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Rockit Impact Accelerator 2.0 targets sustainable solutions
The international sustainability accelerator Rockit Impact 2.0 launched in Vilnius. For half a year, start-ups developing sustainable solutions will address challenges such as employee engagement, operational process management, healthy and sustainable lifestyles, the Internet of Things, and even underwater drones. Žalgiris, Tele 2, Amber Grid, and Swedbank will present these tasks to young companies, while start-ups from Estonia, Germany, and the USA will search for the solutions. According to Lina Žemaitytė-Kirkman, Head of Rockit − home of Fintech and sustainability − the launch of the second Rockit Impact Accelerator was driven by the success of the first. “All participants in the accelerator last year successfully completed or are continuing their projects. Most of them even attracted funds from Lithuanian and foreign investors, so we see the results as being very good. It is clear that our country is becoming an attractive market for foreign sustainability start-ups, who have already accumulated experience and bring it to Lithuania. Partnerships with large, established companies especially strengthen the potential of start-ups, enable the creation of necessary and useful solutions,” says Ms Žemaitytė-Kirkman. This year, Swedbank will present two challenges to start-ups. The first − how to involve the employees of the organisation in sustainability transformation and ensure that changes in business processes also result in a change in corporate culture, and that employees understand the importance of sustainability in their daily work. The start-up CompAct is ready to find a solution for this. The second challenge is how to encourage customers to choose a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. The start-up Thryve from Germany will offer a solution to boost behavioural changes with smart wearable devices. Žalgiris challenges to create a sustainable solution to address the shortage of service staff. This is true for many businesses around the world, as studies show that up to 40% of people plan to change jobs. At this time, it is crucial for companies to find business processes that can be robotised or optimised with the help of artificial intelligence. This would allow businesses to offer stable services that are independent of the labour market situation. The US start-up Scylla.ai is taking on the challenge from Kaunas. In a constantly changing market, it is essential for telecom companies to find new sources of revenue. The sector is dependent on smartphones and computers, creating synergies with the Internet of Things. How to exploit them is brought up by the Tele2 challenge, which will be tackled by the Estonian start-up Bikeep. Amber Grid has a very specific task for a collaborative start-up: find a sustainable way to maintain underwater pipelines. They are currently mostly monitored in person by divers. However, this could be done by underwater standalone drones with high precision equipment − their development will be carried out by Abyss Solutions from the US. The Rockit Impact 2.0 Accelerator, organised together with the Katalista Ventures fund, will last six months. First, start-ups and partners will develop pilot solutions. They will be tested, at the same time developing a business model and a market entry strategy. Ready solutions will be presented in June, and by September the start-ups will have to finalise the product and prepare to attract investments. The solutions developed through the accelerator contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, sustainability development and cultivation should be one of the most prioritised activities on the global agenda. This is especially important in today’s context, when so close to Lithuania the world is almost literally falling apart. Sustainability ideas and processes will inevitably be utilised here. Therefore, by contributing to a more stable and efficient economy in our country, I believe that strength and knowledge will be able to spread more widely,” says Ms Žemaitytė-Kirkman. ### For more information: Kamilė Mazrimė Rockit Community Events and PR Manager + 370 652 53218 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Not)Funny sustainability: the unique approach by Belina Raffy
Difficult topics could be presented with humour. In such way they are better perceived and have a greater impact - that's what Belina Raffy, who has chosen the comedy genre to spread the message of sustainability, believes. Global citizen, educator and consultant launched Rockit Impact Accelerator 2.0 on March 17th in Vilnius. Belina Raffy became interested in sustainability issues almost two decades ago, when it was still a topic of lip service. A graduate of prestigious academic institutions and a consultant with a solid background, her first lighting struck while watching the film An Inconvenient Truth. However, it was the tone in which the activists spoke at the time that disappointed her. By combining the tried-and-tested genre of stand-up with comic elements, Belina Raffy began to talk about important issues in a very different way than usual. In this interview, she explains why it's important to notice the positive, to laugh and to carry out projects that have a real impact rather than being