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Tech – UpEffect Blog https://www.theupeffect.com/blog Amplifying the voice of mission-driven companies Mon, 11 Jun 2018 16:57:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cropped-Favicon-32x32.png Tech – UpEffect Blog https://www.theupeffect.com/blog 32 32 5 Social Impact Companies Making a Difference Through Blockchain https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/social-impact-blockchain/ Fri, 08 Jun 2018 03:14:37 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=2366 Michael Pisa, a fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., warns to be cautious about considering blockchain a “silver bullet” to the world’s problems. “This imbalance has led to unrealistic expectations about what blockchain solutions can do, how easy they will be to implement, and how quickly they can scale, if at all. The result has been …

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Michael Pisa, a fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., warns to be cautious about considering blockchain a “silver bullet” to the world’s problems. “This imbalance has led to unrealistic expectations about what blockchain solutions can do, how easy they will be to implement, and how quickly they can scale, if at all. The result has been a widening gap between expectations and reality that has naturally led to growing skepticism.” 

This being said, beyond the hype there is serious potential. These 5 companies are leading the way in ensuring that blockchain is used as a powerful force for good.

Poseidon – When it comes to stopping climate change, we are running out of time – but with Poseidon you, the consumer, are in charge. Our blockchain-based platform makes any purchase climate positive, for a cleaner planet and a clearer conscience. Carbon credits (certificates of sustainability that incentivize carbon emission reduction by creating a market for carbon offsets) are usually only sold in massive quantities to companies — but now blockchain-based “micro-transactions” make the same system possible for individuals.

ixo aims to be the new operating system for the Impact Economy. Using blockchain and Web3 standards, ixo enables anyone to collect, measure, evaluate, value, and tokenize verified impact data. “ixo” is an invented word (neoligism) and not an acronym. Using of the ixo Protocol, anyone can create, verify, share and trade high-definition, trusted impact data. Tokenized impact data can be used to create a range of innovative impact financing mechanisms. Since 2015, UNICEF Innovation Fund and Innovation Edge (backed by Omidyar Network and UBS Optimus Foundation) have provided seed investments to develop an application of ixo through a project called Amply, a platform for early childhood development,  using the ixo protocol to track attendance at pre-schools in South Africa, for a national government subsidy scheme.

The Distributed Giving Project was started by Sasha Shtern, who wanted a way to give directly to homeless teens, rather than have them wait in line for food at a shelter they might not be able to get to, but realized there’s a belief that when given money those who are homeless will spend it on things other than food and necessities. A small pilot incentivized members of the Denver Rescue Mission’s recovery program to continue in the program by giving them $10 of Bitcoin every other day and found a food mart that would accept Bitcoin.

Flux is using blockchain technology to collect data on agriculture and the environment. The Flux system collects data from crowdsourced sensors and also has a token that creates a peer-to-peer marketplace between farmers and consumers. The company plans to launch later this month.

CA Technologies which has collaborated with the UN on a number of fronts including climate change, corporate sustainability, and women’s empowerment is a founding member of The Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development. This commission was established by the Global Partnerships Forum, PVBLIC Foundation, and The Fund for Philanthropy to develop a framework by which the UN and its specialized agencies, member states, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and financial institutions could collaborate with the private sector on emerging solutions to some of the most pressing problems in our world. The Commission will focus on blockchain applications that align with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Do you have a big idea to change the world? UpEffect wants to hear from you! Take 30 seconds to fill out this form and an UpEffect team member will be in touch to help you fund your next venture.

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5 Technologies That Will Change the World – For Good https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/world-changing-technologies/ Fri, 20 Apr 2018 06:05:21 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=2304 The world is changing fast, and it can be hard to keep up with all the various technologies being developed at any one time. From agriculture to medicine to energy, advancements are being made every day — and some of them will change the world as we know it. In this post, we’ll focus on technologies with the potential to …

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The world is changing fast, and it can be hard to keep up with all the various technologies being developed at any one time. From agriculture to medicine to energy, advancements are being made every day — and some of them will change the world as we know it.

