Too Big to Change the World?

In 2015, a few days before Christmas Eve, the Belgian population awoke to much gloomy news: the whole country was at risk of experiencing a blackout. Due to an unpredicted need for maintenance of nuclear plants, Belgium might have run out of electricity. Imagine Christmas markets in the dark, family time spent in silence at the mere shade of pitiful black Christmas Trees.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Fortunately, 7 years earlier, the Belgian electricity transport company, Elia, made a smart move: partnering with an early stage startup, Ampacimon. Back in the time, it did not appear like an urgent priority to contribute to the development of new technology to manage the electricity flow during winter load peaks. However, Elia grasped the opportunity to boost the development of a solution that might become critical sooner than later.

Guess what?

Ampacimon technology has been a game changer to support Belgian power supply in that challenging time. Together, Elia and Ampacimon kept the Christmas lights on. Who would have guessed that a collaboration between a startup and a corporation would have contributed to a joyful Belgian Christmas Eve?!

Well…That does not surprise me too much! Startups and corporations seem to bring to the table a very complementary set of skills. By leveraging their respective strengths, powerful duos are created. They bring a lot to each other. “Startups focus on optimizing opportunities while we focus on minimizing risks. There is a strong match. If organized properly, working with startups is a powerful way to explore and develop new solutions”, Manoël Rekinger, Innovation Project Leader at Elia.

Really!? If these Startup/Corporation duos are so powerful, can’t we tackle some of the biggest challenges of our society with these duos?

Yes, we can!

Amongst other challenges, how do we feed almost 10 billion people by 2050?

One collaboration at a time, food corporations and startups are working hand-in-hand on food safety and sustainability. Hungry for more happy stories? Have a look at these duos; Miyoko and Nestlé, Know Brainer and Unilever, Youmeal and Compass, and many more.

Let’s have a closer look at the Youmeal-Compass duo, a Belgian startup and the worldwide leader in food catering.

From the suppliers to the distributors to the restaurants, food information gets lost in the flow.

It is difficult for restaurants to answer the questions of their consumers becoming more and more cautious about their health and their environmental impact; is it — veggie? gluten-free? Balanced? Is it — made with seasonal products? local products? fish threatened with extinction?

Youmeal provides restaurants with the ability to answer these questions. Their software analyzes automatically and accurately thousands of recipes and ingredient labels; An enabler to create healthier and more sustainable recipes.

This collaboration seems to be a win-win-win; (1) the customers win in transparency and health (2) Compass can now transition smoothly towards a more sustainable offering which increases their customer satisfaction and loyalty (3) Youmeal increase its environmental and health impact by accessing Compass’ large amount of customers. “Compass provides us with credibility and recognition towards other stakeholders in the sector as well as access to tens of thousands of consumers. That is a key partner for us as the more consumers we touch, the bigger our positive impact on people’s health and the planet.” Sophie Flagothier, co-founder of Youmeal.

Can you do your bit to build a sustainable food system?

Yes, you can.

Wonder how?

Start by determining the challenges that you want to focus on and look for your startup partner(s)!

One last thing, could you make me a promise?

If one day you hesitate whether or not you should partner with a startup with an exciting project that does not seem like an urgency but could contribute to feeding us all by 2050, remember the story of Elia and Ampacimon. Elia’s decision to co-innovate was driven by a smart long-term vision. Considering that Ampacimon technology has been a game changer to support Belgian power supply in challenging time 7 years later, the investment was definitely worth it. Do not miss your chance to make a smart long-term decision.

Remember that no one is too small — or too big! — to change the world.

Adeline Michaux, social entrepreneur.