convenient for the marketing department narrative. How did you end up in the sustainability field, what inspires you the most there? As I kid, I grew up playing in forests. My first real job was as an IT project manager in the back office of a global bank. To boost my morale, I tried improvisation and stand-up comedy for the first time. But in my job, I felt like I was a forest fairy trapped in a horrible machine with nice people. And, in a way, I was. Part of my remit was to prepare for Y2k compliance. We were treating a novel, complex challenge as a linear, complicated one, which we also under-resourced. We had 4 out of 5 managers on ‘stress leave’ for months. Then, in August 1999, I did an MBA to relax. And I started studying with some of the best improvisers on the planet, with the desire to bring mindsets and practices to organisations so that we could navigate complexity, embrace emergence, and bring inspired creativity to work. Initially, I did this for plain ‘creativity at work’ workshops, but my heart was increasingly insisting on bringing sustainability issues front and centre as the impetus for all innovation. I remember working for one client who stated that I couldn’t mention the ’S’ word anywhere in my creativity workshop for MBAs, because Sustainability was an elective course and not part of the main curriculum. What did you see as the shortcomings of sustainability communication at the time? Yes, at the same time, I saw those involved in the sustainability movement either communicating in an angry, dispiriting way or corporates approaching the complexity of sustainability in a linear, machine-like way. And then I saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. And I noticed that my visceral reaction was that I wanted to get into a Hummer and go shopping while things were still in stores. And I realised that this was an emergency. Not just what he was saying, but the shortfall in how he was saying it. The way that sustainability was being approached and communicated was not what humanity or Earth needed. It was putting us in our ‘lizard brain’ in ‘fight or flight’ mode, when we as a species needed to collaborate more deeply than ever. I started working with sustainability professionals, scientists, and companies to teach them improvisation - a technology designed to help people in scary situations to be generous, collaborative, and able to navigate complexity. Sustainability, SDG's and ESG's are quite serious topics these days, why have you chosen comedy or stand-up models to spread the information or educate people? I honestly had to look up what ESGs are. Anyway, these are serious topics. And I noticed the effect on me that TV shows like The Daily Show had on me. I was able to learn and remember something about often heavy current events in a way that felt light and which I could process. This felt like an important alternative to what I saw sustainability professionals doing - either dryly presenting horrifying data (e.g. An Inconvenient Truth) or angrily shouting at potential allies. Yes, almost every activist did that at the time. I also embraced the use of stand-up comedy because I wanted to help my clients who were looking at difficult social and environmental issues. Part of what we do when we consciously improvise is that we notice more about ourselves, the people around us, and our environment. I was teaching sustainability practitioners to do that. But unless we also have a practice of looking for the bright spots, we will burn ourselves out by noticing more darkness. Comedy, especially the loving form that I teach, helps people to look for the 'light in the cave' and share that with audiences in a way that lets them process real (and difficult) information, and feel safe to reflect on their own behaviour in that situation. What is the most challenging thing in sustainability, especially in sustainable innovations., in your opinion? Here are some big problems that I see in sustainability/sustainable innovations: • Imposing solutions that are not examined holistically or connected sufficiently with context; • Looking for a rapidly scalable ‘quick fix’ which is way too simplistic and causes more harm than good; • Pretending that complex problems can be solved by a linear, mechanistic solution. During the whole 15 years of experience communicating and introducing sustainability, what was the most challenging or interesting thing for you? Challenging: having people in my workshops leave their positions of power because their organisations wouldn’t move fast enough towards sustainable innovation. Most recent was a consultant in the Sustainability Department of a global consultancy firm. That firm lost an important voice for fresh thinking and innovation. Interesting: my Sustainable Stand-Up course feels like an interesting and beautiful blessing every time it happens. Through it, I can weave together smart, lovely people with different social and environmental expertise, from different countries, towards the common goal of making a loving stand-up comedy show about ideas that matter. Their ideas are always unique to them. The combination of ideas is always inspiring and rich. The individuals always support each other and often form deep friendships as a result. And the messaging of the participants after the course becomes more human, engaging, and powerful. I