5 Sustainability-Focused Startups Showcased at Impact Kommons’ First Demo Day 

By Sanika Kulkarni 

The corporate innovation program is focusing on increasing innovation while considering CSR goals and impact. 

Last week, Eureka Nova hosted its first Impact Kommons Digital Hybrid Demo Day in association with the New World Group, DBS, and other partners. Eureka Nova, the innovation wing of Hong Kong conglomerate New World Group, launched the Impact Kommons accelerator to provide greater resources to startups in sustainability and ultimately work sustainable practices into the conglomerate’s operations. 

“New World Sustainability Vision 2030” 

The Impact Kommons event showcased five startups in Hong Kong that aim to fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals by creating impactful solutions for businesses. The startups were  provided with mentorship, coaching, and referral opportunities. 

The New World Group’s “New World Sustainability Vision 2030” involves working toward four specific UN SDGs:  ‘Good health and wellbeing,’ ‘Sustainable cities and communities,’ ‘Quality education,’ and ‘Partnership for the goals.’ The Group pledged to reduce its carbon and energy intensity by 50% in its 2030 vision for the company. 

Hybrid demo day 

At a time where it is difficult to host an event like this in person, Eureka Nova made effective use of technology to engage the online audience. This event is the first “hybrid day” conducted by the company, and featured pre-recorded presentations from the five teams about their respective solutions, seamlessly followed by a live 5-minute Q&A session with each startup. 

En-trak 

En-trak is a company founded in 2013 that aims to provide Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to businesses in order to increase their energy efficiency. 

The En-trak system allows landlords to optimize the tenant experience with a personalized app that can allow tenants to control the air conditioning in their offices more precisely. In this way, energy waste is being controlled relative to individual preference and usage, rather than a centralized system that is continuously being operated regardless of specific needs. For instance, by integrating En-trak into a building, a single office should be able to control the air conditioning in a meeting room to only switch on five minutes before a meeting takes place.

The startup’s pilot program at the Eureka Nova office proved effective, showing a 13.2% reduction in AC costs and a 38.6% reduction in lighting costs. 

Urban Spring 

Urban Spring, established in 2015 aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles through a network of reliable IoT-enabled water refill stations all around the city. The team addresses the decades of advertising that have led people to believe that bottled water is safer, and promises a sustainable and equally safe alternative. 

These smart water stations have been designed to be professional-looking and inviting. According to the startup, any hygiene concerns are addressed with the smart design, and there is an LCD display counting the number of plastic bottles that have been saved through using the dispenser. 

The startup has already successfully installed 240 water stations around schools, universities and malls in Hong Kong, and saved almost 4 million plastic bottles. In the future, it hopes to present an outdoor model of the water station that could be powered by a solar panel to maximize sustainability. 

Catalyser

Catalyser is a SaaS startup that allows companies to engage in community activity by managing their corporate impact. It can be difficult for businesses to manage an effective corporate social responsibility program, as it is relatively harder to scale these initiatives given the available resources.

This startup provides a platform for company-wide charity initiatives. Employees can donate to charities, sponsor fundraising challenges for teammates, and  participate in team-building exercises that make a difference. 

The platform also generates program reports and “giving portfolios” for companies to properly track their initiatives and statistics. Their clients have reported 60% reductions in administrative work through Catalyser’s automated workflows.

AESIR Ltd. 

AESIR is a company founded in 2015 that seeks to address the lack of special education resources in Hong Kong. It employs augmented reality to create games and interactive solutions for individuals with special education needs (SEN), a market in which AESIR’s Founder, Zero Wong, believes there is a wide gap between supply and demand. 

The startup has already developed 30+ games that provide children with autism, attention disorders and hearing disabilities with tools to enhance their learning experience. They also have a SEN portal in development to help individuals and educators. 

Amid the ongoing health crisis, there has been a surge in demand for online learning resources and platforms, which may provide AESIR with an opportunity to develop solutions for this market in the near future. 

Lify Wellness 

The world is turning toward traditional wellness remedies, herbal drinks, and mindfulness practises. Particularly in Southeast Asia, where there is a strong culture of herbal remedies, there is a significant market for products serving this space. 

Lify Wellness has developed a beverage system powered by AI: a machine that freshly brews wellness beverages. Referring to the machine as a “Nespresso for wellness,” the machine has a brewing system and capsules need to be attached to it in order for the drink to be served. The machine uses IoT features such as personalized brewing depending on the consumer’s health needs.

The AI technology also gives recommendations according to real time weather and based on the company’s research in traditional Chinese medicine theories, and also involves the input of  herbal scientists and dieticians. The Lify herbal discs are made with 100% biodegradable materials and the contents are 100% natural and raw herbs from sustainable farms. They are also packed in robot-automated facilities to ensure food safety. 

Lify products are already available in 20 retail locations, such as K11 Atelier in Hong Kong, and the company hopes to continue growing. 

COVID-19 and the future

All founders who spoke at the Demo Day made it evident that they possess a sense of long term vision for their respective markets. Each of them spoke optimistically about the future, and mentioned that they have taken this market downtime to further develop products in the pipeline. 

Businesses all across the globe are aware of their social and environmental responsibilities, but many lack the inclination or time to implement and properly monitor any changes. The Impact Kommons program has provided a platform for these startups to come forward and pilot various solutions focusing on energy, wellness, education, and corporate giving to prove their viability. 

The participating startups mentioned that the Impact Kommons accelerator program opened doors for them to penetrate the market through cultural learning and dynamic support from the corporate teams involved. These included the sustainability team at New World, the sustainable innovation team at DBS, and the Eureka Nova team. In addition, teams were able to make new business connections through the New World Group and its business units. 

Impact Kommons is accepting applications for its second cohort of sustainability-focused startups, to continue to drive capital to this market. 

Photo by Michael Olsen on Unsplash

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