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Holocene  •  02 July 2021  •  Amplify

Sustainable Start-ups

By Alice Winn

Vertigo was very lucky to interview some of the 2021 winners of the 2021 Green Sprint: a two-week accelerator for green ideas made possible through the collaboration of UTS Deep Green Biotech Hub, UTS Startups and Macquarie Group. Join us as we dive into the innovative minds of Julie and Bodhi.

Julie Leung: Founder of Makeshuffleshift

AW: Give us your elevator pitch, and a little introduction about yourself. 

JL: Makeshuffleshift is a social enterprise seeking to invent and influence for maximum social impact and benefit. I am currently inventing disruptive battery technologies with my company Power Blocks Pty Ltd to allow everyday people to have easy access to micro-grids with the convenience of not needing to call your electrician or builder. It will help people in remote places who may need emergency assistance as well as reduce the load on the power grid. Strangely, it will be providing control over how we power our own homes.

AW: What role can entrepreneurs play in Australia’s fight against climate change? 

JL: Now is the time to work in start-ups and to foster healthy relationships with people around us to tackle the big problems that big business doesn’t solve. The responsibility from entrepreneurs stems from within — to be ethical and compassionate with yourself and with others. Currently, big business is riddled with red tape and contradictory work objectives. 

AW: Are sustainable start-ups being adequately supported? What opportunities are available for your ideas to get funding? 

JL: Being in the early stages, I am yet to determine the success of how adequate the funding opportunities are. I was really fortunate to get the Greensprint21 microgrant with UTS Startups.  

There is also the NSW Treasury MPV Grant which matches up to 50% to a maximum of $25k of investment. I am still at the seed phase of the business and learning the differences between grants, competitions and investors. 

AW: How can we best balance the role of the individual and businesses in creating a sustainable future? 

JL: Sustainable futures are nurtured through how we live in our microcosm, such as staying true to your word, and having integrity and values. To not be so wrapped up in the superficial world of materialism, but in the quality of life and having empathy for complete strangers. It is about calling out for accountability and maturity of individuals around us despite our political and business leaders. If we can model these behaviours and make this the status quo, hopefully long-term solutions will be adopted by small and big businesses.


"Now is the time to work in start-ups and to foster healthy relationships with people around us to tackle the big problems that big business doesn’t solve."

Bodhi Kawulia: Co-founder of EYWA 

AW: Give us your elevator pitch, and a little introduction about yourself. 

BK: Do you ever wonder what happened to the rubbish bin that The Jetsons promised us? The one which we can throw everything into and never worry about again? My co-founder, Riley Lankshear, and I are building a really exciting solution to a very important problem; we are fixing the broken waste system through an onsite waste-to-energy appliance. EYWA is an on-site appliance for small-medium businesses and homes that allows them to convert common waste materials (paper, plastic, coffee cups, etc.) directly into green electricity — saving time, money, and the environment all at once!  

AW: What role can entrepreneurs play in Australia’s fight against climate change?  

BK: In short, the role of Australian entrepreneurs is to be ‘on brand’. In any venture, entrepreneurs should try to leverage what makes them unique to build competitive advantages. Being in Australia gives entrepreneurs a few massive advantages over the rest of the world in terms of starting climate-focused companies. Australian entrepreneurs should leverage these advantages to lead the fight against climate change.  

Geography and Talent: Australia is a very unique
place in terms of the ecosystems it hosts — from tropical rainforests, to the Snowy Mountains, Australia pretty much has it all. This level of eco-diversity attracts some of the world’s greatest environmental minds to the Australian university system which gives Australian entrepreneurs arm’s reach access to a massive brain trust of sustainability experts. If an Australian wanted to start a business aimed at saving coastal reefs, they could find an expert team in no time. It would be hard to say the same for a place like Germany for example. We’ve got smart people, use them!  

AW: Are sustainable start-ups being adequately supported? What opportunities are available for your ideas to get funding?  

BK: Yes and no. In one way, there are boundless opportunities for startups to find support, funding, talent and advice which is made available through a long list of public and private sources. On the government side; Tech-Vouchers ($15K) and MVP grants ($25K) are available, private: Accelerators (e.g StartMate, Climate Solutions Accelerator etc) Venture Capital (Blackbird, Airtree Artesian etc), Family Offices/Angles (Grok Ventures, Sydney Angles Network). Yet, on the other hand, this level of support is only really available if you are the ‘right kind’ of sustainable start-up. The ‘right kind’ usually translates to software products or sustainable twists on established business models (e.g. sustainable skincare). If you are trying to do anything that’s too radical or game-changing, the pool of available support quickly shrinks.  

It’s definitely a hard balancing act, as fighting climate change will require a radical transformation of modern living, but in order to support that transformation, funders (public or private) still need to see safe, stable monetary returns. Radical transformation is certainly needed, but if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.  

AW: How can we best balance the role of the individual and businesses in creating a sustainable future?  

BK: It’s important to remember that there are 7 billion of us and each one of us is facing their own complex challenges simultaneously and so creating a sustainable future isn’t going to happen overnight. We shouldn’t expect to all be pulling in the same direction or even focusing on the same problems because there is a lot going on — creating a sustainable future will be like steering a big ship with a small rudder. I don’t think we should expect all individuals to spend time and energy riding a bike to work or stay constantly up-to-date with the latest recycling rules. Instead, we should focus on developing better solutions to the problems that matter to us individually whilst supporting the solutions of others to different problems.

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