In this post, we’ll focus on technologies with the potential to change the world for the better.

Artificial Intelligence

While they’re still small seeds just beginning to sprout green shoots, there’s more evidence that the subject of making A.I. into a true force for good is starting to gain momentum. For example, starting this semester, the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will be teaching a new class, titled “Artificial Intelligence for Social Good.” It touches on many of the topics you’d expect from a graduate and undergraduate class — optimization, game theory, machine learning, and sequential decision making — and will look at these through the lens of how each will impact society. The course will also challenge students to build their own ethical A.I. projects, giving them real world experience with creating potentially life-changing A.I.

“A.I. is the blooming field with tremendous commercial success, and most people benefit from the advances of A.I. in their daily lives,” says Professor Fei Fang. “At the same time, people also have various concerns, ranging from potential job loss to privacy and safety issues to ethical issues and biases. However, not enough awareness has been raised regarding how A.I. can help address societal challenges.”

“The most important takeaway is that A.I. can be used to address pressing societal challenges, and can benefit society now and in the near future,” Fang said. “And it relies on the students to identify these challenges, to formulate them into clearly defined problems, and to develop A.I. methods to help address them.”

Lab-Made Meat

Whatever your stance on vegetarianism or eating meat, it cannot be disputed that our current system of acquiring meat is unsustainable. Large amounts of resources are poured into feeding, slaughtering, and transporting animals — and it wastes massive amounts of water and energy. The animals we raise also produce large amounts of methane gas, which is a significant contributor to climate change.

However, it’s not realistic to imagine a future where humans are not eating meat. Humans are diverse eaters, and we could sure survive without meat, but there is a culture of meat in most parts of the world that cannot be erased. To answer this, there is in vitro meat.

Professor of Molecular Biology at Stanford University Pat Brown, had this to say in an interview with The Guardian“I have zero interest in making a new food just for vegans. I am making a food for people who are comfortable eating meat and who want to continue eating meat. I want to reduce the human footprint on this planet by 50 percent.”

This technology may be years away from mass production, but when it arrives, it could change everything.

Solar Power

As we run out of gasoline, alternative energy sources are a place that many companies are beginning to invest. It’s an area of growth, and it’s where our future is. Solar energy is perhaps the most prolific of the alternative energy sources.

Solar panels have been around for a while, but they’re not very efficient.

The most efficient solar panels of 2014 reach 44.7% efficiency, but most mainstream solar panels are even lower than that. There’s enormous room for improvement, and it’s really starting to boom. Many experts, such as Professor David Mills who co-founded Ausra Inc., believe that solar energy has the potential to compete with fossil fuels in the near future. In an interview with Scientific American, Professor Mills said:

With the right tax policies, such as a mechanism for pricing the cost of carbon, there is no reason solar thermal power cannot be cost-competitive with fossil fuels in the near future.

As with many of these technologies, prices have been dropping quickly, and it could soon be plausible for the average homeowner to install solar panels on their home and become completely energy independent.

Electricity Storage

Storing large amounts of energy is hard. This has been one of the major challenges for alternative energy sources, which generate energy at varying times. For example, solar panels generate a lot of energy during the day, but none at night, and wind turbines generate energy at extremely random rates. Sometimes there is too much energy from these sources, and at other times too little. But for these sources to replace coal and oil, they need effective storage.

Many ideas are in play here, including regular flow and solid batteries, but the most exciting emerging technology is even newer graphene supercapacitors. These supercapacitors can store large amounts of energy and disperse it quickly, far outpacing our regular electric batteries, and graphene makes an environmentally friendly and relatively cost efficient material for that. Development is ongoing, but the research is promising.

Desalination

We’re running out of fresh water. I know this sounds weird in a world that is mostly water, but unfortunately all of our oceans are salt water. Desalination has existed for a while, but it’s been expensive and not viable as a reliable source of water – yet.

