Don’t wait, Incubate!
15 November 2019 - Impact Hub Basel
The second round of the Circular Economy Incubator launched this past week in four of the Impact Hubs in Switzerland (Zurich, Bern, Geneva and Lausanne). This year again, Basel is playing a supporting role, giving startups in the area an opportunity to apply to any of the four Impact Hubs involved, while still being able to work out of our brand new space. Basel aims to join the program in its third iteration, when our Community Coworking & Event Space is more established and other offers are finalized.

November seems to be the month of celebration for Impact Hub Basel (hope you’re joining our Grand Opening Party on the 22!), and this Launch event was no exception. Jose Silva, the Program Director for the Circular Economy Incubator, officially launched the second round of the program, and gave an overview of the first year’s progress. Over 150+ startups applied for the CE Incubator in Switzerland and 25+ startups were incubated, involving 20+ partner organizations and engaging 50+ mentors and experts. Not too shabby for the first ever CE incubator worldwide. Such a response was to be expected though – the CE Incubator offers qualified startups 12 weeks to develop a minimum viable product and business model implementing circular solutions.

Better yet, the CE Incubator is only one aspect of the Circular Economy Transition program, which includes research and policy recommendations for the public sector, a Business Lab for established companies, and community building around the circular economy for the public. All this coolness is making my head spin. Totally on brand for a program promoting circularity.

After an overview of the CE Incubator and its related offers, we got to hear from successful startups in the first round of the program. Our dear friends, Direct Coffee, started off the evening with an overview of their company and background – sustainable coffee from Ethiopia, connecting the consumer directly to coffee producers and farmers. Their coffee is smooth, and their capsules biodegradable – what more do you need? The CE Incubator program helped them work with mentors and connect to a wider audience, validating their ideas and implementation. Their advice for future startups in the program? Be ready to fail. Failure is progress, because even knowing that one idea does not work is beneficial in the long run.

Kompotoi, a company creating better public toilets (five of which are featured on site at our coworking space!) pitched next. Their idea of an odorless public toilet that also helps the environment is a definite need at any music festival, street parade, or large gathering. Applying the circular theme, the physical waste produced from these toilets is cleaned and synthesized into a natural fertilizer, also sold through the company. That’s some good shit. The CE Incubator allowed Kompotoi to prepare for investors, and learn effective marketing skills, boosting the strength of their business.

Leihlager, a local startup, followed, with their idea of opening a “library of things” in Basel. Pushing consumers to borrow items instead of buying them, their idea is to reuse products as much as possible, thereby reducing production waste and ensuring existing products actually be used, versus just sitting on a shelf. Their crowdfunding project (almost fully funded) is going on for another few days. The CE Incubator program helped Leihlager manage expectations and come up with productive avenues to raise money.

La Manivelle, based in Geneva, had a similar concept. With a storefront up and running, 190 members, and over 1000 items to borrow, the team made good use of the CHF 20’000 they raised through crowdfunding. And all this in 9 months. I might need to visit and “borrow” some business advice. The CE Incubator helped La Manivelle develop their idea and business plan further, as well as their social media and technical presence, to further their commitment to create a community-based platform.

Lastly, terrabiom got their chance to shine with their idea of developing a prebiotic for soil, to improve beneficial microorganism efficacy in agriculture. The CE Incubator program helped terrabiom problem-solve, conduct consumer testing, and focus on one specific idea of their overall goal, to increase their impact.

The event concluded with IHBasel’s usual spread of delicious food and wine, this time going full Mediterranean with hummus, meat skewers, and other dips to be enjoyed with generous helpings of red and white wine.

If you’re interested in the CE Incubator, don’t forget to apply before December 15, or join the Opening Ceremony in Zurich on Feb 7, 2020. Exciting times ahead, so to keep informed, sign up for our newsletter here. To become more involved with IH Basel, join us as a member – info here.

Caroline Steiblin