While the world is busy flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, another curve is continuously trending upward. It’s easy to forget, but climate change is a looming threat we can’t dismiss. Several startups from Amsterdam are employing clever products to do their part in flattening this all important curve. Ecochain, Viriciti, Chargetrip and Fairphone all have different approaches with the same goal. But how much did the pandemic affect their mission?
Ecochain helps companies going green
“We had to pause for a moment”, says Edwin de Zeeuw, CEO of Amsterdam-based sustainability startup Ecochain about the first weeks after the lockdown. “We were right in the middle of some rapid growth and we hired some new people. The forecast was looking very good.” Ecochain offers companies tools to completely measure, analyse and improve their environmental footprint. Not only on an organizational level or from the products, but through their entire supply chain. According to De Zeeuw, Ecochain does so by offering a clever SaaS-platform measuring the entire process, combined with their ‘bright minds’ providing insight and expertise.
According to De Zeeuw, measuring sustainability throughout an organisation has several benefits. For instance, it allows one to identify the areas where one can have the most impact. Philips is a clear example of that. After Ecochain’s assessment, the Dutch electronics company discovered that the highest impact could be made during the life cycle of their products. So by making their rice cookers slightly more energy efficient, the company did more at way lower costs than when they would’ve refitted all their offices with solar panels and such. On top of that, there’s money to be made as well, knows De Zeeuw: “The margin on green products is often larger.”
COVID-19 has made it slightly harder for De Zeeuw to sell the green dream, he says. “During the lockdown, sustainability is something that’s being put on the back burner. We’re getting calls saying ‘call us after summer’. Many companies think this is a nice to have. Only the ones with a clear long term vision realize going green is inevitable.” Despite a COVID-related slump, De Zeeuw sees some positive trends developing. At a consumer level, sustainability is getting more and more important, which is generally what makes companies move. Often companies get a request from clients to report on sustainability. De Zeeuw: “We will be able to continue our growth, but we’ll be doing so in a sustainable way.”
ViriCiti’s new rhythm before a bright future
The same temporary slowdown hit ViriCiti. The cleantech startup from Amsterdam offers an online platform that assists public transport operators in optimising the energy management and maintenance of their electric and non-electric bus fleets. CEO Freek Dielissen shares: “Currently, as cities are slowly emerging from under lockdowns, some of them faster, some slower, we notice that things are actually far from the ‘old normal’.”
There is a noticeable new rhythm, which is much slower, Dielissen notices: “With many people still working from home, public transport ridership is significantly down from where it used to be before the start of the pandemic. This of course translates in less revenue for public transport operators which in turn are more cautious with new investments, but also to many postponed tenders.” Dielissen also mentions the supply chain interruptions, delaying projects causing a ripple effect all across the industry.
The future remains bright as ever, says Dielissen: “The outlook is strongly positive. The European Union is looking to provide a €750 billion recovery fund as well as targeted reinforcements to the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 will bring the total financial firepower of the EU budget to €1.85 trillion. And it seems that under the proposal, 25 percent of all funding would be set aside for climate-friendly expenditure such as renewable energies, electric mobility and building renovation projects. So, long term, we believe this will have a positive impact on our sector, as a big part of that recovery fund will be used to accelerate the electrification of commercial fleets.”
Chargetrip raised at the right time
Also aiming to improve the experience of driving electric cars is Chargetrip. The startup from Amsterdam has developed a routing engine which uses different variables to calculate the real-time range of any electric vehicle. Temperature, weather, charge speed, elevation, rolling resistance, real-time vehicle data, and availability of charge stations are all taken into account. They started the year on a high note, raising a late seed round of funding. But after that it also suffered some slowdown, says Valentina Neri Serneri from Chargetrip: “As an API based company, initially, our volumes have been affected by COVID-19. Commercially our experience is similar. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had some promising deals being put on hold.”
But Neri Serneri is also positive it will bounce back shortly: “COVID-19 has also caused people to prefer traveling by electric car over flying for their holidays. Overall we see a positive trend. EV routing tools come in handy when driving long distances.” The startup also claims it has continued to close deals during the past couple of months. “Currently our pipeline is continuing to grow.”
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In the long term, the future’s looking bright, says Neri Serneri. Just as ViriCiti, Chargetrip will benefit from several initiatives that stimulate electric driving: “COVID-19 is making consumers across the globe more aware of climate change-related issues. Companies didn’t ditch their plans, in many cases, they are forced to accelerate their e-mobility strategy. Moreover, the automotive sector is heavily impacted by the virus. But the stimulus packages in Germany and France for Automotive Manufacturers are connected to an accelerated greenification of mobility, which is obviously good news for us.”
The investment from February comes at just the right time, as this might be the moment for Chargetrip to scale up. Neri Serneri: “Closing the investment right before the pandemic started, allowed us to move forward with our programs. Our team grew by 30 percent since March and we are always on the look for talents to join our team. The pandemic hasn’t affected our high-level roadmap. We look to raise additional fundings next year to sustain Chargetrip’s growth further.”
Fairphone is working on something new
At Fairphone, they also encountered a COVID-slump. Lockdowns all over Europe caused stores from their retail partners to close, resulting in less sales of their socially and environmentally responsible Android smartphone. The startup from Amsterdam is trying to change the industry of consumer electronics for the better, and is leading by example. Their current smartphone, the Fairphone 3, is manufactured with responsibly sourced materials, made by people earning a fair wage and is perfectly repairable.
That last part is important. Research from the Fraunhofer Institute points out that using a smartphone for 5 to 7 years reduces it’s overall CO2 emissions by 30 to 40 percent a year. The Fairphone is well equipped to do so, receiving years of software updates and allowing for easy repairs.
The good news for Fairphone is that after the lockdown, sales are picking up again. “Although we are back on a growth path, the situation remains uncertain as the economic impact of the pandemic is still to be seen,” says a spokesperson of the startup. “We are constantly looking at the market situation, which impacts our future roadmap, but so far we have been able to continue as planned with both our short as well as longer term roadmap.” That short term roadmap might hold something interesting for smartphone-lovers. The startup has recently been teasing that ‘something is coming’ on their social media, but remains mum on what exactly it is.
Top image credit: Fairphone