Will common sense prevail in the end in startup-world?

I remember the 2015 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) very good as I was visiting a conference in Amsterdam and bought bracelets in different colours representing each goal. I was running a digital agency in these years and planned to send them to my customers as an end-of-the-year gift reminding them. I have been wearing them myself until recently. Today we have the 17 goals aiming for 2030. When you go through them, these 17 goals seem so logic but despite the high-tech world we live in, we still need to be reminded that we are still far from achieving them.

SDGs for 2030

The most impactful domain to work on and that impacts almost all SDGs is agriculture. The impact of improving agriculture, from local to global is impressive but somehow totally neglected. Of course, we have some multinationals controlling important building stones like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides but for smaller farmers, the biggest share of food cultivators, nothing much is done. That leaves a big market to reach out to and I am very happy that at least on a global level there is something evolving in a positive way although still more concentrated in developed countries. Imagine, The Netherlands is the 2nd biggest food exporter from a garden sized domain when you look from the moon.

What I call common sense is now labelled as the ‘’Impact Economy’’ where we see in the last decade an exponential growth in ‘’Impact Investments’’ from 135 billion USD to 307 billion USD in 2020. The traditional investments still go into trillions so still a long way to go but there is definitely good traction. This means that suddenly the capitalist economy based money owners are somehow understanding that the existing model needs to be reviewed and consider not only financial returns but also the effect these investments have on society-at-large.

A good example is Tony Chocolonely, kicked off to change the world; based on sustainability, fair trade, and fair wages and so they started to produce chocolate bars. The message of Tony Chocolonely is in fact very serious, the message is very clear and transparent. Tony’s aim is to finish the slavery in the chocolate industry and they became a love brand with a clear mission. Looking at the SDGs they tick quite some boxes. A great example to follow and to implement. This is a story that started in Holland, by a journalist, Teun van de Keuken. The slogan of the company is: ‘’Crazy about chocolate, serious about people”. Interesting is that the problem is actually in Africa and a guy from Holland is trying to solve the problem.

As Stage-Co we have always supported ideas for real problems with sustainable solutions. All our workshops and events aim to push people in that direction and in 2019 we will launch more and new initiatives with a focus on AgriTech and İoT. Our region is trapped in the modus of survival instead of building a better future for our children and grandchildren. That is why we call on the investors and mentors to see beyond the fast gains through the platform-based startups but instead also put emphasis on startups that have a local and regional impact on the quality of life. The Impact Economy is nice for the developed countries but we can leapfrog here as it is a must for us. We can all talk about Smart City and Agritech but let's do the walk, not only the talk.

We have only 11 years for the next batch of Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved. Let's not waste time.

Patrick Bosteels, Stage-Co Co-Founder
patrick@stage-co.com

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