The Role of Startups and VCs in Spearheading a Circular Transformation

May 4, 2022

If we are to succeed in the fight against climate change, we need new, better models to using our planet’s finite resources. We also need to drastically reduce consumer and industrial waste. Circular Economy approaches offer a solution to both challenges. By designing products and processes around models of extended use, repairability and shareability, we can address environmental, geopolitical, and cost-related risks surrounding the extraction and processing of natural resources.

By focusing on disassembly, recycling, and the recovery of materials from end-of-life products we can also address many of the issues associated with consumer and industrial waste. A successful transition towards a Circular Economy will require multidisciplinary, system-level approaches across product design, business models, and supply chains. Startups are in a unique position to test, validate and ultimately spearhead new circular solutions and will play a key role in this transition while Venture Capitalists will find unique, long-term, and high-impact investment opportunities.

5 Key

Chantal Emannuel

I think as a startup founder we often have a balance of knowledge and arrogance. Knowledge about our topic area, and arrogance to think that the way that things are done right now doesn’t make sense. And that we can change it.

Rekha Grennan

One of the stats that I saw on this was from the World Economic Forum, how only nine percent of the resources put into the economy are reused. And that’s a staggering, very minuscule number to me. So clearly, there’s need in the market and circularity hopefully would be the answer to that.

Anli Zhang

For me, I think it’s the products that we as designers create – you think about what kind of materials you put together, all kinds of design methods you will use, so the products will have second, third, fourth life.

Johan Schwind

I think a lot of industries have a hard time treating waste as a source of value. That’s where we see the role of startups because you can actually build new businesses around making sure materials can be reused and can become a new resource for manufacturing.

Rekha Grennan

The question is how do you get to accountability. One thing that’s important to recognize with many corporations is that their financial regulations are legal documents while CSR and sustainability reports are designated as marketing material. And that’s where we have very fungible metrics – there’s not a lot of transparency into how many corporations do their business.

Anli Zhang - Founder, World We Dare to Imagine

Chantal Emmanuel - CTO & Co-Founder, Limeloop

Johan Schwind - Managing Director, URBAN-X

Rekha Grennan - Founder & CEO, WorkSpherics

Johan Schwind  00:05

Welcome to circular city week 2022 and tonight’s panel on spearheading a circular transformation and the role of startups and VCs within that. Welcome to New York City if you’re traveling from out of town, and welcome to URBAN-X and Margalit Startup City. My name is Johan Schwind, I’m the Managing Director at URBAN-X. And it’s a real pleasure to welcome all of you here tonight. I should also say this is a little bit of a special occasion for us because it’s the first in person event that we’re doing in over two and a half years. And I’m really thrilled to see people in person. This used to be a big part of URBAN-X pre-pandemic. So we’re glad we can bring this back. For those of you who are unfamiliar with URBAN-X, we are a startup platform for founders and entrepreneurs who are tackling climate challenges and reimagining cities. We provide capital, network, and design and engineering expertise to those founders to help them grow their ideas into viable high-impact businesses.

I think when we talk about cities and we talk about climate, we also should talk about circularity. And circularity is something that was actually very close to our heart at URBAN-X from the very beginning. When we started in 2016, we invested in a company called Ambrosia – the founder Amanda was appalled by the fact that about 4 million tonnes of food waste go to landfills in the state of New York every year. As a solution, she came up with a new fermentation process that allows them to safely and locally process food waste and other organic waste where it’s created, extracting water in the process, and turning the waste into useful products like detergents and fertilizers. Their approach was so successful that they were recently acquired by a large recycling management firm.

More recently, we invested in a company called  PhucLabs. They use sophisticated machine learning and computer vision to separate materials that are traditionally hard to recycle, such as the materials used in lithium ion batteries. Their first application is to extract valuable metals such as nickel and copper, as well as polymers from these batteries, and use them for the manufacturing of new batteries. And lastly, we also recently invested in a company called lime lube, they take a system level approach to a problem that I think we’re all pretty familiar with, which is the piles of cardboard boxes in our hallways and on the curb, that are a result of the rapid growth of delivery services and e-commerce. And I’m really thrilled that we’re joined by Chantal Emannuel tonight who’s the CTO at Limeloop who’s going to tell us a little bit more about their unique approach. With that, I’d like to thank you again for joining us tonight. If you’d like to follow URBAN-X, please consider Subscribing to our newsletter on our website, urban Or follow us on social @urbanxaccel. Thanks again and I’ll hand over to Imke Myrick who will kick us off for a panel.

