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Future Changers: Expert tips for budding startups

18 Oct 2019Innovation

Vodafone’s Future Changers competition is giving the next generation of green tech entrepreneurs the chance to win a spot on Imperial College London’s accelerator programme and £5,000 cash. We asked the judges for their advice to would-be startup founders.

Ben Mumby-Croft
Director of entrepreneurship at Imperial Enterprise Lab

What’s the problem you’re solving and who owns it?

Don’t fall into the trap of having an idea, and then tying yourself up in knots trying to justify it and convince people.

Be problem rather than solution-led, everything else flows from there.

Ben Mumby-Croft. Picture credit: Ben Mumby-Croft

Paresh Modi
Head of business development and innovation at Vodafone Group

Think about the most pressing issues our planet faces today. And then think about what the answer might be.

Once you’ve settled on something, don’t stop there. A lot of great ideas have come to nothing because the time or place is wrong – or because they turn out to be solving a problem that doesn’t really exist.

In other words – can you see demand for what you’ve come up with? It might seem obvious – but there’s no point developing a product or service that isn’t needed.

Can you scale it? No one expects you to be conquering the world on day one, but for technology aimed at solving climate change for example, it’s unlikely to have an impact if you can’t make it widely available.

Be realistic about the likely barriers to entry – but don’t be unduly pessimistic. Cold fusion would definitely take us closer to solving our clean energy problems. But without the right talent and resources there might be more realistic ways for you to change the world.

Think about the technology we use every day. What else can it be used for? Read widely, think creatively and look for inspiration in surprising places. Research tells us that innovative people often have a wide and eclectic array of interests.

Be unique. Think smart. How do you think technology can help to change the future?”

Paresh Modi. Picture credit: Paresh Modi

Bethany Koby
US designer and inventor. Co-founder and CEO of Tech Will Save Us.

Be more of who you are. Do more to help the planet. Live more of the essences you want to experience in your life.

Ultimately creative, brave, action oriented people will have the biggest impact.

But these people will use technology to not only galvanise people through social media, inform people of the problems with data but most importantly, actually solve some of the biggest challenges of our existence with methods and innovations that were never possible.

From plant based meat to blockchain systems that enable electricity sharing – technology will be at the heart of almost all of the changes we will see.

Bethany Koby. Picture credit: Bethany Koby

Solitaire Townsend
Entrepreneur and sustainability expert. Co-founder of Futerra

Futerra has worked to make sustainability so desirable it becomes normal for almost 20 years. And as we enter the ‘roaring 20s’ next year, and look towards achieving the global goals by 2030, we need change to happen faster and opt for bold action rather than small steps.

Earlier this year Futerra conducted research with The Consumer Goods Forum, in which we found that Gen Z are taking a hard line on action, honesty and transparency from brands – radically more so than Millennial consumers.

For example, 79% think brands are not honest enough when it comes to being environmentally friendly, compared 66% of millennials. Only 12% of Gen Z say they are very satisfied with brands’ efforts to make positive change in the world (compared to 64% of Millennials).

So not only do we need innovators and creators to support the transition to a sustainable future for all and to reach the 2030 goals but the next generation will not stand for anything less.

Solitaire Townsend. Picture credit: Solitaire Townsend

If you have a great idea for a green tech startup – visit careers.vodafone.com/futurechangers to find out more and apply.