When salt water is converted into fresh water, brine is leftover. That brine is full of salt but also many different kinds of metals, and while it’s generally treated as waste, new methods of extracting the metals from desalination brine could make use of all of that “waste”. If it becomes economically feasible to extract metals from desalination brine rather than mining them elsewhere, the positive gain from that could offset the costs of desalination.

We at UpEffect are here to fund, mentor and launch your world-changing idea. Click here to get started.

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Evolutionary Shift: From Consumers of Our World’s Resources to Enhancers of the Future for All https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/evolutionary-shift-from-consumers-of-our-worlds-resources-to-enhancers-of-the-future-for-all/ Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:32:11 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=1813 We could be on the verge of our most momentous evolutionary shift. For, as a species, we no longer need be subject to the primitive competitive instinct.   As animals this drive may have compelled us to compete for control of what hindsight indicated to be the scarce resources we needed to survive, without serious concern for our effects on the wider world.   But as intelligent, self-conscious beings we certainly do have a choice. …

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We could be on the verge of our most momentous evolutionary shift. For, as a species, we no longer need be subject to the primitive competitive instinct.

 

As animals this drive may have compelled us to compete for control of what hindsight indicated to be the scarce resources we needed to survive, without serious concern for our effects on the wider world.

 

But as intelligent, self-conscious beings we certainly do have a choice. We can be content to provide for ourselves, our nearest and our dearest by consuming the world’s resources to its tragic detriment in the expectation that we will continue to survive and perhaps satisfy our desires. Or we can hope to provide through endeavouring to enhance the world’s resources and thrive and even find fulfilment.

 

Until now it was not clear that we had any reason to place our hope in such an apparently idealistic and impractical notion. However thanks largely to those dedicated pioneers, guided by foresight, who did so endeavour, we have many invaluable advances in a wide array of fields that now give us ample reason to hope.

 

By creatively integrating these advances we could affordably utilise disregarded inexhaustible and recyclable resources in place of every key scarce resource. The futility of competing to control scarce but no longer key resources, with all the counterproductive consequences that pervade our lives and institutions, would then soon become obvious. Instead the great benefit of collaborating to help each employ their individual talents to make best use of resources to enhance their world for all to thrive would inspire the establishment of a new way forward.

 

The immediate challenge therefore is to make this critical evolutionary shift very rapidly. As there is still hope that we can mitigate the worst long-term effects of our animal instinct’s dominance, such as those from catastrophic environmental degradation, highly destructive wars and gross inequality, and so soon move to strong, secure growth for the benefit of all.The first step is to establish.

 

The first step is to establish feasibility of this hitherto unforeseen future.

 

To this end it may be helpful to indicate how it is already possible, by integrating just a few of these advances, to thrive even in a dessert, as the implications of this alone are very far-reaching.

 

The key area of advance is in solar optics by which we may use the full solar resource inexpensively. When incorporated in the building envelope the energy generated and saved is around 10 times that generated by standard roof-mounted solar panels.

 

When combined with recent greenhouse developments, instead of fields with solar panels, even arid land can yield high quality produce with the same amount of electricity available for the local community. In this case the fabric of the greenhouse is a static optical configuration based on the work of Warwick University and proven in an Innovate UK project. It effectively splits the sky into the part in which the sun travels during the year and the rest. Photons from the former are focussed onto efficient PV cells, whereas photons purely from the sky supply the photosynthesis needs of the plants, whilst the interior is shaded from the detrimental effects of direct sunlight.

 

 

Parallel developments in solar desalination with the Fraunhofer Institute in an EU project have led to a way of using the cogenerated heat of this translucent PV system to take water out of desert air. When combined with low water use horticulture, enough water can be generated so that a greenhouse complex, without using soil or pesticides, can supply the community with food, water and electricity for its own use and to export to its neighbours. Aeroponics, pioneered by NASA, with its exceptionally high yields and ultra-low water consumption, usually thought not to be cost-effective, is particularly profitable with this approach.

