Everyone likes winning awards, but is the often time-consuming application process really worth the effort? Yes – because taking part in contests and winning prizes can earn entrepreneurs more than just a trophy; they can also be great opportunities for presenting business ideas in their early stages in front of experts. Those experts are sure to consider your plans quite critically, but that only helps you improve. Apart from the valuable feedback, participating in awards will reflect well on your startup in public and help you make useful contacts to potential advisors or like-minded people. Last but not least, it will put you in contact with fellow entrepreneurs eager to exchange ideas and strategies.
For circular economy start-ups, a new award is coming to the UK. The Green Alley Award recognises eco-entrepreneurs and green start-ups offering innovative new products and services in the realm of recycling and waste management. The deadline for applications is September 15th, 2015 – so take your last chance to apply! If you are shortlisted, Green Alley will invite you to a one-day event in its co-working space in Berlin on November 4th, 2015. There, you will take part in workshops where you will get special advice from experts in the green and circular economy. Later, you will pitch your business idea live on stage. And while the jury is engaged in heated debate about which idea to award, you can sit in on the discussions of young entrepreneurs already engaged in a successful green business and take the opportunity to grill them with your questions.
“Of course, we were nervous,” says Sabine Schäfer remembering last year, when she and her colleague were in the pitch finals of the Green Alley Award 2014. “But in the end, we just went on stage and pitched our idea.” They had three minutes to present their startup “Green Lab” to experts and mentors from the green economy and startup scene. In their pitch, they explained that the leftover shells from cocoa production are widely considered waste. So why not do something useful with them? Their pitch deck showed exactly how they’d put their idea into practice –and how it became a convincing product: a fertiliser for urban gardening. The well-organised pitch convinced the expert jury. Throughout their presentation, they were supported by a little red garden goblin. “Winning this award attracted a lot of attention for us and our products,” says Schäfer today. “It helped us to make new contacts, which opened new doors for our business.”
With roots in the German startup capital Berlin, the Green Alley Award 2015 is open to green ideas from all over Europe. “We already received many applications from European countries last year,” says Miriam Kehl, Associate Director at Green Alley. That’s one reason why green economy investor Green Alley – initiated by the German recycling specialist Landbell – has teamed up with Bethnal Green Ventures and the European Recycling Platform UK. The aim is to connect the startup scenes of London and Berlin and to build a network between young startups and established players in the green economy.
Applicants from all other European countries are welcome too and can benefit from the Green Alley Award. Last year’s winners RePack are based in Helsinki. Their idea of a reusable packaging for online shopping completely convinced the expert jury. For RePack, the award presented an opportunity to enter the German market. “Germany is of particular interest for our business idea because it is a leader in the field of online trading,” explains RePack’s Petri Piirainen. “Germans not only like shopping online, but they are also very environmentally conscious.”
For GreenLab and RePack, it all started one year ago with a convincing application to the Green Alley Award. If you’re imagining complicated and tricky paperwork, you should reconsider: the application can be easily completed online. All you have to do is answer some questions you’re probably already grappling with anyway: What is the added value for my potential customers? Who are my competitors? What is my marketing and distribution strategy? Do I have a valid business model?
The lucky winner will receive a cash prize of 7,000 Euros, six months rent-free workspace in a light-flooded building in the heart of Berlin (including basic infrastructure) and the opportunity to obtain further funding from investment or crowdfunding. At Green Alley, you can also exchange ideas with other startups working on businesses designed to make our economy greener. And even if you don’t end up winning, a spot on the shortlist can be invaluable – in terms of new contacts, media attention and, of course, having a brilliant time with like-minded people.