have run my course over 35 times, in 10 countries and online. With the pandemic, I am running purely online courses and shows, and have worked with people from even more countries, including Indonesia, Macau, Taiwan, Russia, and South Africa. For years I’ve wanted to bring laughter, love, and truth about sustainability issues to the heart of Russia. I was about to run a hybrid online/in-person course for nine, highly respected, women sustainability professionals in Moscow, with a show at the top English-speaking comedy club there in April 2022, when the current madness happened. It broke out two weeks before the sold-out course was due to start. Our course is now optimistically rescheduled for September. Having the course sell out with such amazing ladies and then urgently need postponement has also been one of my most challenging things. And my interest now is how to stay connected with those ladies who are so committed to creating needed social and environmental change at a time when they cannot even mention ‘war’ or ‘invasion’. We cannot do climate adaptation in a war zone. You work with big companies and different groups or organizations, how do you see the sustainability topic is evolving through the years? I will answer this question in chronological order. The organisations said: • It’s not our problem; • We didn’t do it; • Ok, we did do that, but we’re a lot better now; • We are doing a lot of awesome things; • Ok, now we are REALLY doing a lot of awesome things, not just talking about it; • We need to radically rethink how we do all of this. What are the most trending things now in sustainability? I don’t follow what is trending. I am interested in sustainable innovations of substance that are making a real difference on the ground. Those that create conditions for people and planet to thrive, not those with the best marketing department. Here is an example of the kind of innovation I love: http://www.ingafoundation.org/. This project has lifted over 420 families out of poverty, created food security, stopped those families engaging in slash & burn agriculture, shifted them to organic agroforestry, planted between 4-5 million trees, increased biodiversity, and regenerated near-sterile soil. Fresh water springs are now appearing in some of those fields. That holistic project beats any well-meaning, often well-funded project where seeds are jettisoned from drones promising to reforest land, but in effect just feed a lot of happy birds and squirrels. What I want to see trending in sustainability are love, joy, dignity, connection, compassionate stand up comedy, and radically enlightened action.
Are sustainable innovations in business and economic policy firmly anchored for long term in 2021?
As the year draws to a close, and with the echoes of the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference still lingering, experts say that sustainability and innovation are not the future for successful businesses, but the present scenario. This is one of the keys to growth, both for established large companies and for start-ups entering the business world with new ideas and technologies. The European Union (EU) is demonstrating a strong focus on sustainability by investing heavily in transforming its climate, energy, transport, and tax policies through the European Green Deal. Change is happening despite the effects of the pandemic; on the contrary, sustainability and innovation are at the heart of the Community's economic recovery. Support for green policies has also become more prevalent among Lithuanian institutions in recent years. Sustainability requires more cooperation Lina Žemaitytė-Kirkman, Head of the Rockit Centre for Financial Technology and Sustainable Innovation, says that Lithuania's experience in 2021 shows that the best results can be achieved when all stakeholders unite for sustainability: small and big businesses, the state, and politicians themselves. “This year's Sustainability Accelerator has clearly shown that the challenges facing the world today are highly complex, and bringing together businesses from different backgrounds in communities and teams is essential. The multifaceted nature of the problem is reinforced by the fact that sustainability is usually related to different areas: innovation, energy, information technology, agriculture, etc. Targeted public policy can also bring the poles closer together,” says L. Žemaitytė Kirkman. The Ministry will focus on sustainable innovation And although Lithuania has made only a little progress in the World Innovation Index this year (from 40th to 39th place), there are some exceptional positive developments in the country. For example, the Sustainable Economy and Analytics Centre was set up at the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA) in September. The first areas are the analysis and mapping of industrial digitalisation, the circular economy and strategic value chains, and a feasibility study on the use of green hydrogen in the Lithuanian industry. As a good example, the European Commission's Digital Economy and Society Index report ranked Lithuania above the overall EU average, and Lithuania was ranked 4th in terms of digital services for business. Aušrinė Armonaitė, Minister of Economy and Innovation, notes that in Lithuania, sustainable ideas not only have a favourable environment to