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Imke Myrick  04:42

Thank you Johan. And I can definitely share my excitement for the in-person events part. I am from Circular City Week. My name is Imke Myrick. I’m the Director of Circular City Week and we are located here in Brooklyn. And what we do is build public-private partnerships, established in business for companies from Denmark, creating meaningful partnerships. So this goes very much hand in hand, circular economy is very much rooted in the European countries already. And if there’s anything that we can share knowledge in collaborating with, with stakeholders overseas, then we are the first in line. But thank you so much for the introduction. I actually am a little curious to see who is in the audience. Before we start the panel. Are there any who are working with startups or maybe thinking about becoming a startup? Raise your head? Who is working with a company with less than 10? People? A couple. Who is working in a company a little bit bigger, up to 50 people? Okay, it’s almost as I’m out, and the big ones who’s over 50 people. Also a few ones, very nice. Now we kind of have laid out the audience who we’re talking to, because it’s very relevant for today’s discussion. We have a fantastic panel today. Strong Women, strong men as well. I love to see other females be a part of this circular agenda very much. You did great work already, save me some words because everything is written right there on this slide. But we have Emily, we have Chantal and we have Rekha, and Johan today, part of the panel. And I’m just gonna start right off with the first question. And now we’re talking about the circular economy as a focus area. And it is very much also related to climate change. And as we all know that a lot of the issues, the global challenges that we have, that creates climate change, there’s solutions, you can find the second economy. So I think by really focusing on the circular economy is a path forward, we can find a lot of the issues, and how to tackle the global issues right there. So I want to hear from you. So with fighting climate change, and circular economy as a tool to address the challenges, what unique roles up the status playing, and we see is playing. Who wants to go first?


Chantal Emmanuel  07:39

Hello, okay, perfect. So I can talk from the startup side of things. I think, as a startup founder, we also often have a balance of knowledge and arrogance. So knowledge about your area, your topic area, I’m a software engineer by trade, I know how to build products, and then I am arrogant to think that the way that things are done right now doesn’t make sense. And I can change it. So you gotta have that, that balance that comes together. And especially, we talked about climate change, the impact and the need for those changes to happen, making it really imperative that you bring that energy to the table. So people often ask me after talks like this, like how can I get involved? And how do I get involved in circularity, like, bring the knowledge you have whatever you’re doing, you don’t have to be an expert in circularity, or environmentalism or anything like that. You have to be an expert in what you do and bring that to the table. So I think as a startup, we’re able to do that and, and take on things that as a larger company, you might be afraid to try out.


Imke Myrick  08:31

Absolutely. It’s like, just get started. That’s what I hear a lot of times, just get started. You don’t have to be a circular economy expert to practice and contribute to circular solutions. Rekha?


Rekha Grennan  08:44

Sure. So I’ll give you a little bit of background about myself. So Rekha Grennan. I am the founder of a pre pre pre seed startup called works Forex right now. And it’s a platform that will hopefully provide an alternative resource for data collection gathering in the corporate space and helping drive accountability hopefully. So my background I’ve spent about 15 years in corporate working at big companies like Pfizer j&j Most recently, Cisco, and working specifically on CSR, sustainability issues, and, and reporting. So that’s where circularity really has come in for me. I think the other side of that is I’ve spent, you know, probably a reasonable career in politics. I’ve been a part of two startups as a first employee that both had different exits. And I’ve worked at nonprofit and, and then in between all of that I’ve done some consulting. So a lot of looking for answers to problems. And I think one thing I would say too, is that, you know, the, the key, you know, question to capitalism is find a way to meet the demand you know, and answer the markets. So one of the stats that I saw on this was a I think it was World Economic Forum, how to report and nine percent of the resources put into the economy are reused. And that’s a staggering, very miniscule number to me. So clearly, there’s need in the market and circularity hopefully would be the answer to that.


Imke Myrick  10:13

Thank you, and only you are the founder of World We Dare to Imagine. And I think that’s very fitting following what you just said, because you’re talking about that consumer part, and influencers play a huge role in shifting the paradigm around consumption. And I know, Anli, that you’re doing some great work on that part. Can you explain more about that?


