How to change the world
(we need sustainability startups)
Written in support of Techstars Startup Weekend Moscow.

Predislava Derugin | January 27, 2020
How to change
the world

(we need sustainability startups)
Written in support of Techstars
Startup Weekend Moscow.

Predislava Derugin
January 27, 2020

Not so long ago, sustainability was considered to be a hypothetical problem of the future. But that future is now here. Despite the consensus among world leaders that sustainability is a global priority, we are far from reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Poverty, inequality, anthropogenic climate change, plastic waste, and other sustainability problems continue to impact millions of people and cost billions of dollars in damage.
Governments cannot achieve sustainability on their own.
The inability of governments to solve these problems stems largely from a lack of sustainable alternatives for replacing unsustainable products and processes. Without alternatives, forced regulation can result in both ethical and economic problems.

Consider, for example, the position that fossil fuels must be banned and replaced with renewable energy. For a poor, developing country, such a ban is likely to slow industrialization, which in turn would slow its path to economic prosperity and the wellbeing of its people.

To achieve sustainability in a reasonable and equitable way, we need new methodologies, technologies, and business models. We need solutions that make sustainable products more competitive and accessible. And certainly, we need fearless, visionary, proactive leaders to make it happen.
So let's talk about startups.
Unlike governments and large corporations, startups have a number of advantages:

  • Innovation
  • Creative thinking
  • Niche specialty
  • Efficiency
  • Flexibility and ability to change direction
  • Less beaurocracy
  • Lower cost of production
  • Teamwork

Startups are capable of relatively quickly testing an idea, gathering data, and shifting according to the results. This provides an accelerated path toward developing solutions and making change possible on a mass scale.

And it's already happening. Advancements in solar energy are contributing to a downward price trend, allowing the technology to becoming more competitive with fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and prevalent, allowing people to make sustainable consumer choices; in Silicon Valley, the roads are filled with Teslas and various hybrids. Beef alternatives like Beyond Meat address issues of greenhouse gas emissions (a major problem in the beef industry) and food scarcity - not to mention animal rights. Bioplastics and other compostable materials are being developed to address the plastic problem...
But we need to move faster.
Climate change in particular needs urgent action on our part, as certain "tipping points", which pose an existential threat to civilization, are already under way. These tipping points include the loss of rainforests, melting Arctic ice sheets, thawing permafrost, mass coral reef die-off, and other changes that have impacts that will make our planet less habitable to humans.

So we need to move faster. We need more ideas, more experimentation, new technologies. And we need thoughtful and visionary investors who understand the risks specific to sustainability technologies, can navigate the long term opportunities, and are committed to building a sustainable world.

We have mechanisms in place to help expedite the generation, testing, and launching of new ideas.

Events like Techstars Startup Weekend offer an incredible platform for entrepreneurs with ideas for sustainability. The mentorship, frameworks, feedback, and connections are powerful resources that are there for the taking. Anyone with an idea for new sustaianbility technology is encouraged to participate, regardless of one's experience in entrepreneurship. We cannot let any idea go to waste. Only with the participation startup community, do we stand a chance at achieving a sustainable future.
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