Journalist Simone Okkels here highlights Climate-KIC’s Climate Impact Battle, where ten cleantech startups pitched for a chance to win big at this year’s Slush.
At the opening evening of Slush 2017, the winner of this year’s Climate Impact Battle was found after an intense pitching round showcasing businesses varying from extended battery power and renewable energy to wood waste and empty cargo space.
Bathed in Climate-KIC’s trademark green-blue light with hundreds of eyes watching them, ten cleantech startups pitched in front of four judges for the chance to win €50,000. This year, the theme of Slush was a call for change makers, and with the Climate Impact Battle, that was precisely what Climate-KIC was providing on the Warehouse Stage.
Initially, from a batch of 30 top Climate-KIC startups, the ten finalists were cut down to only two prize winners in a matter of hours; besides the winner, a prize of €25,000 awaited the runner-up. At just five minutes a pitch, but with at least five puns per startup, comperé Quentin Cooper, science journalist and facilitator, held the pace of the competition.
But it was up to the four judges—Silvija Seres, Ben Murphy, Alexander ‘Bigge’ Lidgren, and Chris Rivest—to decide which startup would go all the way. They had to make the hard decision between businesses ranging from harnessing solar power and limiting water leakage to filling up empty truck space and turning wood waste into usable resources.
The surprised winner couldn’t have done it without his team
Much to his surprise, the winner, Trucks On the Map, was called onstage to receive the grant of €50,000. “I did not expect it at all. But it is an extremely good feeling. Logistics is not too attractive to most people, but I’m thrilled that these experienced and talented people see the potential in the area,” said the happy winner after the event, founder of Trucks On the Map, Tamás Domonkos.
Trucks On the Map is a software startup helping logistics professionals reduce empty miles and risks. Even though logistics might not be the sexiest trade, if you look at the figures, it gets very interesting, explains the founder:
“Everything we wear and eat is delivered by trucks. It is a large industry that uses old-school methods, and digitalisation will have a huge impact in the coming years. We will be part of that impact. We have an easy-to-understand, easy-to-learn, and intuitive tool which is perfect for an industry that is used to working with Excel sheets. This is part of the future for logistics.”
He praises the community that has evolved around Climate-KIC and that works together for a more sustainable future. As for himself, his own community is the reason he was at the stage this evening: “I couldn’t have done any of this if it wasn’t for my team!”
“I’m very sure I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Climate-KIC”
As for the runner-up, the founder of Chrysalix Technologies, a startup that turns wood waste into an alternative for crude oil, Florence Gschwend was just as amazed as Tamás Domonkos.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and overwhelmed. We qualified through the UK, where we came second in our national final. Yesterday we pitched to qualify for this round, and we got further. Obviously, I was happy, but really surprised,” she said.
The astonishment didn’t come from not believing in her business though: “I see all these companies; they have customers, they have traction, they have so much more to show in a way. We’re still so far from selling our first license and starting making money that I always feel like it’s such a big risk. Obviously, the potential impact is huge, but there is still a long way to go for us. Every time I’m in a competition like this, and I get feedback and hear how people get excited about it, that really helps me to battle through the difficult hours,” she explains.
To win a prize this size at a venue like Slush gives a certain credibility to a startup says Florence Gschwend: “It’s not just about winning; there are so many people in the room that hear your pitch and approach you afterward.”
She is also thankful to be part of the Climate-KIC family. Without it, she’s not sure she would even be in a startup: “I like everything about Climate-KIC. They paid part of my Ph.D., I did their summer school the Journey, I liked the Greenhouse pre-incubation programme, and I participated in the Climate Launch Pad competition. Now, we’re doing the accelerator, so I’ve done literally every program they offer. I’m very sure I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Climate-KIC. I would probably never have considered starting a company. It has been absolutely fantastic.”
The ten finalists:
Adaptive Balancing Power
Trucks On the Map