Rescuing the Planet

Apr 22, 2021

Urbanisation is a global trend, and Zero Gravity offers solutions to the challenges it poses. Increasing environmental awareness offers more and more opportunities for smart & clean startups.

As a result of global warming, our planet is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Smart cities & cleantech sectors are developing solutions that can bring about significant change for the benefit of the environment.

“I’m happy how fast the sector is growing. With increasing environmental awareness, more and more entrepreneurs want to develop solutions that save resources or reduce emissions,” says Joni Lehto, Smart & Clean Ecosystem Developer at NewCo Helsinki.

“Emissions trading and other regulation to reduce emissions, and consumer interest in green solutions are also attracting potential customers.”

One of the startups fighting climate change is Zero Gravity. Its mission is to develop smarter and more ecological cities and increase awareness of climate change with the help of satellite data that can be used, for example, to monitor land use and green space occupancy in city development over time. It can also help to determine the optimal locations of energy facilities.

“Satellite data helps to make better and more ecological decisions. With satellite image data, we can monitor the current state of the planet, detect recent changes in land, marine, atmosphere and climate and predict the future”, says Zero Gravity’s founder and CEO Olga Bodet.

Extend your network beyond your bubble

According to Olga Bodet, hackathons have reinforced her faith in the company’s business idea and helped it to enter the startup ecosystem. Zero Gravity already has significant merits. It has won hackathons organised by the European Space Agency and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, to name just a few.

“These hackathons have been extremely useful for debating ideas and giving new people an opportunity. They provide valuable experience of working together and a chance to meet others,” says Joni Lehto.

Both Bodet and Lehto highlight the importance of networks for startup companies. Also, entrepreneurs should not be afraid of going beyond their own bubble and meeting people from other fields. Lehto’s job is to bring together companies, investors and startups.

“Incubators and accelerators are great places to find new contacts. The European Space Agency’s business incubation programme has opened many doors for us,” Olga Bodet says.

If you need new team members, you should attend In Search of Team Members events organised by NewCo Helsinki, where people interested in becoming startup entrepreneurs can meet others. Joni Lehto says that about one-third of those who have attended the event say they found relevant contacts.

Sales work is foot work

Olga Bodet on stage.

According to Joni Lehto, many successful new entrepreneurs started their business alongside their day job. This was also the case with Olga Bodet.

“I have a PhD in Physics and I worked as a data scientist for another company, but I wanted to secure initial funding before resigning, just to be on the safe side.

”One of Zero Gravity’s success factors is our long and vast experience. Zero Gravity has roots in research and development as well as in space data technologies, and our core team has a strong scientific background. We have worked for many years in several European countries in software development and data science and have managed to build a strong network in the field.”

Olga Bodet knows the frustration of trying to find the first customers.

“We pushed forward until we got our first customers. It felt like a huge success when we got our first client, the City of Tampere, and then others followed. Technology alone is not enough. You need to make your case in the right way so that people will understand you.”

“Very rarely do customers come to you for the product. Sales work tends to involve foot work, which often comes as a surprise to digital startups. Another surprise is how much time building revenue takes,” says Joni Lehto.

Ambition, realism and capacity to execute

Startup companies should find out about Business Finland’s Tempo funding for boosting international growth.

“Usually by the time you’re looking for hundreds of thousands in funding, you have to be able to convince professional investors. Investors use their understanding of the sector to decide whether a company has what it takes to succeed. What a startup needs is a combination of ambition, realism and the capacity to execute,” Joni Lehto says.

Companies want help in making their business viable for funding and to prepare for funding negotiations. NewCo Helsinki’s Lehto says that a startup’s ability to communicate what benefits its product or service has for society helps in obtaining funding from certain investors.

“Impact investing is still a small but growing part of total funding. For some angel investors, funds and investor groups, social impact is an essential criterion,” says Lehto.

According to Joni Lehto, the smart & clean sector is developing rapidly and will continue to grow for a long time to come thanks to emission reduction targets.

“In 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. We have noticed that cities are now ready and willing to accept help as well as new innovations. We have our hands full, but we want to grow naturally,” concludes Olga Bodet.

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