In this series we want to highlight some of our scouting partners who have been of great value in finding the brightest start-up talents from all around the globe. Leading start-up hubs, accelerator programmes and entrepreneurship competitions have shared their enormous worldwide networks with us. In the second episode we focus on Good Tech Lab, a research initiative exploring the frontiers of technology, entrepreneurship and finance. We talked to co-founder Manuella Cunha Brito about the Lab’s research project and the aim to build a global green tech landscape that will create long-term impact.

“A global competition like the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge enables mission- driven entrepreneurs to develop world-changing innovation" 

Can you introduce us to your organisation?
At Good Tech Lab, we believe technology, science and entrepreneurship can help us address some of the world’s toughest problems: preventing climate change, creating better cities, providing healthy food and clean water for all, and generally achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. After some previous work on tech for good projects like POC21 and OuiShare, Benjamin (co-founder) and I wanted to find out what would be the most useful thing for us to do in the next 10 years to support mission-driven tech innovators. Should we launch a fund, an incubator or an accelerator, while there are already many of these?

We decided to take a step back and look at the most interesting sectors and trends. What are new ways to support entrepreneurs? What are the remaining challenges and how can we bring value by providing something different that would fill a gap in the ecosystem? To answer those questions, we are researching impact tech practices and interviewing +300 pioneers from five continents. We have met with accelerators, founders, investors, corporate leaders, foundations, etc. All our findings will be published in the fall in a report that will be freely available at goodtechlab.io. Our hope is that it will help practitioners from around the world, with insights on how to enable impact tech entrepreneurs to thrive.

What are the trends and challenges in the green start-up space that you identify?
First of all, there is a huge need for technical talent. We need more training programmes as well as more role models from diverse backgrounds. Secondly, especially in emerging markets, there is a real need for more mentoring support from field experts and experienced founders. Local entrepreneurs have the context needed to create new solutions to problems they see on a day-to-day basis. Combining that knowledge with the right mentorship can help them scale their solutions, locally and in other regions.

“In the green tech space, financing is one of the biggest bottlenecks” 

Thirdly, these entrepreneurs also need “smart capital”, more experienced investors who can take risks, provide fair investment terms and add value to their projects: expertise, network, etc. In the green tech space, as in any other industry, financing is one of the biggest bottlenecks. A global competition like the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge can provide decisive seed-funding to mission-driven entrepreneurs, enabling them to develop world-changing innovation. 

Finally, impact measurement is also a big challenge. For most start-ups in this space, it is quite hard to estimate and validate the impact that they are going to have, especially when working with new technologies (e.g. Finless Food) or new materials (such as Pili). Measurement tools and frameworks such as the Theory of Change can support entrepreneurs in having a clearer vision, attracting engaged talents and building a business case. 

Can you highlight some differences in innovation between the continents you are present in?
We are based in France and Brazil, though our research has a global scope. More mature ecosystems obviously provide more opportunities to grow your company. Talent is also more abundant. In Brazil, you will struggle a bit more to raise funds and, for instance, will need to give up a larger portion of your company to investors. However, you could also lead more easily on emerging tech, because there is less sophisticated competition. So it may be harder to get started, but you will find great opportunities along the way.

“There is a huge opportunity for emerging markets to tap into their local entrepreneurs to solve their biggest challenges”

The same holds true for Africa; being closer to the issues you are trying to solve makes you more capable of creating a solution that is relevant. In general, there is a huge opportunity for emerging markets to tap into their local entrepreneurs to solve their biggest domestic challenges.

To do so, it is key for a healthy ecosystem to have available capital for different stages of growth, with a combination of grants and investment. Grants like the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge help to de-risk promising green start-ups, which can help to mobilise more private capital along the way. By the way, we have interviewed Postcode Lottery Green Challenge winners from past years for our research and we are also very excited for the outcome of this year! That is why we gladly helped to spread this message in our own network.  


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