emerge but also to be successfully implemented, thanks to the very high level of competence of local professionals. “Having been in constant contact with businesses and seeing their ambitions, I believe that Lithuania has huge potential for improvement. The Ministry will make every effort next year to promote the development and deployment of innovative digital and environmentally friendly technologies. We will pay particular attention to investments in eco-innovation, the development and production of sustainable circular products, and the application of the latest and most environmentally-friendly equipment and technological solutions in production processes. We need to create better conditions for sustainable businesses and be at the forefront with other world leaders in sustainable innovation,” says Armonaitė. Inspiring models According to L. Žemaitytė-Kirkman, last year Lithuanian businesses implemented a number of commendable sustainable projects. "We have seen a growing focus on renewable energy by the country's major companies and a drive to reduce CO2 emissions in their operations. I can also mention examples such as the world's first hybrid biomethane tractor developed by Auga for professional use in agriculture, or the EUR 250 million investment in Vinted, the only Lithuanian unicorn that promotes the sustainable sharing of things,” says L. Žemaitytė-Kirkman. Greta Monstavičė, CEO of private equity fund and sustainable start-up accelerator Katalista Ventures, says that the digital way of communicating and collaborating that has taken hold in the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated change and the development of sustainable innovation. “In the past, investors were looking for good solutions and talented teams in the market, but now these two criteria are complemented by the sustainability aspect. While integrating sustainability is not an easy task for start-ups and businesses, we are seeing an increasing number of sustainable business programmes and accelerators that are helping this transformation to happen. This is particularly effective when start-ups are testing sustainable products with big businesses. This gives them an important customer while large businesses get a product based on sustainable innovation,” says Monstavičė. According to her, a number of start-ups stood out in this year's sustainability accelerator, Rockit Impact: Datahood, piloted with Telia Lietuva, whose solutions help to make different city districts more sustainable and convenient for their inhabitants, while allowing businesses to discover the potential of these places, and Cogastro, which is developing an operating system for beetle farms. During the Accelerator, Earthbanc worked in line with Swedbank Lithuania to find ways to effectively measure the CO2 emissions of the bank's customers – an assessment that will be critical in the near future. 2021 was also a very successful year for PVcase, a Lithuanian start-up offering automation for solar power plant design, which raised an investment of €20 million. It is considered the largest investment in a software start-up of its kind in Europe. Rockit, the centre for financial technology and sustainable innovation, will hold its second Sustainability Accelerator next year, taking stock of all the sustainability and innovation-related developments that have taken place in Lithuania and globally this year. It is planned to take place in the spring, with a strong focus on pilot projects with major Lithuanian businesses. Startups not only from Lithuania but also from all over the world are invited to join. Register at www.impact.rockitvilnius.com.
The Stories of The Accelerator's Pilot Projects
One of the main deliverables of the ROCKIT Impact Accelerator was the pilot projects between corporates and startups. Check the videos below and learn more about the pilot projects: Earthbanc and Swedbank Rockit Impact Accelerator was a great journey not only for startups but for our partners as well. Earthbanc has delivered not just a footprint report for the Swedbank's clients, but also gave personalized insights about carbon reduction, market averages by industry, and potential cost savings tips. Datahood and Telia It was a great exercise for both Telia and Datahood. Their pilot was about using Telia's human mobility data to see how this data affects the city, how it changes the patterns of movement every day. These insights help to create a more sustainable neighborhood. Digital Crops and Linas Agro The pilot of Linas Agro and Digital Crops was a really unique one. Check the story when the leader in agriculture in the Baltics Linas Agro collaborates with Digital Crops, a hardware startup, to boost the sustainable approach in the industry. Elblox and Elektrum When two great experiences Elektrum Lietuva and Elblox meet each other! Learning new methods, a better understanding of business in the Baltic region, and even more great insights were taken from Rockit Impact Accelerator. Cogastro and TeleSoftas According to TeleSoftas, Cogastro has a meaning for the future and this is what humanity is going to use for 20 or 100 years after, and realizing this brings a lot of motivation. Working together during Rockit Impact Accelerator they both - startup and the business had a great time not only to inspire each other but also learn new working models.
