Startups are geared towards making a fast but financially sustainable business model, and they are almost always motivated by people trying to bring in solutions to an already established industry, such as finance and tech. However, as increasing demands for connectivity and environmental concerns continue to rise over the past few years, the business world in general evolves with it. Startups have sprung up in existence not mainly driven by profit, but by passion to solve the issues they are trying to address. This is a unique time in a way that while established enterprises are transitioning into a more eco-friendly production of goods by monitoring and minimizing carbon emission, startups are conceived directly with the thought of increasing sustainability.
Nonprofit tech for good embodies these ideals in a much clearer way. Although it is not necessarily an initiative adopted only by startups and enterprises, as individuals have also taken up the movement to further the cause in their own ways, tech for good aims to provide the advantages that tech can offer to positively impact society as a whole. Among the leading organizations to advocate the tech for good initiative are JPMorgan Chase & Co and Harvard Computer Society.
Energy is among the leading industries that call for innovation directed towards a clean and sustainable future. BioLite’s mission is to ensure that energy is accessible to any part of the world, while remaining efficient in its source, and with little to no carbon footprint.
Started in New York at Smart Design, BioLite’s founders first designed a portable stove, called BioLite CampStove, that is able to generate thermal energy without the smoke. Aside from its main function, the BioLite CampStove can also be used for charging personal devices. This design took advantage of thermoelectrics, which is the process of generating energy through the change in temperature.
BioLite’s business model is called Parallel Innovation, and it’s characterized by incubating energy technologies and applying them to concepts that can then be finalized to a unique product. The sales of those products are reinvested in creating more sustainable ways that energy can be extracted from, so that these ways of minimizing carbon footprint spread through more households and eventually the mainstream.
BioLite not only advertises itself as an environmentally friendly enterprise. Back in 2018, the company’s impact report found that 38,144 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent was avoided by the production and distribution process of the company’s products.
With The Great Resignation happening over the past few years, it’s becoming harder and harder for both workers and employers to keep the economy running.
Career Karma’s mission is ultimately about “upskilling the existing workforce.” So many workers have been left out as the skill sets required by companies for employment rapidly change, following the aggressive development of digital technology over the past few years. Career Karma’s founders themselves have experienced the struggle of transitioning from non-traditional backgrounds into a more result-oriented side of the tech industry, and in-demand jobs do not settle for theoretical knowledge, but direct practice and hands-on experience.
The company has set up thousands of bootcamps and trade schools that welcome students and career shifters to integrate themselves into the tech industry. The admission for Career Karma is totally free, and people can sign up to join bootcamps to immediately access the coaching and mentorship. When you learn things over the course of your training, only have to also coach the people who joined the bootcamps after you.
What Career Karma represents, first of all, is the plight of the workers who want to try exploring an industry that is known for being extremely competitive. The company is focused on growing their impact on the workers, and to provide them with the necessary support that will allow them to help a billion people in a decade.
The company recently raised $40 million in series B funding, led by Top Tier Capital Partners. Enrollees can choose to apply for different bootcamps, such as Lambda School and Hack Reactor, depending on their goals by the end of their training.
While others have speculated on clean energy, Mi Terro focuses on reducing food waste, which is another issue that raises environmental concerns. The whole agricultural industry, in particular, is yet to fully transition itself into a more eco-friendly industry. The use of plastic, although discouraged by many government bodies around the world, are still in operation to accommodate the mass production of goods.
As a result, Mi Terro was created to combat land pollution by using the very waste that agriculture produces to make packaging that replaces plastic. 1.3 billion tons of food waste is created every year, with 78 million tons of it coming from flexible plastic packaging films. In addition to their main technology that utilizes milk waste and turns it into fiber to create a sustainable business model, they also create compostable packaging films that are completely plant-based.
Mi Terro works with farmers to upscale their surplus and inedible milk harvests. The fibers that are created with their technology are then used as main materials for fashion and textile. They employ a two-step method in doing this: first is the extraction of casein in spoiled milk, a type of protein that makes up 80% of all the protein found in cow’s milk, and then they use a web-spinning method to turn the extracted protein into fibers.
More recently, they found a more efficient method in turning the liquid directly into fiber without the extraction process. This enables them to use 60-70% less water in the process. Ultimately, while having this technology certainly helps them get a more sustainable production model in terms of clothing, their goal is to completely replace petroleum-based materials in all other businesses with protein-based materials.
Ample Labs is a non-profit startup devoted to preventing homelessness. It became increasingly in-demand as the number of homeless people surged by the time the COVID-19 hit. Created by CG Chen, the startup was launched purely as her way of helping those in need of access to the necessary social service technology.
Homelessness isn’t something new, and it’s a widespread concern in Canadian communities. As a way to close the gap between a prevalent social problem and technology, Ample Labs developed ChalmersBot, a simple but extremely helpful chat bot that gives the user directions to the nearest shelters available for them.
The Ample Labs team conducted over a hundred one-on-one interviews with homeless people, and they found that the majority of them have access to smartphones, so launching ChalmersBot is an appropriate platform to have a significant impact. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of those who are experiencing homelessness might not have access to mobile phones to use the bot, so Ample Labs also developed ChalmersCards. It’s a physical card that they give out to people without access to mobile devices. The card contains information such as emergency numbers and locations of social services who cater to the homeless.
As of the moment, the development of ChalmersBot is yet to reach a complete status. They are paying people $20 per hour for those who are willing to co-design the bot, and the funds mainly come from outside donations.
Beyond businesses with specific products to help alleviate carbon emission and plastic wastes, there’s also UpEffect. It’s an online platform where companies can sign up to crowdfund their business ideas. The catch is that the platform focuses on social innovators.
Before anyone can start their crowdfunding, companies must adhere to the criteria set up by UpEffect to effectively implement their ideals by looking at the business models, supply chain, and impact numbers. It’s also important for UpEffect that the beneficiaries of the company are the ones who need it the most.
There’s a lot that business can do to help the planet and marginalized communities. After all, building a better future ensures that more people can access basic needs, which is an essential ingredient of progress.
With the technology that we have right now that is still rapidly changing and getting better over time, it’s not surprising to see many inventors and entrepreneurs who seek to revolutionize the tech industry. It’s not only that the way products are being manufactured that has to change over the years, but the way that people seek jobs and maintain a business is vastly different now than a few decades ago.
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