A Vision for the Future: Techstars Sustainability Accelerator 2019
On October 30th, 2019, we had the privilege of attending the Techstars Sustainability Demo Day in Denver, Colorado. Three months prior, Techstars, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, had carefully selected a cohort of entrepreneurs to join them in a sustainability startup accelerator. These new ventures were handpicked based on their ambition and vision for creating a sustainable economy. The results of their hard work were on display in a series of engaging presentations, held in front an audience of environmentally-focused professionals, students, and community members. It was an evening of optimism and hope for a brighter, more sustainable future, one that truly seems within reach given the ambition and innovation of these talented entrepreneurs.
As Mammoth Water’s founder and CEO, Richael Young, stepped onto the stage and began the evening’s presentations, her mission statement immediately struck an emotional chord with the audience. She began with a story of a rancher, Rich, a man striving to keep his ranch’s livestock and soil healthy. But this rancher faced a strict limit on his water allocation for the season, and severe financial penalties if he exceeded the limit. In fact, the story of this rancher was that of Richael’s father, and she made a compelling case for Mammoth Water’s innovative solution to this challenge that ranchers and farmers everywhere are facing. Mammoth Water has developed a mobile app, TAPP H20 that allows users to easily track water usage, and an intuitive framework to submit regulatory documentation and quantify water savings. With the push of a button, irrigators, farmers, ranchers, and the like now have a new solution to an old problem, right in their pocket. Richael’s presentation was an inspiring kickoff to a fascinating evening. https://mammothwater.com/
Founder and CEO Tony Bova, or as he refers to himself, “Chief Beard Officer,” has a vision for future of organic waste as resource. As he and the team at mobius put it, “There’s wonder in waste.” And they are well on their way to proving that thesis, with a variety of biodegradable plastics and chemicals produced solely out of what are traditionally considered waste materials. Their proprietary blend combines lignin and biopolymers to create pelletized resin, an important input in the manufacturing of polymers and industrial materials. In a carbon-intensive industry such as manufacturing, mobius’ disruption in the supply change has industry leaders considering alternatives. From flowerpots to mechanical lubricants, the applications of mobius’ outputs are truly limitless. https://mobius.co
Nori is a digital marketplace that allows the average consumer to purchase carbon offsets through a mobile interface. As CEO Paul Gambill explained, the offsets are achieved by carbon sequestration in soil. Rich, healthy soil is the perfect biomass for storing existing carbon dioxide, a process that over time can slowly reverse the impact of climate change. Nori is able to certify these offsets by partnering with independent third parties who verify that farmers are using sustainable practices and preserving the health of their soil. Imagine being able to take a flight or drive a vehicle and immediately offset your carbon footprint through a mobile app. As the introduction of a carbon tax becomes an ever more likely event, Nori is positioned to give public and private entities the option to offset their output in an affordable, convenient way. https://nori.com
AQUAOSO founder and CEO, Chris Peacock, made a compelling case for his thesis: “Water risk IS business risk”. He pointed to a recent US study’s determination that by 2030, humanity’s annual global water requirements will exceed current sustainable water supplies by 40%. A reliable source of water will make the difference in a company’s ability survive or thrive. AQUAOSO offers water management and risk assessment tools that have a bottom-line impact for consumers in agriculture, commercial real estate development, and manufacturing. http://www.aquaoso.com
Inspired by founder Daniel Jones’ passion for implementing equitable labor and trade practices for workers in emerging markets, Bext360 aims to liberate the opacity of supply chain for everyday goods. By ensuring that the products we consume are conflict-free and arrive on the marketplace through fair-trade practices, consumers around the world can have confidence that their purchasing habits support a just economy. By using blockchain technology, Bext360 creates a traceable fingerprint for consumer goods, from the store shelf back to the fields where they were harvested. Products to date have included coffee, cotton, minerals and palm oil, but the application of Bext360’s technology is wide-reaching across the marketplace. Bext360’s technology can be incorporated into websites, supply chain management systems, point-of-sale: wherever you purchase your goods, you can follow the trail back to their source. https://www.bext360.com