 

 

The building envelope no longer just protects the interior from the elements outside but also is the means to use those elements for life within to thrive. This has a number of major consequences.

 

Firstly the scarce resources of oil, soil and freshwater will lose their importance.

 

Secondly, the sparsely populated areas where land is cheap and sunny will be a good place to earn a much better living from one’s own initiative than the average wage in the Developing World.

 

Thirdly the benefits of more space for a better quality of life will reverse the seeming inexorable move to urbanisation. And only those who want to live in a town for social and cultural reasons, rather than just to get a job to survive, will do so.

 

However of even more importance for our future way of living will be the realisation that the more we help each other better use such inexhaustible resources as sunlight and water in the air, evaporated by the sun from the oceans, the more prosperous we will all become.

 

This is where advances in information technology that enable collaboration, provide real benefit. For thereby we can learn about and work together to better employ, the wonderful advances that so many devoted workers across the globe are willing to make readily available to us.

 

One such advance that will facilitate collaboration is another application resulting from the many hundreds of millions spent on solar optics research. It allows 10Gb per second of data, or in under 30 seconds a high definition movie, to be sent by a beam of light at extremely low cost. This is the subject of a current Innovate UK project, in particular to hasten affordable high bandwidth rural broadband access.

 

These are a few of the projects in which I have been fortunate to be involved. But there are many other advances and in fields as diverse as medicine and finance. They are often lying idle, having failed to cross the innovation world’s ‘Valley of Death’, and are just waiting for us to integrate creatively to make a real difference.

 

The message of our time is therefore very simple. We have already provided for ourselves the means by which we can radically improve the conditions for all. However we also see more clearly today that we cannot rely on established institutions to integrate and make full use of these outstanding opportunities. It is therefore up to each of us individually to embrace this completely engaging challenge by taking responsibility for collaboratively making best use of these advances, not primarily as consumers of our world’s resources but as enhancers of the future for all.

 

Any comments would be most welcome.

 

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Crowdfunding Meets Tech4Good https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/crowdfunding-meets-tech4good/ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 10:00:55 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=1074 We’ve gone over how crowdfunding has become a popular method of alternative finance in our previous blog post but we thought it would be best to dedicate an entire blog post to highlight examples of how exactly crowdfunding has promoted individuals in pioneering social change. It’s fair to say that crowdfunding has introduced a number of extensive technological advances with …

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We’ve gone over how crowdfunding has become a popular method of alternative finance in our previous blog post but we thought it would be best to dedicate an entire blog post to highlight examples of how exactly crowdfunding has promoted individuals in pioneering social change. It’s fair to say that crowdfunding has introduced a number of extensive technological advances with the Oculus Rift, Pebble Watch and the infamous Coolest Cooler to name a few but its also opened doors for social enterprises to gather the resources needed for them to make a difference. Here is a list of some awesome game-changers who have used crowdfunding to launch #Tech4Good products:

1. Bureh Belts
Bureh belts is a social enterprise located in Sierra Leone that sources local materials and textiles to produce Belts. Aside from the fashionable attributes the company offers jobs to Sierra Leone’s disabled population and donates 50% of their profits back to Sierra Leonean enterprises. They managed to raise 124% of their $8,500 goal.

bureh belts

 

2. Visualizing Palestine: Visual stories of social justice
Three years ago Visualising Palestine launched a crowdfunding campaign to shed light on the untold injustices plaguing the people of Palestine. The project was launched with a target goal of $60,000 to which they managed to raise over $70,000. Since their crowdfunding success, they have managed to bring to light hundreds of stories of those suffering in hostility in the middle east and raise awareness of the realities they are facing.

visualizing-palestine-facebook-share-1ca9c86e66a582a185160306455c429f

 

3. Gravity Light Foundation
The GravityLight Foundation is a UK Charity making efforts to relieve poverty whilst protecting the environment through an innovative and creative design. Their first product, GravityLight, was developed to supply clean, reliable and safe light – promoting people in moving away from the economic, health and environmental hazards that come as a result of kerosene lamps.