Lithuania is becoming a very attractive country for foreign startups developing sustainable solution
The results of an international sustainability accelerator Rockit Impact launched in March show that the Lithuanian market is very favourable for the activities of sustainable start-ups. Typically, establishing close partnerships and achieving results can take up to several years for new B2B companies. The participants of Rockit Impact Accelerator were able to do it in less than four months. The accelerator involved five pilot projects of cooperation between start-ups and large businesses: Swedbank, Telia, Linas Agro, Elektrum Lietuva and Telesoftas. The specialisation of start-ups from Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Lithuania was renewable and green energy, smart cities, ecology, sustainable agriculture and finances. More than 200 startups applied for the accelerator program, most of them from foreign countries. Greta Monstavičė, CEO of Katalista Ventures, the foundation and accelerator of sustainable start-ups and the organiser of Rockit Impact Accelerator, said that startups find very favourable conditions for the development of ideas and products in Lithuania. “Lithuanian companies must be competitive at the European level because our market is very small. Therefore, they are dynamic, innovative and are ready to make decisions quickly. This is exactly what startups developing innovative products and services need. The results achieved within a few months through the accelerator program send a clear message to the global ecosystem of B2B startups,” said Ms. Monstavičė. The distinguishing quality of the accelerator: sustainable solutions During the course of the accelerator, a Swedish start-up Earthbanc and Swedbank were looking for ways to effectively measure the CO2 emissions of several clients of the bank. Such self-assessment of customers will soon become very important. Global financial market trends show a significant turn toward sustainability, such as the rapid growth of foundations investing in sustainable companies. It is likely that soon loans will be issued only to sustainable businesses; therefore, the bank is already looking for ways of providing the clients with the necessary tools. During Rockit Impact, the Swiss startup Elblox and Elektrum Lietuva tested two new products to be offered to customers. One of the products under development is a platform, which would facilitate the ordering of the supply of electricity produced by remote solar power stations. The sensors produced by the Polish startup Digital Crops have been installed and are already operating on the property of Linas Agro Group. These sensors capture a multitude of air and soil data. This provides additional opportunities for optimising the activities that require intensive use of farm machinery, such as the beginning of sowing, fertilising, watering and harvesting. The Lithuanian startup Datahood and Telia looked into specific needs of a dozen of different businesses and, using the contacts and anonymised data of the telecommunications company, Datahood is finalising the first contracts. Datahood analyses and proposes solutions for making different areas of the city more sustainable and convenient for local residents and helps the businesses to discover the potential of such places. This tool helps the businesses to bring services to residential neighbourhoods which are equivalent to the services provided in the city centre, thus reducing the people’s dependence on cars. The company Telesoftas is at the final phase of developing the IT module necessary for the development of the Lithuanian startup Cogastro. The start-up is developing an operating system for bug farms, a unique project in the world. The prospects of Cogastro product are confirmed by the recent win in the Startup Fair Pitch Battle. Šarūnė Smalakytė, Head of Rockit, a fintech and sustainable innovation centre, said that Rockit Impact accelerator provided a fast and convenient way for large companies to try out B2B partnerships with startups. Meanwhile, the start-ups gained experience of cooperation with large partners and obtained proof that ideas are effective and competitive on the global level. “Mutual benefit is obvious. This accelerator revealed the attractiveness of the Lithuanian companies by showing how the synergy between the new and experienced businesses actually works. It is also important that innovative products developed during the accelerator will be offered to Lithuanian residents,” said Ms. Smalakytė. According to Ms. Smalakytė, this Rockit Impact accelerator was particularly successful and will be continued in the future, involving more companies from a wider range of industries and expanding the cooperation program. ### For more information, please contact: Kamilė Mazrimė Rockit events and public relations +370 652 53218 email@example.com
Citizens and businesses are invited to kick off summer by participating in the Sustainability Week
