19 June 2017
“Winning in Birmingham Proves We’re Heading in the Right Direction!”
After an exciting final in the auditorium if the ICC, Birmingham, I could sense the tension amongst the eight finalists of the Venture Competition, which is one of the highlights of the annual Climate-KIC Innovation Festival.
The start-ups really wanted to win. They knew that a prize would not only provide some much needed funds, but would also help them get the recognition and profile they needed to attract the attention of investors, partners and customers.
Daring to Change the World
Before the winners were announced, chair of the judging panel, Marga Hoek, CEO of the Sustainable Science Association in Holland, made it clear that just by getting so far in the process was something to be proud of. “You are very courageous people,” she said. “You have dared to try and change the world, the economy and people’s lives. You should be proud of what you are doing.” The other judging panel members were Murray McCaig, Managing partner with ArcTern Ventures, Canada’s leading early-stage venture capital firm in the cleanteach sector and Pierre Nougué, Cofounder and Managing Partner of ECOSYS Group and Cleantech Open France.
First Prize: €40,000
The first prize, worth €40,000, was eagerly anticipated. Marga Hoek said that the judges had chosen the winner based on its promising concept, combining two seemingly very different markets: datacentres and home heating. Dutch start-up, Nerdalize, wondered if there was a better, greener way to satisfy the growing demand for cloud computing without building huge, power-hungry datacentres. Their answer is to distribute the servers across thousands of domestic homes and use the heat to, well, keep people warm!
“It makes perfect sense,” says co-founder Florian Schneider. “Cloud is fast becoming a commodity; computing power is bought and sold to meet ever changing customer needs, so the servers don’t have to all be in the same place. They can be anywhere.” The servers are installed as radiators in people’s homes and whilst they process gigabytes worth of data they heat both spaces and water.
“The prize money will help us scale up our business and bring in a much needed extra software engineer. We won’t be spending it on partying, but building the future we are convinced will happen,” says Boaz Leupe. “It’s been stressful – getting through the Accelerator programme, listening and responding to the criticism of our business coaches, and working to make our pitch better and better. The prize shows that the stress has been worth it. It shows that we are heading in the right direction. We’re so honoured to be part of this whole initiative.”
Second Prize: €20,000
The €20,000 second prize went to German venture, Mobile Solarkraftwerke Afrika, a company that uses mobile solar power plants to bring electricity to remote villages and settlements. Currently testing the technology in Mali, the team is passionate about enabling remote peoples to end their dependence on dirty, noisy and unreliable diesel powered generators. The market is huge: 80% of the people in Africa are off-the-grid and can’t rely on power. The solar power units are big enough to contribute significant levels of electricity to communities which, in turn, means that people can do business, go to school, create jobs and save money on fuel at the same time.
Rolf Kersten and Thomas Festerling, who made the successful pitch at the final, were pleased that the judges had chosen to recognise their idea which is, “a vote for sustainable idea that has a long-term vision, and will make a lasting impact not just in Africa, but, potentially, the whole world,” said Rolf. “The prize will help us communicate our idea and gain a European profile which is vital to our future. It’s very exciting,” said Thomas.
The Audience Prize: €5,000
The winner of the Audience Award, worth €5,000 went to Fleet Cleaner. Their business idea is a deceptively simple one: 90% of the world’s trade is carried by huge ships constantly sailing between major ports. As they do so their hulls get covered by layers of dirt and organisms – known as fouling. It slows the ships down and, as a consequence, they use more fuel. Fleet Cleaner developed a robotic hull cleaner that can clean as the ship is being unloaded and loaded in port (until now the work had to be done by divers outside of the port due to pollution concerns), and that delivers huge fuel savings for the shipping companies. It also, of course, substantially cuts CO2 emissions worldwide.
Alex Noordstrand and Cornelius de Vet from Fleet Cleaner said that their two-year long relationship with Climate-KIC and participation in the Accelerator Programme had helped them with developing their start-up and improving their business skills. “The business coaching we got was a great help to us, and we’re better prepared now to go out and pitch to the people we need to convince that we have a really good idea,” Alex said.
Interested in being on stage as the winner next year? Apply now!
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