gravity light

 

4. The Seabin Project
The Seabin Project is an automated rubbish bin that catches floating rubbish, oil, fuel and detergents. On January 8th 2015 they reached 115% of their crowdfunding campaign goal, raising over £180,000.

sea_bin

 

We’re living in the age of technology and though at times it’s hard to keep up with the ever-evolving range of gadgets and apps that are out there, their dent in our social/home/work lives can not go unnoticed. Technology is creating solutions for problems that were previously deemed insurmountable. Crowdfunding is enabling communities and individuals to make a direct contribution to not only game-changing products but life changing ideas.

‘Crowdfunding isn’t about collecting money. It’s about making something happen with a crowd of people who believe in something. Normal people, not rich people with a lot of power, just people like you and me.’ Jozefien Daelemans.

 

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This app will update you on your grandparents’ health https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/this-app-will-update-you-on-your-grandparents-health/ Fri, 01 Apr 2016 14:11:17 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=902 We recently caught up with Alessandro Guazzi, CEO and Founder of Sentimoto, a technology-enabled care service provider. They support older people in remaining healthy, independent, and connected to their families and friends. They provide a smartphone-based analysis platform for data from wearables to address health and lifestyle risks early on. Alessandro is about to finish his DPhil in Biomedical Engineering and has a …

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We recently caught up with Alessandro Guazzi, CEO and Founder of Sentimoto, a technology-enabled care service provider. They support older people in remaining healthy, independent, and connected to their families and friends. They provide a smartphone-based analysis platform for data from wearables to address health and lifestyle risks early on. Alessandro is about to finish his DPhil in Biomedical Engineering and has a background in Physics and web development. Before joining Sentimoto, he worked for a number of larger SMEs (Lein Optics and Oxehealth) and dabbled in other startups (BioBright and TripMinded).

SENTI

1) What were you up to before Sentimoto?

All four founders of the startup met up doing our PhDs – we were all enrolled in a doctoral training programme for “healthcare innovations”, although we came from completely different fields and were each doing different projects. Max had worked for GE and Motorola on embedded software and had already attained an MBA in marketing, while Lisa came from a design background, having worked for the Hamlyn Centre and the WHO, and Tasos was actually a medical doctor.

 

2) What sparked you to create Sentimoto?

We were keen to bring what was beginning to be commonplace (at least research-wise) in medical technologies – data mining, machine learning and advanced analytics – to the field of social care, which we felt hadn’t been updated in a couple of decades. At the same time, wearables and quantified self were becoming popular but we noted that they kept being marketed at 20-30 year olds even though the most immediate benefits were clearer for older age groups. Personal experiences of living far from our families and of managing their interactions with the social and health care systems in their respective countries (we come from all over Europe!), were also extremely influential. We wanted to make something that would be useful to them.

SENTIMOOO

3) With that said, at what moment did you realise that Sentimoto could potentially be something great ?

The “demographic time bomb” is a horrible name for the problem we’re tackling, but is at the back of the mind of many. I think we realised the true potential of Sentimoto when we saw people understanding it both from a top-down level and from a very personal level as well.

 

4) Was there anything in particular you were looking out for when you were building your team, in terms of personal qualities?

Our team grew through different stages, up to the formation of the company. What we were looking for was the breadth of experiences that we now have – abilities from marketing to design, from hardware to medicine – but that at the same time could be relied on to implement any new idea we had. The fact that we were all in the same location every day anyway helped this hugely, and I think that it was important that everyone could understand (even superficially) what was being done and what could be done.

Sentimoto

5) Do you think there is a right time to dive into the journey of entrepreneurship?

