ClimateLaunchpad is an increasingly global competition that serves to vet and coach climate change focused startups in an effort to bring the best to the surface. The goal is to accelerate the pace at which new climate change focused innovations and startups grow up and ultimately, to provide a — wait for it — launchpad for them to take off from.
CleanTechnica attended the ClimateLaunchpad (CLP) Global Grand Final last year in Cyprus where we witnessed the invigorating, inspiring pitches from dozens of the individuals, researchers, entrepreneurs, and garage enthusiasts as they competed to be one of the few finalists that would take home notoriety and even a bit of cash from the event.
As we’re coming closer to this year’s Global Grand Final, which will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, we were eager to speak with some folks on the team that make the event happen to see why they do what they do. I connected with ClimateLaunchpad founder, Frans Nauta, and one of the key project managers that works with the project leads to make the entire ClimateLaunchpad event happen, Naomi Zeilemaker, to see what they love about the wonderful world of climate change focused startups that is the ClimateLaunchpad.
There are just some people that make you want to smile. They pull it out of you, as if by magic. Frans Nauta is one of those guys and his passion and zeal for life are obvious after just a few brief seconds of seeing him or talking with him. He has bundled that passion and seemingly endless optimism with his desire to help the planet that led him to create ClimateLaunchpad in the first place.
He has been working for the planet on environmental issues from different angles and found that startups presented an exciting opportunity. “What I love about the startup work is that its so innovation driven,” he shared. The potential and the energy embodied in startups is contagious and often provides the stimulus needed to get people to swap out old behaviors or products for new ones that are more climate friendly.
As a special bonus, taking in all of the best ideas to improve the planet from around the world is that solutions from one area of the world can typically be reapplied to other areas with very little incremental effort. “The other thing I find super powerful about it is that if they succeed, it’s almost always scalable solutions.”
Importantly, ClimateLaunchpad doesn’t just find the best ideas, the team works with them to vet their ideas, their pitches, and their business plans to maximize the likelihood of success. Even then, it’s hard work. “It’s not just the environment that makes this fun, it’s the work with the entrepreneurs and seeing them trying to solve this really complicated puzzle one startup at a time that makes it all worthwhile for me.”
Climate change is hard, and doing something about it is not a straightforward process. It’s clear that Frans has rammed his head up against many of the barriers to taking action over and over again just based on how he has shifted his approach with ClimateLaunchpad. Instead of trying to do it all himself, he’s now working to engage, empower, and excite others about climate change activism with solutions that aren’t just solutions, but that are better than what’s out there today in each area.
Frans put it very succinctly when we talked about it, noting that, “what makes it so powerful is the narrative that it tells. In the end, you don’t need to convince people that climate change is a problem, you just need to come up with a better solution.”
It’s fun to be the dreamer, but action on a global scale doesn’t come about without some serious coordination, and that’s where Naomi Zeilemaker reigns supreme. Naomi is the one who actually makes ClimateLaunchpad work by connecting her passion with sustainability with the entrepreneurs that are bringing their ideas and energy to bear on the problem.
“Making the world a better place while starting your business and getting very rich. they are not necessarily opposites, they can go hand in hand,” she shared. Starting a new company can be a very draining and very fulfilling process at the same time and the double bottom line that climate change presents is a compelling proposition.
The potential to solve a wicked climate change problem requires a financial model that is sustainable as well if it is to have any shot at lasting beyond the venture capital, the philanthropic funds, or mom’s trust fund. Finding solutions and crafting businesses that solve climate change problems and make money is the ultimate happy place for ClimateLaunchpad participants.
Naomi shared that most entrepreneurs enter the process with visions of grandeur, and a key part of her role at CLP is to keep those very same entrepreneurs grounded in the reality of business. They come in with dreams that, “they’re going to make it and they’re going to conquer the world,” she shared. Providing healthy business and startup coaching maximizes their chances of succeeding and seeing their ideas through to completion. “It’s a tough love, but it’s a tough world.”
Beyond the individual ideas, Naomi also works with many leaders in new countries looking to get plugged into the ClimateLaunchpad program. Seeing the seedlings of ideas and clean technology incubators sprouting up in countries that you’d least expect to be jumping into a climate change solution competition is one of the most inspiring things for Naomi. “It’s not just the people with the startup ideas, it’s the people in Kazakhstan that love the idea and want to create an ecosystem in their countries,” that inspire her the most. “There’s already so much going on in these countries, it’s almost overwhelming.”
The energy is contagious, and leaders in some of the countries now being added to ClimateLaunchpad are helping to connect local entrepreneurs to the tools and coaching offered by ClimateLaunchpad. For example, “Kenya, this year, managed to land more than 100 applications. to give you an idea, our minimum number of applications for a country is 15.” The sheer number of applicants looking for support and rising up with ideas is encouraging.
For those considering pitching idea or hosting a ClimateLaunchpad effort in their country, Naomi had 5 words: “Do it, just do it.”
It is difficult to put the energy you get from a room full of startups into words, but the event is full of opportunities for startups and established entrepreneurs alike. Networking is a key aspect of the event, which the team facilitates with a smartphone app. “We’ll have an app with an attendee list where you can connect with them, schedule meetings with them,” Naomi shared.
Naomi shared that the startups participating in ClimateLaunchpad aren’t at a point where they’re seeking funding yet, but make no mistake about it, “these are the people they’re going to hear about in a year’s time.”
Having attended the sold-out Global Grand Final last year, I can’t recommend attending the event in person highly enough. The passion and energy that the entrepreneurs from 50 locations in 45 countries on 5 continents this year bring to the event is contagious, and that’s without even getting excited about what they’re talking about. Take a look at our coverage of the Global Grand Final last year and head over to the 2018 ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final site to see if it looks like the right event to kick off your November in style from Edinburgh.
CleanTechnica will be there again and we would love to see you. Let us know in the comments if you’re planning to attend and if enough people make the trip, we’ll setup a reader meetup in Edinburgh before the event kicks off.