The Rwandan start-up EarthEnable won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017. During the final, co-founder Gayatri Datar (32) impressed the international jury with her sustainable alternative for cement to replace dirt floors. As the winner, she received a cheque of €500,000 to further develop her green innovation. Two months after the final we talked to Gayatri, to hear what has been happening since winning the competition.

How did you experience the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in Amsterdam?
“It was amazing! I thought it was a very well executed event, from start to finish. From the moment we arrived. We had one of the world’s greatest pitch coaches, David Beckett, work with us for two days on our 5 minute presentations, which was incredibly helpful. And then the big day was thrilling. I was expecting something much smaller and more casual, but it was a grandiose venue with a massive crowd! The camaraderie that we had between all the finalists was definitely one of my favourite parts of the whole journey.”

Did winning the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge open doors for you right away?
“Absolutely! I was on a fundraising trip the month after the challenge and it was amazingly helpful to have that stamp of recognition. It’s a mark of credibility that is really important in the start-up world. You don’t know who is really serious or who is ‘hot air’. How do you know if the business is real or if the technology actually works? The due diligence process through the Green Challenge is so exceptive that it has a lot of weight behind it to have won.”

Did it also draw attention in Rwanda?
“Hugely! Yes! We were in the national newspaper The New Times three different times, and a few TV shows have reached out, interested in covering our story. People that I meet at meetings or out at restaurants congratulate me. Senior government officials have reached out to us to congratulate us and start partnership conversations, which I think is largely due to the fact that we have this credibility from winning the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge.”

What kind of next step is EarthEnable able to take now?
“Having this funding enables us to invest in several things that we previously were holding off on. For example, we are building up our capacity in order to give ourselves the ability to scale faster, including hiring a consultancy firm to turbocharge our sales. My co-founder Rick Zuzow and I came up with this monster spread sheet with a list of the innovations that we have been wanting to try, and we can now hire someone to do these trials. The district opening schedule can also accelerate. So, a lot of potential investments to make.”

What are you looking forward to that the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge can bring you?
“The exposure to Europe is something that I’m incredibly excited about. I have a network in the US, because I went to school there, and I’m building that network in Africa obviously, because I’ve lived here for three years. But the scene in Europe is something that is still quite unknown to me. A lot of green building is happening there. Europe is much more sustainability oriented than the US in a lot of ways, and having access to a place that has a large market and amount of interest in green building, is a very exciting part of all of this.”

 

Winnaar PLGC 2017 2


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