I’m very pleased to be introducing Frederik van Deurs, CEO of GREENTECH CHALLENGE and Martin Andreas Petersen, the CFO.
Having read through their website and listened to a bit of their podcast, I think I have more questions than answers, which is probably a good thing for this interview.
What I do know is that winning the GREENTECH CHALLENGE would be a MASSIVE boost to any eco-business, given the number of expert consultants that it would provide you with, as well as funding and traction. Applications are currently open for Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris, with applicants being selected on a rolling basis.
You can’t argue with these stats for the participants, within 12 months of participating:
– 70% raise capital
– On average they raise EUR 500.000
– The team sizes grown 67% on average
– The monthly revenue triples on average
I wouldn’t mind going through a GREENTECH CHALLENGE myself…
Ok, less from me, let’s chat with Frederik and Martin…
Welcome, Frederik and Martin! Thanks for giving up a few minutes to answer my questions. First of all, what’s your background, how did you get to this point?
Frederik: Basically I’ve always cared about people and the planet. I spent a long time as an activist and studied environmentalism at university, as part of my master’s degree in anthropology.
When I was doing fieldwork in Mexico, studying sustainable eco-communities, I had an epiphany. One day, I was standing on a mountainside, covered in mud, head to toe, because we were building a house with traditional methods. Noticing how dirty and tiresome that process was (although, admittedly, quite fun as well), I thought to myself “nobody in their right mind will sacrifice the privileges of modern society for this”.
And that was the moment when it dawned upon me – business is the main driver for 90% of the changes we have seen in the world. If we want a green transition, if we want a sustainable society, we need to make green business good business. I sincerely believe that business is the only way we can turn this development around.
So, I got back from Mexico and got together with my two friends, Martin and Joachim, who had just spent a year in Malaysia accelerating halal tech companies, and we decided to work on helping green startups succeed.
It’s not an incubator, it’s not an idea competition, so, what is it?
We help startups succeed through carefully screened matchmaking. We match the best green innovation with possible clients and investors. We have mapped 40% of the green startups in Europe, so we have a good idea of what is out there. Apart from that, we have worked personally with more than 200 established green startups in 9 countries.
Why Green Technologies, why not another industry? Is it something personal to you?
This is the single most important challenge mankind has ever faced. Who cares who controls Syria, if a new car is 10% more expensive, or how quickly I can share a photo, if we cannot breathe the air on the planet?
We need to invest an additional $13 trillion per year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals from the UN. That is THE GREENTECH CHALLENGE, the challenge to get new green technologies implemented so that there is a world for the generations to come.
Nothing has ever been more important, no struggles, no civil rights movements, no anti-war protest or anything like it. If we do not address this problem, humanity is done. And we do not have a lot of time to do it.
On a personal level, I cannot bear the thought of my newborn niece not being able to see a blue sky or drink the water from the tap. These things are what we’re jeopardizing with the way our society is running right now – luckily, there’s a great chance that green and regenerative business can flip this development.
Let’s say hypothetically I want to enter Content Pathway into GREENTECH CHALLENGE. Is Content Pathway eligible? What do I need to do?
Any company that makes more with less can apply. We typically work with companies that have revenue, the first round of funding and are trying to raise something between 250k EUR and 5m EUR.
Content Pathway could be a candidate. We have seen interest and applications from many similar cases.
Do I have to be from the city where you’re hosting the event? Or do I have to go and live there for a while? How does it work?
We work with local companies in the locations. As a minimum, you have to have a company registered in the specific country, as much of the advice is nation-specific.
I see you’re based in Lisbon. I used to live in Oeiras, it’s a beautiful city. Why did you relocate to Lisbon from Copenhagen? How do the innovation scenes differ?
Here in Lisbon, you have extremely talented people that are looking for opportunities everywhere. In Denmark, it’s impossible to hire talent unless you have a massive corporate budget.
Of course, the weather and the opportunity to go surfing every day are very nice fringe benefits – but in all seriousness, we believed that Lisbon was the place to be to turn GREENTECH CHALLENGE into a global success.
How many projects have you supported so far, and can you tell me about any of your favourite ones?
We have worked hands-on with +200 cases. I don’t have favourites as such, but some of them tend to come to my mind more often.