I guess it depends: we were extremely lucky – we were able to develop our idea while being enrolled on a paid PhD course, which definitely slowed our progress but also made sure that we were able to survive any changes that happened and able to play with the idea and tease the real value out of it. That said, we started our journey within Bethnal Green Ventures, a social accelerator, and the infrastructure and support they (and other accelerators) provide is usually enough for a company to find its feet and its direction. I think this is easier for software companies than for hardware companies, but tools are becoming more available every day and we had some fantastic co-entrepreneurs who did very well on the “hard” hardware.

 

6) What do you wish you knew when you started your journey that you now know today?

A lot! I think the main one is to not rely on interviewees to give you solutions – you’ll just hear your own solutions back. This is something that we were told over and over again, and seems quite obvious, but I cannot warn people enough of the dangers of asking for problems when you already have a solution in mind. Another is to always have had an immediate revenue stream with incremental additions in mind from day 1, regardless of what the final objectives are. In our experience at least, a “this leads will lead to this but in the meantime gives us this” approach is infinitely more understandable and marketable (both to investors and to customers) than a “please wait for two years while I do this and then see” approach. Step changes are great, but they also need a lot of resources that are not normally available.

SENTIMMM

7) Any advice for the potential entrepreneurs out there who are doubtful of their abilities?

One of the many, many maxims used in the Silicon Valley (for what they’re worth, as this one I’m told is from the Mad Men era of advertising) is about always hiring people who are better than you. If you know that that’s going to be the objective of your hiring strategy anyway, there’s no point worrying about your abilities to begin with. The only ability you should have is the only one you cannot pick up on the way: the belief in your idea.

sENTIMOT

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This startup uses automated lighting to reduce the risk of elderly falls https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/this-startup-uses-automated-lighting-to-reduce-the-risk-of-elderly-falls/ Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:38:06 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=853 Luna Lights is a bright new company founded by Donovan Morrison and Matt Wilcox whilst they both studied engineering degrees at Northwestern University. They are currently rolling out an automated lighting system that utilises cloud based analytics to reduce the risk of falling for the elderly. Luna Lights initially started off as a project in the Design for America programme …

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Luna Lights is a bright new company founded by Donovan Morrison and Matt Wilcox whilst they both studied engineering degrees at Northwestern University. They are currently rolling out an automated lighting system that utilises cloud based analytics to reduce the risk of falling for the elderly. Luna Lights initially started off as a project in the Design for America programme at Northwestern but they soon saw that it had the potential to be something great that could impact many lives in the process. They are focused on promoting health, happiness, and independence for older adults.

IMG_2197

1) What were you up to before Luna Lights?

Honestly outside of school Luna Lights has been what we’ve mainly focused on for the past 3.5 years. The idea was born out of Design For America’s Summer Studio program in 2012, the summer before our Junior year at Northwestern University. We worked on it for the next couple of summers before starting to work on it full-time after graduating in 2014. We’re still relatively young as Matt and I are both 24, so other than Luna Lights I’ve done a bit of private tutoring and Matt has done some user experience and product design but that’s about it.

2) What inspired you to start Luna Lights?

The effects of falling. I began to see the impact that it had on lives of our grandparents and what a toll they took both physically and emotionally on not only them but on our extended family and our own parents. As well as speaking with others I began to get a better feeling for exactly how big of an issue falls are. They are the number one cause of injury on older adults. Pretty much everyone has had an experience with a loved one who has suffered from a fall at one point or another. It was one where through talking with our grandparents we found that it was something that we all recognised as being a big issue, but there was nothing currently being offered that had been implemented to address it. We wanted to see if we could create something that would help keep individuals like our grandparents safe at night but would also be something that they actually wanted to use. That is why we created Luna Lights.

Luna Lights Logo

3) What have you found to be the biggest setback in your entrepreneurial journey?

I wouldn’t say that there has been anything that has been a huge setback. I think there are always daily challenges that pop up that have to be dealt with, because of that you have to be willing to work outside of your comfort zone at times. That is just something we’ve had to learn to deal with as we’ve moved along this journey. Although there hasn’t been anything major up to this point, our fundraise has taken a little bit longer than expected. This has delayed a couple of timelines but overall the communities we’ve been working with have been really understanding of where we are as a business and that we’re a startup and that there are certain things that have to be done before we can start creating products. It’s been great having very solid partners throughout this journey so far.

