Welcome to ‘The Startup Lab’
The Startup Lab is a 15-part weekly series dedicated to spotlighting startup companies that highlight the growing interface between strong entrepreneurship and social and environmental sustainability.
As we enter the ‘Age of Resource Efficiency’ , never has Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) been so important to a company’s survival and growth. We aim to create an archive of companies that are leading the charge to the tune of “profit with purpose” . We get in-depth with the Founders and enquire about their business models to see how these startups plan to thrive in today’s competitive environment and build value, whether through their CSR Agenda, or in spite of it.
As the series comes to a close, we will mark 2012 with the launch of Urban Times’ third online vehicle, Startup Lab. If you have a company, or know of somebody that does, that would be suitable for the series please contact us so that they can stand a chance of appearing on the SUL webiste.
So enjoy the ride and remember to check in every week. And check the Schedule below.
 Dr. Bradfield Moody, author of “The Sixth Wave”, claims we have entered the sixth wave of the Kodratiev economic cycle, which he christed the ‘Age of Resource Efficiency’. He notes societies’ increasing recognition of the economic value of the environment – above and beyond its potential as merely a resource.
 Edelman Trust Barometer, p.25 (http://edelman.com)
Pitusa (pitusa.co.uk) is an internationally influenced, eco-friendly, boho-chic brand in the era of globalization, dedicated to always bringing comfort, quality and originality. With a shortage of choice in the eco-friendly clothing market, especially those tailored towards comfort and cost effectiveness, Pitusa intend to make their mark strongly. The company actively promotes fair trade, fair wages and global business development and pride themselves onkeeping synthetic materials to a bare minimum. Be green or be natural.
It seems the future is arriving on two wheels.
There is a revolutionary electric bicycle zipping through the streets of downtown NYC thanks to the efforts of Soho-based startup FlyKly (flykly.com). This stylish new e-bike allows the user to explore their environment easily, enjoyably and above all, simply. The FlyKly allows the user to travel 1,000 miles for a single dollar of electricity! Beat that for value.
3. Lufa Farms
Lufa Farms (lufa.com) is the first commercial rooftop greenhouse in the world. This 31,000 square-foot experiment produces fresh vegetables, year-round. Through a membership system, where people can pick up same-day picked produce at specific drop-off points throughout the city, it’s attempting to revolutionize every day eating.
Shakespeak (shakespeak.com) is a software that facilitates direct interaction during presentations between the speaker and the audience. Once a speaker asks a question, the audience responds anonymously through their mobile phone, using text messaging, [mobile] the Internet, or Twitter. Results appear immediately on the screen and from there a dialogue can take off.
Bloomtrigger (bloomtrigger.com) is a pioneering a new, visual model of online fundraising which empowers people to help protect the rainforest in a simple, affordable and creative way. ‘The bloomtrigger project’ brings together individuals, businesses and primary school children enabling them to support local forestry communities on the ground by promoting sustainable development and environmental awareness.
Deforestation accounts for one fifth of global carbon emissions responsible for climate change; the single biggest threat facing our lives and our children’s future. Put simply, the bloomtrigger project shows children a concrete example of how they can use the latest digital technology to collaborate and engage their community, in order to tackle the big challenges they will face in their adult lives such as the effects of climate change over the coming decades.
Spotless (iamspotless.com) are the winners of London’s Start-up summer hosted by YouGov with University College London and Imperial students. In just 6 weeks, with £2,000 at their disposal they managed to design a concept and product, focused on the app-world and skin care, that persuaded a judging panel and venture capitalists that their company had the best potential. Urban Times had the chance to speak with their team members to learn not only about their concept but their business model, their motivation, and the future of Spotless.
7. The Charging Point
If you are keeping up with your car industry reading, you would have probably run into the acronym “EV” and snippets about the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Motors. Yes, the electric car is back – and trying to stick. Consequently, there is a plethora of information out there on EVs. How can one make sense of it? Is there a one-stop shop to educate yourself on the subject? TheChargingPoint.com is the best online destination for all the latest electric vehicle news, reviews and comment.
Assemblage (assemblagerestaurant.com) is a restaurant that has recently graced the East London scene in the heart of Shoreditch. The brains behind the company are Alicia Whitby who uses her history of art background to come together with James Knight Pacheco’s apt for cooking to ensure that the food served there is climatic not only on the taste buds but in its unique presentation. They have a strong CSR agenda in place so that they offer local British food which compromises neither on quality nor sustainability. The aim is to provide an experience for the diner so that all boxes of taste, atmosphere and decor can be ticked. With hopes of achieving Michelin Star status Assemblage’s movements are certainly one to be watched this year by foodies and non-foodies alike.
