Scaling Sustainable Ventures: Collaboration Is Key
We have been fortunate to experience a tremendous amount of market traction with prospects that validate our service offerings. But there is always room for more discussion, especially with potential partners interested in reducing the carbon footprints while maximizing profits.
By Tinia Pina (Founder & CEO, Re-Nuble)
As a female founder of a green startup, I had to leverage my communication and nurturing skills to their fullest potential in order to rally a community around a cause about which I am passionate.
Re-Nuble is a social enterprise that specializes in recycling organic waste into green fertilizer for sustainable farming and renewable energy for responsible power consumption. Re-Nuble is currently crowdfunding to help raise funding for its first community digester.
The environment isn’t everyone’s priority, and I had to accept that fact while simultaneously encouraging local constituents and stakeholders to take a greater interest in our story. By engaging people at various events and harnessing social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Meetup.com, I was able to recruit and excite team members who are equally dedicated to this global cause.
Sustainability oriented startups (we don’t dare use the word “clean technology” anymore) are not inexpensive to launch as their mobile and Internet startup counterparts. However, the potential is there – both in environmental and economic terms, and thus, we’re currently mobilizing resources for our pilot project in the Washington, D.C. area. The entry barriers in the environmental services and waste industry are substantial enough to make one reconsider entering the space.
However, the D.C. area’s green leanings, proximity to policy makers, and permitted land availability make it an ideal starting point for the Re-Nuble endeavor. We have been fortunate to experience a tremendous amount of market traction with prospects that validate our service offerings. But there is always room for more discussion, especially with potential partners interested in reducing the carbon footprints while maximizing profits.
The mobile and consumer tech industry has been gaining momentum and traction in its efforts to fund the expansion of digital impact for consumers. Fred Wilson highlights these points and the changes that have occurred as a result of the recent but uneven success of this niche of startups. But had the venture investment community’s herd mentality not been a factor, would this sector’s scaling in funding, incubator and accelerator development, mentor accessibility and informational resources have achieved the same breadth?
Although we champion innovation regardless of the industry, there are only so many resources out there for establishing a niche and scaling up to meet growing demand. This is particularly problematic in green industries – i.e. sectors that already have the built-in social and environmental benefits but typically lack the record-breaking IPO and Silicon Valley excitement. However, I am about to restore your confidence soon by explaining why there is hope, especially for sustainable and resource efficiency startups.
Clearly, I think the D.C. Metropolitan area is a great place to launch a startup. For sustainability and resource efficiency entrepreneurs, it’s particularly ideal because of proximity to federal policy makers. These types of ventures aim to create major societal impact by increasing resiliency to climate change, improving water utilization efficiency, bettering resource conservation, etc. However, they often need the same resources that the mobile and consumer Internet-focused startups have access to.
Many of these companies are using new technologies and business models with massive innovation, albeit insufficient. Despite their status as “first mover” or “market maker,” such ventures tend to make investors skeptical, not only because these markets lack a leading ‘big hit’ example (as Facebook provided the online media industry), but also because many of their underlying technologies haven’t been proven yet.
This is why I am proposing that sustainability and resource efficiency startups work in collaboration with the government to increase scalability. At Re-Nuble, we’re striving to disrupt the status quo and prove that such a model is not only tenable, but also optimal.
Partnerships with public policy makers and figureheads mean attending the same forums, sitting on focused and technical groups, attending design forums, and facilitating town halls. Whatever it takes to engage local actors and demonstrate that green-focused startups are there to support them in their quest to build cleaner, greener communities.
We try to participate in neighborhood interest groups, volunteer in local service projects, and facilitate feedback from our community members in order to identify creative ways to maximizing resource use – namely reducing and recycling organic food waste.
Through collaboration, we can continue expanding both the reach and impact of our collective activities. And by fusing community needs with corporate interests, we can encourage localized activism, equality of access, and environmental conservation in our quest to encourage green growth in the new economy.
Women 2.0 readers: How are you scaling your sustainable venture? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Tinia Pina is the Founder and CEO of Re-Nuble, an organics-to-energy sustainability social enterprise based in the D.C. metropolitan area. Tinia founded Re-Nuble with a mission to “Redefine Waste” within local, urban communities. Tinia holds a B.S. in Business Information Technology from Virginia Tech and is studying at the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Follow her on Twitter at @viarenuble.