4) With that said, what keeps you motivated?

I would say it is really just creating a solution, kind of like I mentioned earlier, that will help keep individuals like our grandparents happy, healthy and independent. We literally want to allow them to maintain the lifestyles that they’ve had for their entire lives. What motivates us is that we can create a business that will both have some sort of measurable impact on the lives of older adults whilst simultaneously being a successful business at the same time.

Luna System

5) What personality traits and characteristics were you looking for when you were building your team?

Actually, It’s kind of funny, our team was kind of put together through this Design for America programme. We actually went through the programme three and a half years ago. We worked on the initial concept for a couple of years whilst finishing up school and then really went in full time about a year and a half ago, so that’s really just how my original cofounder and I got up to this point and we have been working on it full time ever since. We have one other contractor helping us out on the software side. Simply put, you have to look for someone whose vision aligns with your own, who is a hard worker and who you can trust. That is a big thing within starting a business. You have to have a lot of trust and trust that the person will keep on schedule with what they are supposed to be doing and will always be there for you and the business when need be. I think it has been great that we developed such a solid relationship over the last few years and can’t wait to keep moving forward with it.

6) What do you wish you knew when you started your journey that you now know today?

I would say probably just a little bit more on the business side of things would have been helpful from the get go. Both my cofounder and I have engineering backgrounds. I have a biomedical engineering degree and he has a mechanical engineering degree. As a result of that we didn’t know as much about the business side of starting a business until after we graduated and went through an accelerator programme. I think having some of that knowledge about looking at your market and defining who your customer is so that you can figure out how you can reach them in regards to pricing and how to sell your product to them. All of that knowledge would have been very helpful on the upfront.

7) Any advice for young aspiring entrepreneurs?

I think the best thing is that you have to be persistent. You can not let any setbacks get you down. Entrepreneurship is definitely a wild ride of a journey, you’ll have a lot of highs and lows. You can’t allow yourself to get too high when the highs occur and too low when the lows occur. Just be sure to be persistent with clients, mentors and investors. If you hit any roadblocks during product development keep working hard to make sure that you overcome them.

Donovan Head Shot

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This startup helps businesses quantify their environmental impact https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/this-startup-helps-businesses-quantify-their-environmental-impact/ Mon, 14 Sep 2015 10:00:33 +0000 https://www.theupeffect.com/blog/?p=631 Carbon Analytics was founded by a group of expats from the US, Canada and Australia while doing their Masters degrees at the University of Oxford. Michael Thornton, their CEO, held the Skoll scholarship for social entrepreneurship, and originally came up with the idea during a “business model hackathon” with former co-founder James Tilbury who was studying environmental policy and had a …

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Carbon Analytics was founded by a group of expats from the US, Canada and Australia while doing their Masters degrees at the University of Oxford. Michael Thornton, their CEO, held the Skoll scholarship for social entrepreneurship, and originally came up with the idea during a “business model hackathon” with former co-founder James Tilbury who was studying environmental policy and had a background in carbon accounting. Greg FitzGerald, another MBA, rounded out the founding team with his technical background in information management and analytics.  Colin MacLaughlin, a chartered accountant and fellow MBA colleague, joined the team as a late co-founder bringing in-depth knowledge of how to work with a company’s accounting data, the secret sauce in our approach to environmental impact measurement.

1. What were you and your cofounders up to before Carbon Analytics? How did you come together to start a business?

We were all studying for our masters at Oxford before Carbon Analytics. Michael,

Colin and I were doing our MBA’s, and our former co-founder James, who has since moved back to Australia was studying Environmental Policy.  Michael and James came up with the original idea at a business model hack-a-thon event, centred around coming up with a novel business model for tackling climate change.