Anli Zhang  10:35

Yeah. So I’m the founder of World We Dare to Imagine. So it’s a nonprofit NGO, we’ve tried to bring a generation of people who have the courage to imagine a world that’s quite different from where we are right now. By educating, leading and uniting them to discuss the central questions that we have today, like climate change, what a circular economy is. And for me, when I think about the circular economy, it’s more of a way of life. And it’s not just the physical products that we use. And for me, I think it’s the products that we as designers, you think about what kind of materials you put together, all kinds of design methods you will use. So the products will have second, third, fourth life. But on the intangible side, for me circularity means everyone here is a designer of some sort, in different stages of the design process of a product service and experience. And the questions you might ask could be, how can we design a diversity inclusion strategy to a company or a startup at the very beginning? Because ultimately, if we have that right system in place, it will feed to the bottom line, and therefore it goes back to the loop. It’s doing the right thing.


Imke Myrick  12:19

Yeah. Thank you and you very much alright, touch about that holistic approach that we need and circa economy to really make a difference. And innovation is huge. Like we need systemic innovation across not just like product innovation, it’s also innovation in the way businesses are built. And I know Johan, you with an URBAN-X, innovation, it’s to your heart. Can you put a few more words to that part and how systemic innovation across all sectors plays a role?


Johan Schwind  12:50

Yeah, I think there’s a there’s a couple aspects to this one, what Rekha said really struck a chord, which is that most industry are not circular, right? Most industries are linear industries. And traditionally, they have blackbox, the sourcing of material and the waste that they create. And the waste, ideally, they’ve shipped off to the consumer to deal with. I think that’s changing a little bit because of more stringent, ESG standards. So companies are actually being forced to look at where does our stuff come from? Where does it go? I think a lot of large industries have a hard time treating that as a source of value. And I think that’s where we see the role of startups because you can actually build new businesses around, making sure materials can be reused and can be a new source for manufacturing as in the example I had earlier of batteries. And you can derive value from what others treat as waste. And I think this value is going to grow as we put a cost on things like climate change and environmental pollution. And I think if there’s a growth of value, VCs see an opportunity, especially if it’s what 90% of industries that are not working in in a circular way. I think there’s huge opportunity there. The other thing I would say is that I think startups have the opportunity to build links between traditional silos. So the company I mentioned earlier on Broza, at some point, they actually got waste haulers of New York City to pay them to drop off organic waste at their facilities. They turned it into fertilizer, and then they sold that fertilizer to the parks department for reuse in the city. So that’s a really great example of like a connection that hasn’t existed before. And it took a startup to build that system. And I think what we see very often is that both corporations and other large organizations don’t necessarily have the right toolkit, to build these connections to build these new businesses to derive value in these processes.


Imke Myrick  14:59

Thank you And I think also might just for my background, I am originally from Germany, I grew up in Denmark. But what I see also from the US side is that the European side is also here and it’s sometimes very difficult for a large corporation to then do the switch over to circular practices. Where else, you know, like what URBAN-X is doing a lot of, especially in New York has a fantastic use system, where circular startups companies are built from the ground. So they are born circular, instead to become circular. Chantal, know you have also been on a fantastic journey with lime blue, can you can you share with us how that journey was?


Chantal Emmanuel  15:40

So I started working on lime loop back in 2017, with my business partner, and essentially, we felt like it didn’t make sense for when you order something online, that the packaging that’s used for maybe a day to days, if you have a slower shipping lives in a landfill forever, it just, it just didn’t make sense and boggle their mind. And, and we were all part of the problem, right? I would have these early conversations to be circling my kitchen, I have a stack of the broken down boxes behind my garbage pail. And so we knew that reusability, as you said, is a whole system. So it’s not enough to just design a reusable package, which we did. The system had to be adjusted to work for that. And so you guys probably hearing a lot about supply chain issues and reverse logistics issue. So now we’re putting a product into the system that has to come back every single time. And retailers are like what are how are we supposed to do that. And so that’s where technology comes in. So just to describe line loop, we describe it as everything retailers need to ship to sustainably. It’s a three pronged approach. So it’s reusable package that we’ve designed that can be used over 200 trips. And so essentially gets mailed out to the consumer, you take out your product, there’s a prepaid label in there, you just flip over and then you drop that in your mailbox at home or any blue bin goes back to that retailer and they use the same packaging over and over again, if we were to drop 10,000 packages to any retailer tomorrow, they either sit in that warehouse or they’d sit in consumers homes. And so we build out a technology software to go around gluco with that as well. So tracking the location send you those reminder emails, when you forget to drop it back in the bin, we can take advantage, the long lifecycle actually put hardware centers in them too. So knowing that your groceries that you got delivered half an hour before the eggs are no longer good, or that the pharmaceuticals that you’re shipping are self stable, and as well as the location when the packet is open. And so what we look at it as kind of a two pronged approach. One is, is what allows us to make it more sustainable, but also allows us to allow sustainability be the key to learning more about what’s going on, in and around the packet. So now, sustainability is not a nice to have, but it’s what allows us to do more. And I think until we’re able to make that the conversation as opposed to just a green box or checking, we’re never gonna be able to scale up at all.