In a truly incredible synthesis of ground-based hardware, satellite imagery, and advanced data analysis and modeling, Gybe has moved the needle in developing cost-effective methods to measure water safety and toxicity. Toxic blue-green algae blooms are popping up in bodies of water across the country, from the southeast coastline to the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest. The scientific community faces a monumental challenge in predicting where and when these blooms will occur: Gybe aims to change that through real-time water monitoring and analysis. Additionally, Gybe’s technology can measure the impact of agricultural and manufacturing runoff and make predictive inferences about how to mitigate the impact of the pollutants on aquatic ecosystems. With meaningful applications for utilities, developers, and conservationists, Gybe’s solutions not only save costs, they save lives. https://www.gybe.eco
With a headquarters in Irapuato, Mexico, microTERRA is a talented team of scientists designing environmental solutions for the entire globe. Called to action after learning about the real possibility of a future global water crisis, Founder and CEO Marissa Cuevas was inspired to create an actionable solution based on the principles of a circular economy. Agricultural runoff, composed of animal waste and fertilizer, is a major contributor to global water pollution. An excess of nitrogen and phosphorous in water leads to an increase in toxic algae blooms. MicroTERRA has developed a solution to prevent this excess from accruing by capturing wastewater and filtering it through a proprietary water treatment system to result in clean water and a regenerative livestock feed. Their secret ingredient? Ironically, microalgae! The microalgae convert the excess lipids and proteins in the water into a valuable livestock feed, that can then be cycled back through to feed livestock. Their work with the Techstars Accelerator led to implementation of this design at a commercial fishery with astounding success. In a world transitioning away from traditional livestock food sources because of the environmental impact, microTERRA’s circular economy opens new doors to a sustainable future. https://www.microterra.com.mx
Propagate Ventures uses agroforestry as a strategy for maximizing crop yield and creating ancillary profits for farmers. Founder and CEO Ethan Steinberg proudly asserts that actions have ripples and challenges industry leaders to act intentionally. By offering innovative financial structures and partnerships, Propagate Ventures makes incorporating agroforestry system designs into existing farmland a feasible option for an agricultural industry with tight margins. As Steinberg demonstrated, the company has developed three software platforms to manage the implementation of their system designs. These platforms offer financial planning, data analysis, and compare potential yields based on crop types and tree placement. Propagate is a welcome disruptor to the traditional agricultural space and has a bright future ahead. https://www.propagateventures.com
Regen Network is a global marketplace where regenerative agriculture agreements are the commodity of choice. CEO Christian Shearer has a vision for a world where individuals are more than users of ecological resources; they become stakeholders. In order to combat ecological degradation, the Regen Network builds on a blockchain system to manage and track environmental assets. By giving farmers, brands, and institutions a new metric to assess the value of public and private ecology, the Regen Network grants entities a way to measure their impact and use of these assets. By giving consumers a stake in the environmental assets they use, Regen gives entities ownership of their impact. https://www.regen.network
Stormwater is a major contributor to water pollution in urban communities, and local utilities are struggling to achieve regulatory compliance given their limited time and resources. When utilities fail to meet these requirements, private and public sectors bear the social and environmental costs. However, as 2NDNATURE founder and CEO Nicole Beck advocates, municipalities stand to gain by revamping their data collection and analysis methods. 2NDNATURE offers an enterprise cloud platform that empowers local utilities to tackle this challenge and restructure their strategy. Achieving regulatory compliance in a more effective and cost-efficient way will allow utilities to meet budget targets and reduce local pollution in the process. By combining new data capture techniques with proprietary analytic solutions, 2NDNATURE provides a practical solution for water utilities across the country. https://www.2ndnaturewater.com/
“This event was an inspiring reminder that there are bright minds hard at work finding market-based solutions to the planet’s toughest challenges. When considering the fundamental shift necessary for our society to become truly sustainable, the magnitude of change can feel overwhelming. How can we be champions for equitable standards of living and also be stewards of the environment? How do we leave the planet and economy better than we found it for generations to come? To see presentation after presentation of truly innovative ideas for tackling these problems, it was enough to bring hope to the most pessimistic of perspectives. The synthesis of commercial application, technological innovation, and vision for a sustainable future brought the audience to its feet in an evening they’ll not soon forget.
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