The FinTech and Sustainable Innovation Centre ROCKIT together with a dozen of other organisations is inviting citizens and businesses to attend a series of activities and events aimed at teaching people how to adopt more sustainable practices. Lithuanian currently ranks 25th out of 31 countries in Europe Sustainable Development Report. We have a lot of space for improvement and we can not only shift our attitude but also improve our country’s economy and our lives in general, event organisers claim. Organised for the first time, the Sustainability Week will start this Monday, 31 May, and will continue up until Friday. The list of attendees who will share their experiences in remote discussions and events include the representatives of Swedbank, Telia Lietuva, GovTech Lab, VšĮ Žaliosios politikos institutas, Vilnius City Municipality, Katalista Ventures, Impact Meetup, Sunrise Valley (Science & Technology park), Cogastro, Ioon Technologies, Plan A, Impacftul, Eastnine, and other organisations. “We hope that the Sustainability Week events will open up a broader perspective on sustainability. Sustainability is still a new topic in Lithuania so businesses who take initiative in this field can become leaders in building a better and more harmonious world. Sustainability is like a continuous journey which should become part of our daily life. That is why our goal is to help people understand how sustainability could create positive impact on our lives, economy, and businesses”, said Šarūnė Smalakytė, Director of the ROCKIT centre responsible for organising the event. According to her, the events which will last all week will be useful to businesses that are still in their growing stages and those that already have a strong foothold in the market and need inspiration or understanding as to how to create a sustainable organisational culture. Experts agree that today it is no longer enough to talk about sustainability or make sustainability declarations. The urgent and real action is needed to achieve change. A review conducted this year by the private equity fund and sustainable start-up accelerator Katalista Ventures showed that Lithuanian businesses and their leaders lack a holistic approach to sustainability. It sheds light on the fact that companies in Lithuania have a rather narrow focus when it comes to sustainability. They often concentrate on one or two aspects, for example, they only speak about environmental protection without contributing to the education of consumers or employees. European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius who will give a welcoming address during the opening ceremony said that this event will contribute to the ambitious goals set by the European Union. “In striving to meet the European Union’s commitment to becoming a climate-neutral continent, we all, especially business communities, have a crucial part to play. Besides creating attractive jobs, businesses can also address ecological problems by either changing their business models to more sustainable alternatives or by creating innovative solutions which are today so vital for transport, agricultural, environmental, energy, urban, and other sectors. I know perfectly well that Lithuanian businesses have immense potential and I believe that Lithuania can become one of the leaders in achieving this breakthrough”, said Mr. Sinkevičius. According to the event organisers, the FinTech sector and new start-ups are in a particularly good position to create sustainable businesses. “This year can become a breakthrough year marking the transition of businesses towards sustainable practices. The finances from the European Recovery Fund are expected to provide a significant impetus for the implementation of the European Green Deal. Moreover, it becomes increasingly clear, that sustainability does not mean lower profitability. One of the discussions will focus on the fact that new businesses that adhere to sustainability principles have more potential to attract investors and earn customer trust”, said Ms. Smalakytė. The highlights of the Sustainability Week programme will include a bee-keeping programme and an introduction to urban bee-keeping including the tour of the beehives set up on the rooftop of ROCKIT building. All the participants will be invited to join remote functional, yoga and ballet fitness sessions led by professional instructors and to attend walks and a brain battle event. “This week and its comprehensive programme are an excellent example of how a sustainable lifestyle involves not only environment protection and taking care of nature or climate but also healthy living, sports and education,” concluded on a positive note Ms. Smalakytė, director of ROCKIT. The Sustainability Week will take place from 31 May to 4 June. Participation in the events is free for all registered participants. To view the event programme and to register, visit: https://www.rockitvilnius.com/sustainabilityweek/ ### For more information, contact: Kamilė Mazrimė ROCKIT Events and Public Relations +370 652 53218 firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet accelerator's startups!
More than one month of the ROCKIT Impact accelerator has already passed and we want to introduce you to our programme startups! Elblox Elblox develops and runs digital energy transaction platforms that are used for delivering renewable energy from producers directly to consumers. They create a new customer experience for energy by tracing energy back to its source, visualization of energy flows, monitoring consumption and/or generation, and providing tools to manage costs or invoices in real-time. During Rockit Impact Accelerator Elblox is piloting with our partner Elektrum! Datahood Sustainable cities mission or vision? Datahood says both! Datahood is an online location intelligence platform that helps businesses analyze territories without a dedicated data analyst role. Datahood's partner in the accelerator is Telia. Earthbanc Earthbanc is creating a financial system that works better for people, and the planet. During the acceleration program, they are piloting with our partner Swedbank. Cogastro Meet Cogastro - startup that is piloting together with our partner TeleSoftas. Cogastro is the core management system for edible insect farms. The solution captures important data and tracks operations to assure traceability and improve farming efficiency. Digital Crops Digitas Crops - Agriculture startup working with the data-driven CRM, sensors and data analysis to enable higher yield, reduction in water and fertilisers needed. Digital Crops is partnering with Linas Agro.