Imke Myrick  17:43

Right now, this green box checking. I’ve heard that multiple times. I’ve been to quite a few events this week. And we haven’t known that we have 120 events within circular economy this week. So you can keep yourself very busy. But this is exactly the key it’s it’s never checking a box, it is keep measuring what is the impact, and then you have the next box even you have to you have to adjust you have to keep measuring and then it is it is a journey. That’s why we always say this a journey because like you have to constantly make changes in order to get there where you want to be or there’s maybe there’s there’s even a goal because like we get slim the very much in the beginning of like what is circularity? Like how like we have to find the right partnerships or a couple of collaborations. So it’s a constant journey. Right? Yeah, you have 15 plus years in the cover of a corporate world and experience. And you also work as an ESG. Advisor, could you share from a little bit of the perspectives from a large corporates, and maybe you can also give some advices to especially the ones in the audience who are working in a larger cooperate on where to start and how to attack circularity?


Rekha Grennan  18:59

Sure. It is a journey, for sure. We a few of us were talking a little bit before the panel started. Working in this space in corporate over the last two, roughly decades has been largely a journey of incremental ism. So as the market demands companies to become more sustainable, more socially responsible, working in pharmaceuticals, it’s making your drugs available to those who can’t afford them. And a big part of what we did at Pfizer was thinking about how to make them available in the developing and developed developing countries, which in some cases meant hiring people to take backpacks and full of medicines and then literally sit in a village center and distribute them across names off of a list. So that that’s the expense extent that supply chain can go. The issue is it’s one it’s consumer demand. There’s not enough of it. We’re getting there. But misinformation is also a huge problem in there. Marketing is a big problem. You know, ESG still for corporates is really still about reporting. And we’re still working through the public comment period with the SEC, Europe is leading on reporting. The question is how do you get to accountability. And the one thing that’s important to recognize with corporates is that, you know, their financial regulations are legal documents. So there’s a compliance and regulatory oversight piece of that they can get sued by shareholders, CSR and sustainability reports are designated as marketing material. And they have the level of oversight to them. Now legal does review them as they review all marketing departments, but they have the same oversight as marketing material, non compliance material. And so that’s where it’s really important to think about in a world where we have very fungible metrics, there’s not a lot of transparency into how corporations do their business. We’re taking their word for it. And as someone on the inside, who’s constantly thinking about how do you move a large global ship, Pfizer was in 169 countries, Cisco is something similar to that, between 70 and 125,000 employees, it starts at the top. And I think we’re seeing a lot more of that in the last two weeks. But these companies have systems upon systems upon systems in place. And if it doesn’t fit with the system, a lot of them I mean, let’s think about the airlines. They work on these really antiquated systems that were created 30 years ago, way before the internet. So when you think about that, you really have to think about reinvention, from the inside out, and the outside in. So there’s the outside pressure, there’s the vendors who come to the table startups providing new solutions, thinking about the problems that they need to solve from Product Management from a supply chain from a value chain. But then there’s also the change and the drive from within the company. And right now, as a consultant in this space, I don’t talk about change with the company, I don’t put my time in, unless I know that the senior leadership is on board. So I’ve had as a consultant, I’ve had conversations with companies starting their sustainability journey, saying, Is your CFO gonna be in the room? Is your ce o gonna be in the room? Where’s your CEO on this? What are your leadership communications? Like? Where does this fit in your cultural value chain? How much? How prepared? Are you to change how you incentivize your employees? Those are all really critical questions, as we think about companies, they’re in this space. So they’re going to engage in pilots as well. There’s a lot of great companies out there great brands that we know that are piloting products, are they prepared to take their learnings that they’ve had from those new circular products, and translate translate those learnings across every single product in their portfolio? We’re talking 1000s of products for some of these companies, Nike, how many pairs of sneakers they produce a year, you know, so it’s great that they’re piloting. And they get a lot of brand recognition for that. And it’s about brand reputation, but they got to drive it forward, that green box.


