"the three founders of Lulu Lab, have created a game about menstrual pads and menstruation, as this subject was proven to be most important when researching taboo subjects in Kenya." Foto: Lulu Lab.

Entrepreneurs stand in line with their Sustainable Development Goal-Tech

The Danish startup community has a great deal of ideas of how to solve some of the largest issues facing the world today. Danish forces within education, health, environment, agriculture and food production deliver when in the hands of entrepreneurs who create tech-solutions with the potential to make change. Here are a few startups that you should keep an eye on that are currently lying in wait in the Danish impact-underground.

When a young girl reaches puberty in Kenya, she is given a menstrual pad while in school. This is done to ensure that all girls are able to attend school, even if the family cannot afford menstrual pads. While this effort is in itself applaudable, few schools inform the girls, how one uses a menstrual pad. For talking about menstruation and sexuality is a taboo in Kenya, and only a handful of schools inform their students on the subject.

Foto: Lulu Lab.

The Danish startup, Lulu Lab, is working on a game that will teach students in Kenya everything their teachers are too shy to teach at school, subjects that are of great importance for their future.

As of now, the three founders of Lulu Lab, have created a game about menstrual pads and menstruation, as this subject was proven to be most important when researching taboo subjects in Kenya.

Team Lulu Lab. Foto: Lulu Lab.

The game however, has a great deal of potential to play its way into a myriad of difficult subjects, even when boys have taken over the game controller. Many boys in Kenya do not know where babies come from, and therefore do not understand the consequences of sex and pregnancy.

The idea for Lulu Lab was developed during a hackathon in Copenhagen, the founders received an overwhelmingly positive response to their idea, that they decided to develop the app. Their idea is to create a gaming company that earns revenue from Danish and Nordic students who play games that finance the development of games for developing nations.

At the moment, Lulu Lab is co-creating a game about mental health with a gymnasium in Copenhagen. The startup has received a general amount of financial support from Microsoft to continue testing their games in Africa in order to gather more data. Through data research is the key that opens the door to more investors and growth.

Foto: Lulu Lab.

Danish strengths become impact tech

Lulu Lab is one of the many examples of Danish impact tech-startups that are currently making their way into the Danish entrepreneur environment.

Many of the new Danish companies are working towards solving some of the problems on the UNs Sustainable Development Goals list. Many stem from industries where Denmark has a wealth of know-how, i.e. education, or in Lulu Labs case, education tech or delete and correct edtech.

Agricultures, or agrotech is another industry that has seen an influx of startups, SoilSense from DTU for example. The startup has developed a cheap, wireless sensor, that can inform farmers in the poorest and the most remote areas of the moisture and temperature of their fields. This can minimize over watering of fields around the world.

Foto: SoilSense.

Within environmental industries, new innovative tech solutions are making it easier to access green energy. M-PAYG has developed a pay-as-you-go-system with solar energy for families in developing countries, while KiteX has created an exciting way to give people without access to electricity new affordable and green way to create energy with their mobile windmill that utilizes drone technology.

Crowdfunding for Asylum Seekers

The financial sector has its own set of startups, or fintech-startups, that have the ability to lift people in developing countries. A good example of this is Jamii Pay. Jamii Pay gives people without a bank account access to banks.

Another example is Hiveonline who gives smaller companies the chance to show that they are trustworthy, and good to work with. Amalipo is an e-shopping platform that makes it easier for companies in Europe to work with companies in Africa. Sky.Garden, a Danish-Kenyan company, has created a digital marketplace where African commercial companies can reach a larger market.

REStart Refugees, developed in Aalborg by American Alexis Rhyner and her team of volunteers, is a crowdfunding platform that gives asylum seekers and other migrants the opportunity to raise funds to start their own companies. Funds are raised locally for each individual entrepreneur.

“In Europe alone there are thousands of entrepreneurial people who are excluded from traditional sources of capital because they are migrants, and they are then blocked from starting, or restarting, their company. On the other hand, we have an overflow of talent, ideas, entrepreneurial drive, demand and capital. We are democratizing opportunity and increasing financial inclusion.” Alexis Rhyner, founder and director of ReStart Refugees.

