What makes cleantech start-ups roll? Learnings from the winners of 2023

Every winner of this green competition entered the contest with just one great cleantech idea and lots (lots!) of drive. The trick is to transform these ingredients into a thriving start-up. To help you do the same, the winners of the Regional Finals 2023 share with you their biggest learnings.

Charish your passion
“Having passion about your green start-up is important. If you believe in what you do, this will keep you going when you struggle, as all start-ups do,” said Marina Danial from Merge, after winning Africa’s regional final.

Considering the 1,192 teams around the globe entering the cleantech competition in 2023, there is no shortage of passion to tackle climate change. But as Merge found out: ”A great idea does not equal a good business model. The coaches from ClimateLaunchpad directed us and got us in the right mindset.” So basically, you must put in arduous work. Then, of course, the million-dollar question is: what work makes the cleantech marbles roll?

Share and learn
The ClimateLaunchpad journey of all winners began with Boot Camps and world-class business training. Asked about their learnings, every winner in the competition starts by praising the input of other teams. In the words of Hai Ho, of start-up Alterno, the runner up of the Asian Pacific Regional Final: “Throughout this competition, I learned we all face similar problems and together we can solve them.”

So, one important trick is: stop trying to solve your puzzles by yourself. Exchange ideas and issues with like-minded people. “It is encouraging to know communities exist that all strive to battle climate change.” Munraj Sembhi of start-up Reaforma, #3 in Europe, said. “Furthermore: the whole structure of ClimateLaunchpad competition streamlines your ideas. This helped us tremendously to set a firm foundation for Reaforma.”

Curious, we poked for more: what building blocks did you improve exactly?

Sharpen your business plan
“For one thing, our value proposition has improved enormously throughout the competition.” said Sebastian Hersberger of Europe’s cleantech start-up #1 Yuon Control. Europe’s runner-up Simpl.Energy had a similar experience. “We rushed ahead from the beginning of the project. We never really took the time to reflect and clearly define the value of our product for our customers ,” Tom Selten of Simpl.Energy said. “During the competition did. And immensely improved our value proposition.”

Choose a segment of the market
“Also, market segmentation,” adds Kulubya Brian from start-up SWEDO, runner-up in the African Regional Finals. “With our organic biofire combs as alternative for charcoal, we wanted to target everyone who uses charcoal. Schools, households, restaurants. We learned it is more effective to address a segment of the market: talk to the people there, see what they need and specialize the product. This way our product gets better, and the business can have more success.”

Improve your presentation… and your data
“Besides helping to sharpen our cleantech business idea, we also improved our presentation,” Asian Pacific #3 Aonbarr’s Shigetoshi Sakurai said. “Our team is now more confident and determined to take the next steps.” This also was something the SWEDO-team picked up. “Conveying our beliefs was not enough to achieve with our start-up. For instance, we needed to provide concrete figures about climate benefits. And now we can make thorough impact analysis.”

Never give up
After their National Final and the Regional Semi Finals, the best eight cleantech teams of each region battled by pitching their idea for a live expert jury. After every jury deliberation the first words were: “This was no easy task,” for all teams had shown great entrepreneurial development and potential climate impact. “So even if you do not win, never give up – keep moving forward,” the jury emphasised.

Take new paths
So, to top off our learnings a last heartfelt learning from Oluwadamilola Oluwaseun, of Pazelgreen Technologies (#3 start-up in Africa): “As for any founder of a start-up, I found it difficult to let go of the original plan. I put my heart and soul in it. But my biggest learning was: don’t give up on the goal you want to achieve, but be willing to take new, more effective paths to get there.”

Read all about the winners of the African Final, the Asian/Pacific Final and the European Final.

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