Imke Myrick  23:14

So true. And I just feel challenged a little bit because I’m also thinking, what can we do like, sometimes it’s maybe a little challenging to break through to that right person that makes the right decision and the right company, but I also believe is very much about building up the pressure, like almost like laying the past so where they almost don’t have any choices to make that decision that is needed to go and choose become more so damaged or parkas. And and the I know you you are, I could say it influenza, right, somehow. Yeah, I think so. And, and I know that you also like consult startups on how to become more sustainable and looking at soccer as solutions. What specifically, do you advise startups that are looking into becoming a circular startup or in terms of what tools they need to become more sustainable?


Anli Zhang  24:09

Just a little bit background before this, not world we dare to imagine is a nonprofit that I started but before I fully work on this full time, I was with epic Foundation, social impact arm of a consumer tech growth stage VC bliss founded by a friend entrepreneur, Alexon Mars. So this VC was the first B Corp certified VC in Europe. And they looked into ESG focused startups. And while you look into this, startups, and then you think, okay, how do we even start as consumers as investors? So I think about this as individual If we think about how we eat, what we eat, we breathe in and where we live, how we live, and what kind of transportation we use how we travel. So break down to these little bits of activities that we do every day. And then you can look into different startups solutions, and an investor as investors, you have a range of different startups that solves different parts, different, different, different problems in the entire supply chain. So startups like so for example, what you what you eat every day, right? And five years ago, only the milk wasn’t even didn’t really exist. And now it’s everywhere. And this is like part of the solution. And then there’s also the fabrics that we wear every day, especially with the fashion industry, and what kind of materials, alternative materials or we can use for the handbag for the, for the leather. So that’s one component. And then also, I’m sure urban next set, you know, works on mobility and transportation aspect, there are many solutions for it could be the very at the very beginning stage of the raw material, or how do you accelerate the supply chain and make it more efficient? So as investors, there are a range of startups to investing and also seeing how can we solve the problem holistically, not just one problem, like, I, my personal interest is in the fashion industry. And I see it as you can, let’s say h&m, you can provide a resale platform to sell clothes secondhand, but what about the raw material? What kind of biotech material startups are out there that you can invest in support? So we can have a we don’t have to use leathers anymore? Things like that. Yeah. And so I think, as consumers, we just have to continue to advocate for those startups, advocate for investors, activist investors to invest those startups. And then on the other hand, will vote with our wallet, and is to not buy buy less, but save up in overtime and investing products that might have premium cost. But that’s the way to demonstrate the investors that these models work. And it will make it it’s doing the right thing and also making the bottom line.


Imke Myrick  27:59

Yes. Please tell us more about what can we do to make the investors better understand the need for investments for in climate solutions.


Johan Schwind  28:13

I actually wanted to build quickly on what worker said and what unleased said, I think, yes, we can spend smarter, but we also have to acknowledge that our entire economy and industry is built on the incentives of fossil fuels, right. So every industry builds on cheap energy, cheap transportation, cheap polymers that are incentivized by the fossil fuel industry. And I think that’s something we have to tackle because otherwise, there’s never going to be a level playing field for any alternative solutions. And there’s a lot of very powerful people who tried to keep the oil price down to perpetuate that industry, right. And so I think as as, as people, we have the power to vote for politicians who can push better regulation. I think, in New York, we have a great example, which is local law 97, which is a climate regulation that essentially requires buildings in the city to reduce their co2 footprint with very specific goals. And this has created a whole market in the Prop tech space for startups to come up with alternative solutions to you know, heat buildings to cool buildings to retrofit existing building stock. So once you have that regulation in place, the incentives shift, they shift away from fossil fuels, and they shift towards alternative technologies that are better. And I think similar things can happen for a lot of industries, where then we can move towards a more circular economy. And


Rekha Grennan  29:44

if I can, if I can just build on what Johan is saying. I think one thing that’s really important to me is that with the discussions about unions and worker voice that is becoming a really powerful voice. And I think the big thing is said, and I’ve always said this, well, I’m not just a worker, I am a consumer, I’m a mother, I am a resident, we have all I’m a voter, we have all these roles that we fill. And it’s really easy to get overwhelmed with all the noise and the Doom scrolling. And I’m guilty of that, too. But it’s about really focusing our attention on the, on the points and the information, the digging a level deeper, that is really important. Because in all of those roles we play, we actually do have power and influence. And it makes me laugh when I hear fossil fuel companies talk about net zero, because they’re not talking about scope three, which are all the emissions that result out of all of the uses of their products. So I mean, that’s just that’s kind of a joke when you hear them talk about that. But it sounds good. Sounds great. But that’s where you know, I think, hopefully, with work, spirits will start to empower that voice on multiple levels.


