Budding founders build sustainable businesses for the future
From tableware made from seaweed, to apps that track your environmental footprint using online banking, the Sustainability Startup Weekend at UTS proves that with the right support and resources you can turn any idea into a business - even within 54 hours.
Photo by Alessia Francischiello.
The weekend brought together 90 people of all ages, backgrounds, interests, and experience, and all with the common purpose of creating innovative solutions to solve real-world problems.
And not just in Sydney. People in more than 1300 cities worldwide took part in the Sustainability Startup Weekend, supported by Techstars with the aim of empowering participants to launch startups that embrace sustainability.
Over the course of an intensive two days, participants formed teams and worked collaboratively to identify problems, generate innovative ideas, and test those ideas with potential customers.
The teams were assisted by 11 experienced mentors from across the startup ecosystem. At the end of the weekend, 41 ideas were pitched resulting in 14 new startups being launched.
Jenivy Sewak, from the Faculty of Health at UTS said that despite only signing up for the weekend on a whim, she has been inspired to continue exploring her options within the startup ecosystem.
“It’s been incredible, I’ve really learnt a lot about business models, and understanding the process of creating a startup and it’s made me really passionate about the area of entrepreneurship and the people in it because they’re all so innovative and they’re such change-makers.”
The final pitches from teams were presented in front of a highly professional and experienced set of judges: Marley Palin (Amatil), Alex Thomson (UTS Deep Green Biotech Hub), James Tilbury (EnergyLab), Emily Rich (Microsoft), and Janette O’Neil (QBE). The judges selected the following winners:
1st place - My Impact, an app that uses your online banking to track your environmental footprint
2nd place - Kua Kelp, creating alternative kitchenware using 100% biodegradable kelp
3rd place - Last Receipt, an app focused on digitising receipts
4th place - Flying Fox, a zero-waste food delivery service for busy families and individuals
First place winners, My Impact, took home $1000 towards a sustainability experience in Indonesia, a place in the ClimateLaunchpad by Climate-KIC, Lunch with M8 Ventures and EnergyLab Coworking Space.
The overall prize pool included:
Investment and ‘What’s next?’ workshop provided by Amatil
Prototyping workshop run by UTS Rapido
Three-month co-working space at EnergyLab, or placement in the EnergyLab Pre-Acceleration program
Place in the ClimateLaunchpad competition run by Climate-KIC Australia
Lunch with M8 Ventures
Three-month coworking space at Fishburners
Inclusion in the WWF’s Panda Labs ImpactFolio Future Cities Challenge
The crowd also voted for their favourite: Recycle Hero - a system using machine learning to detect items of rubbish as they are placed in the bin and sort them correctly.
Recycle Hero also walked away with three months co-working space at Fishburners and a prototyping workshop with UTS Rapido.
Two special prizes were also awarded to teams who demonstrated potential.
The first went out to Upstream, a startup dedicated to creating the ideal backpack made entirely from sustainable products, who received a crowdfunding workshop with ReadyFundGo.
The second was presented to Foodwise, an online platform that connects consumers to sustainable cafes and restaurants in their local area, who received a “What’s Next?” workshop provided by Amatil.
Georgia Kirkpatrick-Jones, a second-year UTS Biomedical Engineering student and team member for Last Receipt, says that the weekend was an ideal opportunity to network.
“It’s been a long weekend but it’s been amazing to meet so many new people. We didn’t know anyone when we first started on Friday night and now we all feel like family.”
Sustainability Startup Weekend at UTS was held over May 17 to 19 and is a global initiative supported by Techstars, sponsored by UTS Deep Green Biotech Hub, Amatil, and Origin Energy.