 

2. Tell us about Carbon Analytics and how you’re helping businesses go green

The majority of people now acknowledge that global warming is a problem, and want to be able to do what they can to be part of the solution. As a business owner, the basic first step is understanding what your impacts are. Unfortunately, this has typically been a very convoluted, expensive and time-consuming process. We wanted to fix this so that any company with the motivation could quickly and easily discover their impacts, and take the steps to improve. The result is our Carbon Analytics web platform that can tell any business what their environmental impacts are based on how they spend. Whether it’s a utility bill, shipping costs, or the services of a consultant, every purchase is linked to CO2 emissions. We pull on public data to benchmark each purchase, sum it up for companies in a highly visual way, and provide a path for improvements such as switching to green energy or purchasing carbon offsets.

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3. As a socially responsible company, what would you advise a startup in terms of them defining the impact of their company and getting others to believe in it?

What we have found is that people will believe and buy your impact when your personality and drive shine through. We focused on carbon emissions because it’s what we know, and we could tell the story about why we were passionate about it. It means there is no conflict between our personal values and are company values and I think people pick up on that. Becoming a certified B Corporation has also gone a long way towards giving us third party credibility.

 

4. Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely journey. What are your thoughts on starting a business with a co-founder as opposed to building a business as a solo founder?

I would absolutely recommend starting a business with a co-founder. You get access to a wider variety of strengths and networks, and it helps you to lose your horse blinders and question your assumptions. Some founders worry about maintaining their vision, or worry about conflict, but when harnessed correctly that conflict drives creativity and ultimately leads to a better solution. Having the extra horsepower and having friends who are also living on ramen is a big help as well.

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5. How do you build a team when you’re low on capital as an early startup?

This is really tricky. The biggest thing is probably catching people at a natural transition point. Maybe she just moved to the city. Maybe he just quit his job. Maybe she is finishing school. These people are more willing to experiment and take risks, and see what happens by trying out the start-up life for a few months. In terms of compensation, this is where equity is your friend. You might not be able to offer a salary, but if they believe in your idea, your team will work with you to make their own share more valuable over time.

 

6. How do you tackle the big competitors as a new startup?

You have to make yourself look bigger than you are. We put up a very professional website, worked our network as hard as we could for referrals to decision makers, and always referred generically to “our company.” It only takes one contract until you’re a bonafide company, and can shed the scary perception of having new solution that no one has ever tried before.  Testimonials and client references go a really long way in this regard. In the early days, being able to affiliate ourselves with competitions and start-up communities/programmes also helped to add a vote of confidence.

 

7. You’ve been through two accelerator programmes and have landed some incredible clients. For someone starting out, what should be their initial steps?

As a Canadian I like hockey analogies – if you don’t take shots on net, you won’t get any goals. We applied to an overwhelming number of competitions and programmes at the start – many of which rejected us – and had conversations with as many potential customers as we could to discover where we could add some value.  It’s a bit of a clumsy process, but you get better at telling the story of your company over time, and having a more polished offering that is attractive to both entrepreneurial support programmes as well as prospective clients. You really have to just put yourself out there, be okay with being turned away, be receptive to any feedback and criticism that comes your way, then wash, rinse and repeat.

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8. What do you wish you knew when you started your journey that you know today?

I wished I had a better sense for how to interpret different kinds of feedback. When a grant provider likes your solution that is a lot different than when a prospective customer likes your solution, which is also different to when an investor likes your solution. Knowing how to pull the signal from the noise has been a learned skill, and is worth proactively honing.

 

9. Any last words of advice for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?

There has never been more support for entrepreneurs. Beyond the wealth of knowledge and hard-learned lessons that are available online, we’ve benefited immensely from mentorship, funding and access to start-up communities. I’d encourage any aspiring entrepreneurs to take advantage of these resources, and to have comfort in the fact that it’s not such a lonely journey as it used to be! In the words of Richard Branson “Screw it, just do it.”

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