Chantal Emmanuel  30:58

And then if I can add on to that, as well. So we’re in the middle of a seed round. So I have a lot of investor experience right now. And I think the other thing that we hear a lot is pushback from this point of view of isn’t this a big consumer behavior change? And it’s like, yes, it should be but and then there’s this fear. And then like, anything worth doing should be attained. Otherwise, we’re just replicating the same systems over and over. But as sometimes as investors, you know, you hear that you think, a lot of time a lot of resources like, yes, yes, like that. Those are all things that are built into making real change and necessary change. So I think the faster that you all accept that, and, and on the flip side of that consumers do want it. So it’s a consumer change that’s desirable. And being asked for that, yes, will take time, and effort, but it’s necessary, and we don’t really have any other choice, otherwise, we’re going to continue to stay the same route.


Imke Myrick  31:45

Yes. And on that note, like, I think that is maybe a nice bridge to talk about, I was just want to talk a little bit about like the Portland’s of like building the partnerships. And I know that in iMovie have some great experience because like, the partnership is such an essential part. And I think that contributes to to the demand of meeting the demand or like the building up the pressure even for them. But it also opens up some new opportunities.


Chantal Emmanuel  32:14

Definitely, yeah, so the very nature of being circular means that a lot of different people and components have to touch whatever you’re doing. And so one of the things we did very early on is literally map out the entire journey of our package from development, to shipping to fulfillment to reverse logistics, and decided what parts of this we needed to own today, what parts of it we needed to own in the future, and what part of it we needed to partner with. And we have like a list of all these partners that we want to work with and things across the whole board. And one of the things that I love working in circularity, as I feel like collectively, there is not ironically enough the the desire to share and to work together. And there’s not this silo that sometimes happen, especially within the tech industry. And so we’ve been able to make some really key partnerships from the filament centers to you know, we’re working on some carrier partnerships, folks, to get the packages back, obviously, it’s a lot more sustainable and cost effective to send back 50 packages and sink 50 into individual ones. So who can we partner with to do that as well. And then partnerships on the sales side as well. And you touched on that we were talking about this before. So we take the approach of Yeah, it’s really easy to get the head of innovation to have a conversation with us. And to even get a pilot, I always tell founders, pilots are easy scale ups are where the challenge come in. And so we know that we need for us, it’s the CMO, CFO, the head of sustainability, and then we need to at least have a conversation with a CEO, CEO or some knowledge that they know that we’re coming in, because we’re changing things like we are changing the way your fulfillment center is working or changing the way that your consumers are engaging with your product. So if everyone across the board is not either aware of us, but more so collectively involved in the adjustments that have to happen, we know we’re just wasting our time and spinning our wheels. So it’s really about making sure that we’re having those conversations early and often with those folks.


Imke Myrick  34:00

Totally. And you know, on the term of partnerships, because maybe you can answer this question. Because you we’re looking at like, creating value on long term. That’s why the right partnership is not just like a partnership, but you have to build the right partnership. And that can be challenging, it can be very difficult. And can you maybe share some some advice for the future companies here? On? What do they have to look out for to find the right partnerships or really create value?