Having just won the RSPCA award for Innovation in Fashion, Rapanui (rapanuiclothing.com) is an eco-fashion label that is pushing the boundaries for casual wear which not only exudes style but also promises sustainability. With its eco-labeling and traceability functions; these ensure that all garments are not only made as ethically as possible, but that the consumer knows how and where they are made: from the seed being sown, picked, spun, sewn and transported. Having submitted a proposal to the EU, Rapanui might change the face of fashion forever if eco-labeling becomes imperative for all suppliers. Urban Times spoke with the founders, brothers Rob and Mart Drake Knight, to find out more about the future of Rapanui, and how it originated.
Growington (growington.com) provides a food-mapping system which allows the public to track locations of where food is being grown. The idea is to promote the sharing, swopping and trading of vegetables within local communities by sharing photos and encouraging discussion of different herbs, fruit and vegetables. As this paradigm becomes a contagion Growington hopes that cities can compete with each other based on how many food growing locations they have.
Skipso (skipso.com) is an online platform and business to business marketplace entirely focused on sustainable innovation. By leveraging the power of the Internet they are in the front-line of propelling the Cleantech revolution forward. By creating an environment where ideas and opportunities can be exchanged they hope to accelerate innovation and bridge the gap between industry and academia by creating an alternative platform for collaboration and knowledge transfer. Skipso endeavours to facilitate the interaction of talented individuals and experts worldwide by providing them with challenging projects to work on. This work supports cleantech companies investing in innovation by giving them access to an expert community to outsource their R&D or sponsor cleantech innovation research.
12. Little Growers
Little Growers (littlegrowers.com) is a horticultural education community interest company working with schools predominantly in the UK but increasingly worldwide. They provide a range of horticultural equipment, including environmentally friendly irrigation systems, to facilitate children in growing their own produce and understanding where food comes from. Little Growers began in 2008 from a passion in horticulture but also in response to the worrying trend of how disassociated children are becoming from where their food comes from and outdoor learning. Little Growers has also flourished internationally with projects in the Maldives, Japan, South Africa, Gambia and Thailand. Once Little Growers provides the horticultural equipment, the school can facilitate and adapt the project to their curriculum however they think it best whether the produce be used in cooking lessons, running market stalls, supplying local cafes and restaurants or in science and art lessons.
13. Brooklyn Grange
The Brooklyn Grange (brooklyngrangefarm.com) is a commercial organic farm located on New York City rooftops. They grow vegetables in the city and sell them to local people and businesses. Their goal is to improve access to very good food, to connect city people more closely to farms and food production, and to make urban farming a viable enterprise and livelihood. Currently, their one-acre (40,000 square foot) plot is the biggest rooftop farm in the world, but it is early days and they are looking to set up a second venture for which they will need investment.
14. Econogo Electric Scooters
British company econogoTM (www.econogo.co.uk) was formed in 2008 after a lot of obsessive thinking about one of those riddles that seem impossible to solve: “can we build a company that gives people something fun and is also good for our planet?” Now they launch their ‘yogo’; the UK’s first electric scooter that uses a fully detachable and portable lithium battery. For the first time, owners can remove and charge their battery like a mobile phone in their own home, or even at work, making electric two wheelers more suitable for busy lifestyles.
The new yogo (available in two options: a moped and an unrestricted 1500W motorcycle) offers a stylish and bespoke scooter that brings convenience to a market that has been slow to evolve as a result of incumbent fixed batteries. econogoTM has launched at a crucial time when there is strong consumer and political demand for greener alternatives to petro-engines. This, together with its cutting edge design, which offers much-needed convenience to businesses and fleets, will allow it to become a major player in the 50cc-100cc arena and re-shape the current market.
15. The Startup Lab (SUL)
For the final episode of series one, we will be turning an eye to ourselves as we get ready to launch the new Urban Times vehicle, The Startup Lab (coming in 2012). As with this series, the SUL will spotlight companies that highlight the growing interface between strong entrepreneurship and social and environmental sustainability. We will feature interviews with today’s prominent entrepreneurs as well as those thought-leaders of tomorrow, and Tips for budding brains looking to become social entrepreneurs. As we delve into the challenges and benefits of “Profit with Purpose”, we will uncover the windy path towards a future where all business enterprise is tied directly into social good.