- Green City Solutions can grow clean air in cities. Their moss walls grow as much clean air as 275 trees – corresponding to 2,5 entire football pitches. And they do this using only 4m2.
- Fluid Intelligence can potentially cut the global use of lubricant oil in half with their industrial monitoring and dispensary tech. At the same time, they can help prevent 80% of machine failures which happen due to lubrication errors. That’s a massive increase in productivity while ensuring important machinery doesn’t burn.
- Fresh.land shortens the travel for fresh fruit from 4 months to 4 days by cutting out the middlemen. This also vastly diminished the amounts of chemicals found in non-organic produce and reduces the carbon footprint of greens with 85 %. Here’s a podcast Martin recorded with Fresh.land
Starting an eco-business is a pretty hot thing to do at the moment, and I’m seeing a lot of greenwashing going on. What do you do to vet the entrants to make sure they’re not piggybacking on this industry unfairly?
In our startup onboarding team, we’ve got engineers who go through the cases. Choosing startups with revenue and investors also help filter out the worst cases. And lastly; our partners are some of the best minds on the planet when it comes to the different areas of business. I.e. AWA, our IPR partner in Scandinavia and the UK, has worked with thousands of patents. Their employees often hold PhDs in their fields and have a keen technological understanding. By drawing on multiple experts, we ensure that we work with great startups.
That being said, the point with our slogan is that green business has to be good business. Very few are buying the green or the environmental aspect of a product. Green companies will have to compete in the market – that is very important. If they don’t compete in the market, with a product or a service that’s good enough to make it on its own, we’re looking at a donation or a philanthropic business model – that will never get us to the $13 trillion that needs to be invested per year towards 2030 to meet the UN goals.
Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, these are the next GREENTECH CHALLENGE events. Can you walk me through what the experience might be like?
After having been screened, the startups have their business cases shared with the GREENTECH CHALLENGE partners so they can prepare to meet them. Then the startups have a virtual pitch session with our co-founder Martin and are introduced to the different partners. This process ensures that the founders get the most possible value from the intense challenge programme once it starts. During the challenge, the startup founders will have mostly 1-on-1 sessions with the different experts, so they can dive deep into the challenges facing the businesses.
On day 4, the startups pitch in front of investors and other industry stakeholders. While that is the end of the challenge, it is only the beginning of the GREENTECH CHALLENGE journey. The startups are now a part of the GREENTECH CHALLENGE network and we will continue to match them with investors, the public sector, and corporate decision makers.
You have a really great podcast here, what was the idea behind launching that?
Our mission to use business as a way to ensure a planet for us and the generations to come has resonated with a lot of interesting persons who have amazing stories to share. We in GREENTECH CHALLENGE thought it would be a shame if the rest of the world didn’t get to hear those stories.
I listen to a lot of podcasts myself and with my background in the music industry, it was a media channel that was relatively easy to access for us, hence we thought it would be perfect to share these great stories in a way that’s easy to produce and enjoy.
I’ve leafed through your blog and it’s one of the best circular slash sustainability blogs that I’ve seen in several years of eco-content marketing. Firstly, kudos, secondly, what’s the message that you’re trying to share with your content marketing?
That’s a very big compliment, thank you!
The message always come back to our core mission – making green business good business. By giving examples and explaining some of the technologies we encounter, we have a chance to spread the knowledge of the solutions that can change the world for the better.
The environmental scene is changing. It used to be all about recycling, clean energy and getting rid of toxic materials from manufacturing. Now we are seeing sharing economies, circular models, green technologies, blockchain solutions and wearables. What’s the most surprising evolution for you, and where do you see an opportunity for growth?
Uh, I see a lot of potential out there. For the moment I’m obsessing about decentralisation of society and local production. This has led me to think a lot about 3D printing and the potential to almost rid mankind of transportation of goods.
Blockchain technology and smart contracts hold massive potential, one of my favourite cases is the one we covered in the podcast here. They basically use a combination of satellite footage, IoT and smart contracts to fight corruption, localise infrastructure contracts and create climate-secure roads. Wauw.
Where would you like to see Greentech Challenge in five years?
As the #1 in the world for green technologies. We will connect the best green technologies to customers and investors. We want the Fortune500 and the biggest cities to know where to go when they’re looking for new technologies.
Thank you so much gents, it’s been a pleasure hearing from you!
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