Rekha Grennan  34:30

Yeah, I mean, I think the I mean, like with a lot of answers that depends, which is that I hate that answer. But I think you know, it comes down to the How well do you know your space? Right? And how well do you know the people you’re partnering with? Yes, there’s that age old adage, it comes down to relationships. But how long is that relationship actually going to be in a position to influence your outcomes? Is that the right relationship to solve problems that that develop in your ecosystem and problem is always happen. You know, from a funding perspective, is that a funder that really believes in the same outcomes that you do? Or are they looking for a different type of outcome? And are they being honest about that? And are they being honest about a timeline? Those are the questions I think from like, as we look at lists of partnerships, what are the key criteria that are going to really ultimately drive us to success. And the number one thing I always push is transparency, both on all sides. And that’s unfortunately, I think, a really hard place to get to. And I think you know, where I talked about wanting to meet with a CEO, we need to be honest and transparent about what it’s going to take to get to success, this, these are not easy wins. And oftentimes, when we go into companies, or we go into business units as an internal change agent, we go into business unit, they’re like, great, so what are my KPIs? How do I get there? How long is it going to take? Can I do this in a quarter? Can I do it in six months or two quarters? And you have to be able to be honest and say, No, I don’t know. It could take, you know, five years. And that’s a really long timeline. And that leader might not honestly think he’s going to be in that role for more than six months, let alone a year. Because if they’re ambitious, they’re probably aren’t going to want to get promoted, and be in some other part of the company. And if you’re in a company like Pepsi, where you have divisions, you know, that have, you know, vastly different products, one week, you’re working on potato chips, and the next week, you’re working on oatmeal. So these are realities on the corporate side. And that’s one of the reasons why I think, you know, as an internal change agent I’ve been advocating for, for change ecosystems. So not only do you have to drive business innovation and integration, so that your company strategy is really got a deep infusion at every metric around innovation and driving things like circularity net zero, that you’re creating an ecosystem to drive that. And a lot of times we were talking about this, too, is like you meet somebody at a conference. And they are the procurement agent for whatever it is that you do. And they’re like, Oh, that’s great. Yeah, give me your card. Yeah, we got a ton of people who do that. The reality is, is they don’t they know nothing about you know, nothing about why your particular service is important. But they have to be incentivized to do that. And if they’re not going to, you know, have that meeting, and somebody else has to, and it’s gonna be incentivized in the company to have those meetings. And in a space like circularity, we’re getting 9% Of all the resources we use in the world, and all the things we put into the economy are being reused. There’s a lot of room for improvement. And so that’s where we’ve really got to drive these ecosystems within the corporation to push for the systems change. Because if you change one aspect, whether it’s the packaging, it’s going to have implications, left, right, and center. So that’s the biggest piece, and I think it’s pushing for that knowing who your partners are in a supply chain, for example, who are the other companies that are working towards the same metrics that can fill a gap in that in that circle?


Anli Zhang  38:05

Can I just add really quick, if I could represent the younger generation that’s coming up, I want to emphasize this phrase called radical transparency. Now, it’s not just transparency, we really wanted to know, we asked hard questions. And sometimes the startups I talked to and I asked the questions, what did you mean by sustainability on your website? And the founders couldn’t answer that. And this is, you can fake it for a while. But going forward, we really wanted to know the truth, and you can’t really hide it in the future were all going to.


Imke Myrick  38:47

And I think I also want to add to that trust, like you have to trust your partner. And sometimes it comes down to your gut feelings is that a person even, maybe not even that company or that solution, but is that person someone that I want to continue a journey with? So I think trust is also a piece, your own gut feeling in for it to be impactful and meaningful? You have to you have some add ons to this. Otherwise,


Johan Schwind  39:16

I do just just very briefly, I think it’s it’s very compelling. And I’ve, I’ve worked for a large corporation, and we’re part of BMW Group. So I know the insides of of what corporates look like, as well. And I would say is, it’s always very compelling to go after the big brand names as a startup. It’s also very compelling to go after the big cities like trying to sell to New York City or San Francisco or, you know, cities in Europe. I think the problem with that is what Rekha said, like you are talking to, not necessarily the decision makers, and most likely you’re talking to people who won’t be there for a very long time. I think a lot of our startups have found success in it. I’m kind of the second and third tier cities, but also companies who are more closely aligned with their mission. who are maybe not the largest corporations, but smaller enterprises. The example of fuq labs I mentioned is they are working with battery recycling companies. They are not the massive battery manufacturers. But that’s a great stepping stone. And there is a lot of kind of value and mission alignment with these businesses that you can find, which I think is is valuable, long term for any for any startup.


Imke Myrick  40:35

Thank you. And we have a few more minutes. And I really want to open up for questions from the audience. And then I think we can after that, slowly go over and and wrap it up soon. Any questions from the audience? Anything you’re curious about? Now’s your chance. Yes.


Audience 1  40:58

Thank you so much for the discussion. I’m UK, urban data science at NYU. And I have little background in research. The speakers about circular cities, I want to ask more about the city. What do you think is the role of city as the government in terms of policy and legislative actions? Like? What do you think is the role of city as an ecosystem of the complex cultural values that the city has endured?


Imke Myrick  41:29

That’s a big question.