Team REstart Refugees. Foto: REstart Refugees.

Meat substitutes and IOT-health

The health and food industries are also teeming with new technological solutions.

The Global Sustainable Goals have gained momentum at the startup level.

From substituting resource heavy production of meat to manufacturing methods that use less water, and sensors that make it easier and cheaper to develop new medicines.

“The Sustainable Development Goals have gained momentum at the startup level. The goals provide a framework that entrepreneurs can use in their story,” Kristoffer Buch says, startup coach at DTU’s entrepreneur hub Skylab.

As startup coach, Kristoffer Buch sees a growing tendency for new startups to want to make a difference, and that this is one of the strongest motivating factors.

“We see solutions within recycling, materials, sorting, treatment and upgrading trash and resources. Solutions that can work together in a circular system. We also see a lot of IoT- Internet of Things, where sensors give access to data, i.e. optimization of agriculture, heath and biotech. In addition to this the entire foodtech-field is booming with ideas to lessen food waste and transform it with sustainable production methods and new food products,” Krostoffer Buch details.

Born SDG-Movement

A great deal of new hybrids are finding their start across the traditional sectors. An example of this is Ignemann Climata, a branch of Ingemann Group, that has in the last ten years been working with cocoa and honey from Nicaragua. Climatica has developed an early warning system, a credit and forecasting system where banks in Nicaragua can recive information on the land where the famer is planning on using his loan.

The startups that work with the global sustainable goals, and want to make a profit, are born with a sustainable mindset.

Even established companies are working to include the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through the UNDP and Industriens Fond’s SDG Accelerator. An example of this is Aller-Aqua that is working on an app that helps fish farmers in Nigeria with sustainable rearing through learning games.

“The startups that are working with the global sustainable goals, and want to make a profit, are born with a sustainable mindset. We call them Born SDGs. Right from the start, these startups see the global challenges and the great need for companies to target their business towards finding a solution,” Stine Kirstein Judge, a private sector advisor and SDG accelerator lead with the UNDP.

Okay to turn a profit on impact

Stine Kirstein Judge has experienced a turn in the impact-movement, a turn that has legitimizes turning a profit by working with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While many have accepted turning a profit, Judge still sees many startups who still lack the big breakthrough, for it is a challenge to make money by doing well.

“But it will come, for it means more moving forward for both future employees, partners, and investors to make money doing good,” she says.

Another challenge that the Danish impact tech startups can make a difference in is the entire food chain, the ecosystem, as we are still working with perfecting it here at home in Denmark.

Christine Rich, chief consultant at the Department of Innovation and Sector Development at DTU points out that many of the Danish funding and project opportunities available to help businesses in developing countries are typically targeted at big companies.

“Of course it makes sense for many programs to target big companies, as they have the capital and research and development capacity to engage in such project, but to create a stronger and bigger ecosystem impact startups are a key point and should be a focal point.” Rich notes.

Unique opportunity for startups

Impact entrepreneurs themselves experience a number of barriers that are similar to those of other entrepreneurs, but these barriers are of the upmost importance when the bottom line is to be created by making a difference to the world’s poorest people.

How do you reach out with solutions to the most isolated areas of the world, and who will pay for these benefits? At the same time, the business model itself is also difficult for many, and it can be difficult to attract investors.

For Aleix Rhyner from REStart Refugees, just raising capital has been the biggest challenge for scaling the crowdfunding platform. Nevertheless, she has no doubts that innovation and innovative thinking will solve the world’s biggest challenges rather than laws and tightening legislation.

The challenges are exponential, so our solution must also be.

Rhyner continues, “My advice to impact entrepreneurs is to stay on course. The challenges are exponential, so our solutions must also be. As an entrepreneur, you have a unique opportunity to create products and services that can engage consumers on a large scale. The solution won’t come by outlawing straws, we have to think bigger than that and impact startups have a unique position to make a difference.”