners can assess the solar potential of their roofs. Otovo then helps them customize their panels for optimal sun ray exposure and aesthetics. The company then takes care of installation and maintenance for a minimum of 25 years.
The great part is, customers can use the energy generated to power their homes and sell whatever is leftover for cash. Otovo is now the Nordic region’s leading total supplier of solar cells for individuals and businesses.
Can you really trust a phone you bought from a random on some equivalent of Craigslist? Refurbed founder Peter Windischhofer ran into exactly this problem when he bought an iPhone on a used goods website and it broke just six months later. In order for the circular economy to actually work, there needs to be consumer trust in the recycled products people buy.
This is where Refurbed decided to close the gap. The company started in Austria and has gone on to take over the German-speaking market. Not only do they refurbish phones, they also recycle laptops and tablets. On top of that, they plant a tree each time they purchase a new device to refurbish. You can’t get more eco-friendly than that.
Let’s be honest. Even if you’re a recycling freak with colored bins for every category, there’s always that awkward item that makes you wonder ‘where does this go?’ ‘How will I get it there?’ It then collects dust in your living room for months until one night you guiltily abandon it on the curb (in front of your neighbor’s house). Swedish based TipTapp is an app developed to solve exactly this problem.
Whether you simply have no idea where or how to get that old broken down washing machine to a place that will recycle it or you have an old couch that simply needs some new upholstery and TLC, on TipTapp you can find someone who is willing to take it off your hands for a small fee.
To ensure each piece is actually going to the right place, there’s a function in the app that requires ‘helpers’ to verify when and where they’re recycling your items.
Lightyear (The Netherlands)
The harmful effects of air pollution are well known, and cities across Europe are committing to an emission-free future
Dutch-born Lightyear is answering the call for new personal mobility options that are both functional and sustainable. The company’s first product, Lightyear One, is a solar-powered car equipped with panels on the roof and hood. With a slick design and the capacity for up to 725 km of range, it’s sure to be a consumer favorite when it hits the streets in early 2021. Not to mention the fact that it made the list of TIME Magazine’s 100 best inventions in 2019.
20tree.ai is an innovative young startup that’s using AI and satellite imagery to track forestry growth patterns and predict the impact of agricultural and urban development projects on green spaces. With these insights, stakeholders from governments, municipalities, and NGOs can:
- Tackle potential threats (like deforestation, drought, insect plagues, soil health, and storm damage) early
- Introduce more sustainable agricultural practices
- Monitor and support the growth of urban green spaces
The company is already working with a wide range of partners and clients including Airbus, Rainforest Alliance, and European Space Imaging.
Even if you’re not a policymaker or urban planner, everyone can play a role in the transition towards an emission-free future. Norwegian based Chooose allows users to support climate change focused initiatives through subscription-based donations.
Each project has been handpicked by their international carbon advisory team and verified by well-known institutions such as the United Nations and Veritas to ensure your donation makes an impact. The service is also available for businesses. Some of their partners include banking giant Santander, Thrive Market, and Telia.
This is part of the 2020 Tech5 series covering the top finalists in the categories of: Circular Economy & Sustainability, Social Platforms & Matchmaking, Mobility & Subscriptions, Food & Delivery. You can find all the featured companies, with daily updates, here.