There are multiple ways we can intervene in the current business system in order to support change toward better environmental and social outcomes. One of these ways is to scale small initiatives that have the potential to create significant change in the current ways business operates. This is particularly effective where these ‘disruptors’ also act as commercial demonstrators to traditional organisations and inspiration for other emergent entities by proving the case for alternative forms of business.
I have a portfolio of these ‘disruptors’ that I currently coach from seed stage until first significant funding. This means taking them through a structured programme of business development, drawing on IDEO, LEAN and my own start-up experience across multiple sectors and stages of new business building. The programme is underpinned my three key principles: fail fast, engage early and rapidly build credibility. This means we work closely together to:
- Identify and engage potential customers to establish and build the business toward meeting real needs,
- Set-up of a series of experiments where the team can quickly configure and test different operating methodologies, and
- Understand how the market operates, where the gaps are and which organisations could inform and, even better, certify the set-up.
This is underpinned by regular ‘pivoting’ as we reconfigure the business model to meet emerging needs and cost structures. It is supported by work around vision, team dynamics, business basics and fundraising.
Two oranisations in my portfolio are currently seeking an extension of their seed funding. They are:
Clotho London: The destination for sustainable fashion. http://www.clotholondon.co.uk/
Set-up by two recent graduates from Imperial College (who worked together as Chemistry lab partners) this business aims to create a secondary market for good, used clothing. It is a simple technology platform built on the principle of clothes swapping. It provides young women with a more sustainable option for quality fashion choices. Clotho thereby works towards preventing new purchases of high-street brands and reducing the 350,000 tonnes of used clothing that goes to landfill in the UK every year. They currently operate collections at 3 UK Universities and are rapidly growing a loyal customer base. They are looking to raise investment to fund operational costs as they scale their service.
Vesco: Developing sustainable feed systems. https://vescofeed.wordpress.com (under-development)
Vesco has been set-up by four classmates from the Imperial College Environmental Technology MSc programme. They are developing a sustainable ‘insect-based’ animal feed designed to mitigate the environmental and biodiversity impacts of contemporary soy and fishmeal-based feeds. They aim to harness the efficiency of insects in converting organic waste into high-quality nutrients and are running a number of experiments to rear fly larvae on a variety of organic wastes. They are working closely alongside high-profile potential customers to co-develop product specifications and a unique, ‘circular’ offering and are in the process of organising trials for pilot products. Vesco is looking or funding to allow further development of the concept by paying a base wage to the team.
Both these worthwhile organisations will effect change in the existing systems they operate within – clothing and food – through demonstrating initiative, possibility and trialing new business models. Any funding or other suggestions to scale and support these worthwhile organisations would be appreciated.
Alternatively, if you are a young enterprise with a good idea towards a positive shared future or an investor/accelerator/incubator with disruptors in your funding portfolio that need help in clarifying their business models towards delivering scalable impact – please do get in touch.