‘ClimateLaunchpad is about creating successful start-ups that will tackle climate change.’
An interview with ClimateLaunchpad trainer Elena Messiou.
In 2016 Elena Messiou became one of our Boot Camp trainers. High time for a chat with her about her experience and insights.
How did you get involved with ClimateLaunchpad?
“One of our other trainers is married to a good friend of mine. I was living in Hong Kong at the time when they came to visit me. He told me ClimateLaunchpad was looking for another trainer. Because of my background and my personal interest in climate change, I decided to apply. That is how it all started.”
So what is your background?
‘Originally I am from Cyprus. I have lived in the US for 10 years, moved back to Cyprus for a while, then relocated to Hong Kong and currently I am based in Amsterdam. Living in different places made me experience different cultures and mentalities across the globe. I find that very interesting and it is extremely useful in my role as a trainer for this global programme.
“Helping people make their ideas come to life is very special.”
My background is in business, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Communications, a Master in Public Quality and I’ve been working with different sectors. Mostly my experience is in training and consulting, I’ve worked with small companies like start-ups and had two start-ups of my own. But I also worked with medium size and large companies as well and both with non-governmental and governmental organizations.’
What attracted you to ClimateLaunchpad?
‘Working with start-ups is what I really enjoy in my role as a ClimateLaunchpad trainer. I like the energy that everybody brings to the room during our 2-day Boot Camps. The transformation in the teams amazes me each time. Most participants come in a bit careful about what they want to share, afraid to give away too much. Once they realize the setting is completely safe, they open up. To see their face brighten up when that happens gives me a lot of joy. The fact that we are working to fix climate change is important to me; the issue is close to my heart.’
“The most valuable lessons come from all the mistakes that you inevitably will make.”
Being a trainer, what is that like?
‘To summarize I would say that being part of the team is a very humbling experience. Humbling in the sense that I get to see and understand different settings in the world. Each country has different issues to deal with regarding climate change and different ways of solving it. To be in India for instance – and to experience the pollution, the problem with garbage or water, really basic issues. Or to see the team that won the 2017 competition: Alkagel from Kenya, they turn waste into sustainable bio-fuel. Their innovative idea solves a simple issue, but for Africa that issue and their impact is huge. I like that. It really humbles me to be in a room filled with really intelligent people and to have an impact on their future as they grow their businesses. Helping people make their ideas come to life is very special. I also enjoy sharing my own experiences. Especially the mistakes I’ve made, because that’s where the growth curve comes in. The most valuable lessons come from all the mistakes that you inevitably will make.’
Tell us some more about that, learning from mistakes – how do you facilitate that during Boot Camps?
‘You should share your mistakes as much as you share your successes. Through mistakes comes success. We all make mistakes; it is part of how we learn. Mistakes are natural, as long as you try not to make them over and over again. So I am very comfortable sharing my mistakes and I encourage participants to share theirs. For example, when we talk about the Founders Dream during training: not knowing your partner’s dream is a mistake that I’ve made. I didn’t discuss with my partners what our individual dreams were, what we all wanted from that business. That venture failed, just because we clashed. I bring up these kinds of examples a lot.’
“For me personally this is amazing: to be part of such a dynamic program, it’s mind-blowing.”
What is your favourite part of our curriculum?
‘Tough question, the entire curriculum is priceless… I particularly like the Deal, where they get to formulate their idea in one sentence. Another favourite is Customer Discovery where participants learn how to ask the right questions to get the answers they need to improve their idea and build their business. A then there are the pitching skills. With pitching it is a lot of fun to see participants transform. They often go from not really being able to articulate what they’re doing and nobody really understanding their idea to being super clear and convincing. I work quite a bit with presentation skills, body language and tone of voice. Some of this is not officially part of the curriculum, but I discovered the teams really benefit when I teach them how to stand, how to make eye contact, how to become more engaging with their audience.’
In your view, what is the value of our Boot Camps? What do participants gain?
‘The value of the programme is in the sum of its parts. From Boot Camps to Coaching sessions, working with peers, National Finals and the Global Grand Final, it all works together an teaches you how to successfully start and run a cleantech business. Participating in it transforms ideas into start-ups, our track record of successful start-ups that started out at ClimateLaunchpad is ever growing.
What still amazes me is to see that transformation in people. I wish we could videotape them on day 1 of the Boot Camp and again by the end of day 2. It is impressive what they achieve in just 2 days. So imagine what they learn during the entire programme!’
“It is not just about winning this competition, it is about creating successful start-ups. It is about fixing climate change.”
What is the most important message you share with the teams at the end of the Boot Camp?
‘I tell them it is not just about winning this competition, it’s about taking all the tools that we share with them and using them over and over in different stages of their life and their business. It’s about creating successful start-ups at the end of the day. It is about fixing climate change. So whether they win or not, what matters is that they continue and become successful with their start-up, or they might get a new idea. Important is that the tools are there, they are taking the tools and it’s up to them how they want to use them. So this is how I close: don’t just think of this as a competition. Although we teach you how to compete, it’s a personal journey.’
ClimateLaunchpad continues to grow. In 2018 we ran the programme in 44 countries and 50 locations. How does that make you feel as a trainer?
‘We are truly becoming global and I think that is key with tackling climate change. To keep adding countries and to be pretty much everywhere. What we cover in the Boot Camp is applicable anywhere, anyone with a green business idea can benefit. For me personally this is amazing: to be part of such a dynamic program, it’s mind-blowing.’