Johan Schwind  41:30

I can talk I can talk to that a little bit, I think. So we are urban. Next we we said from the get go like cities is where we want to focus. For a number of reasons. I think one reason that’s becoming very apparent to everyone is like cities are at the center of climate change, right, there is 75% of emissions globally. And almost 70% of people will live in cities and urban areas. So both climate mitigation and climate adaptation is going to happen in cities. So we have the biggest levers for a lot of things that we want to address in terms of sustainability, within cities. I also like that, to think that cities are a good kind of size for people to feel like they can have a tangible impact on like, problems that we can describe, right, it’s very hard to fix climate change at a global scale. For any individual, it’s even hard to fix it at a at a country scale. Or at a state scale. We feel like cities are something where we can say, Okay, we have some specific problems, and you can look at every city individually and identify these problems, and you can work on them. And there can be some some measurable impact.


Imke Myrick  42:45

And I think I can also just add to that, like the CDs are often seen as like, if you can, the CD is a good starting point, because they can they can be the enabler for something bigger. And I think this circuit that in a CD, you have the ecosystem, you can because very much again, it’s about the collaboration, and have everybody on board, if you want to really do a change towards Circular Economy chanta, you


Chantal Emmanuel  43:09

Especially when cities are known for particular things on the legislation side, it can be really impactful. So I know, for example, there’s a couple of bills in New York around fashion industry and being able to, you know, not only say exactly what’s going on, but what are you doing with your waist. And while it’s one city, when a majority of fashion companies have a lot of business going on here that would have to qualify for that bill, if it goes through, they’re not just gonna say change it for New York, they’re gonna change it globally. And so when you can really tap into what your city is known for the impact that you have instantly becomes global, because you can’t just do it in one place. Similarly, we get a lot of outreach from the EU and UK because there’s a lot of different legislation around waste management. So you can’t just put your carpets on the consumer and have them figure it out. Like you get fined for that. So they’re looking to us to say how do we avoid doing that? So these these changes that you make locally become a really global change very quickly.


Rekha Grennan  44:00

I would just add, so I’m a New York City resident, and I’ve recently just purchased a home and my recycling goes out on my curb every Wednesday night every Wednesday morning. My husband does it actually. Division of labor, but he we have to sort it I mean, we have to be really careful about what goes in there because there are inspectors who come around and they will find us $200 And I was as I was walking over here today my neighbor was sorting through her tenants recycling and pulling the plastic bags out that had paper bags inside them because she will get fined the SuperS on our corners all do it so you know the fines and the compliance aspects are really are there. I’m also I bought a very old house that needs new everything and so when we’re redoing our electrical, we’re capping our gas line and we’re putting in solar panels. And because the city made it affordable the city and the state made it affordable to do that because the reality is, you know I work in sustainability. I am not independently wealthy. And so that is a factor for us. But, you know, we got recognized the pay off rates, but the city legislation, I think, again, it’s an ecosystem, the enabling environment can be really important to look for the right enabling environment.


Imke Myrick  45:14

Yes. And I think that’s a great note to wrap it up. Any more questions? Yes, please.


Audience 2  45:23

A lot of big corporations now, saying the right things, ticking the green boxes and making big promises for 10 or 20, or 30 years down the line? Are there any that you see as having made tangible progress already? That you could look to as great examples, more than just we’re gonna go net zero by 2070,


Chantal Emmanuel  45:50

you probably tell from our face. What I can say from from what we’ve seen is, anyone who started that, from the very beginning is on a really great path and have already done a lot I would say the conversations we have with a lot of large corporations that I’m not gonna name any names that have made these promises, have no idea how they’re even going to start to scratch the surface on making them a reality. And so on the good side, they are making efforts and reaching out to place people like us to solve those problems. But it’s not something that’s spelled out what’s also create a huge opportunity, especially if you’re looking to get into circularity to be that answer. And I think kind of going full circle back to partnerships, is leading with your value prop. And so I know that your goal is to do XY and Z by A, B and C, I can get you X percent of that by A B and C like comm with that goal in mind, because that’s exactly what they’re looking for. I think a lot of times startups have them, what their their goals in mind, and we really want this logo you want to get this but like if you flip that around to know what their goals and how you can impact that in a very strategic number wise, it’s a great opportunity as well. So to spin that positively.


Imke Myrick  46:58

And I think that’s something really good too, for everybody to take with home is to keep that in mind and really seeing it where can I make an impact and come up with like a strategic solutions, how to implement it on every level in a business. I think those those are also some of the key points that we can take away from this conversation we touch upon a lot of a lot of points, everything from partnerships over on the larger corporate side for starters, what they can do, and I hope that we can continue this conversation  and provide some, some food and some drinks.