The first Rockit Impact sustainability accelerator is geared to begin
Today, the international Rockit Impact sustainability accelerator will be launched in Vilnius. It will offer an intensive four-month programme designed to promote the growth of start-ups and the transformation of the business of companies already established. As stated by the organisers of the accelerator, participating start-ups will enjoy a unique opportunity to develop and test products together with market leaders seeking to develop business sustainably. Five starters from Lithuania, Switzerland and Sweden, specialising in renewable and green energy, smart cities, agriculture, sustainable finance and space technologies, were selected to participate in the Rockit Impact programme. Most of these have already passed through the initial stage of development and have their own customers. Swedbank, Elektrum Lietuva, Linas Agro, TeleSoftas and Telia will share their experience with start-ups and share new sustainable business ideas. Greta Monstavičė, the head of the Katalista Ventures foundation, the accelerator of sustainable start-ups organising Rockit Impact, says that the programme will allow for the exploitation of the potential of innovative start-ups, enhance their capabilities and help find new partners. "Start-ups bring new thinking, technology, ideas and speed. Business representatives have the experience, a stable source of financing and an accumulated customer base. By merging these two strengths, we will have an effective team that will stimulate sustainable products, initiatives and ideas spread several times faster than acting alone", says G. Monstavičė. According to her, one of the main tasks of the programme is to solve complex sustainability challenges together. "It is precisely because of the complexity of sustainability issues that we have sought to attract companies with diverse experience from different ecosystems – energy, finance, information technology, telecommunications and agriculture – to the accelerator programme. International experience shows that this creates effective synergies, therefore, we look forward to very interesting results from the programme", says G. Monstavičė. Šarūnė Smalakytė, the head of the Rockit Center for financial technologies and sustainable innovation, explains that the Rockit Impact accelerator was established to not only help start-ups create sustainable products, but also apply modern methods of work. "Such inter-industrial cooperation is some of the most effective means of sharing experiences and achieving sustainability targets. We believe that the start-ups and companies participating in the first Rockit Impact accelerator programme will yield systemic changes in Lithuanian and global business", says Š. Smalakytė. The Rockit Impact accelerator will last for four months. The start-ups will start with engaging in the transformation of their products to make them meet the challenges set by the partners. At the same time, start-ups will receive assistance for strategic integration sustainability in their business model. Later, companies will be given time to prepare for product testing and finding customers. The final stage of the accelerator is dedicated to testing in real conditions, collecting feedback and improving products. The primary focus during the accelerator will be placed on pilot projects that will demonstrate real benefits of sustainability, and priority to testing the solutions developed will be given to Lithuanian people and companies. Business solutions created or improved during the Rockit Impact accelerator will be presented in July this year.
Can business be sustainable and profitable?
Businesses across the world embrace sustainability and work on meeting the criteria for clean, fair, and regenerative practices. But the fundamental question remains - can a business be sustainable and generate profit? With sustainability becoming not only a nice addition to the main company’s vision but also a requirement for a business to receive financing and attract customers, more organizations try to combine green initiatives with profits. The issue will only become more relevant in the upcoming years, as the European Union Green Deal aims to reduce the EU carbon emission to neutral by 2050. However, to achieve positive results, M Wallace Green, Founding Partner at ActNow Ventures emphasized the need for a collective shift in the mindset of business owners and consumers. “We have a collective mission until 2050 to reach carbon neutrality, which is 30 years away. We have a target to achieve an objective, which is to become climate neutral as an economy. And I see that as a 30-year journey, and now we have a ten-year target for a 55% reduction in carbon.” Mr Green continued saying, “It’s not about just not doing harm, but we have to undo and fix the damages that we've caused because it's not enough to just stop.” Although each individual effort matters, businesses and big manufacturers can make a significant difference faster. Fintech and Sustainable Innovation center Rockit hosted a discussion about sustainable and profitable business and what it takes to achieve both. What it means to be a sustainable business Sustainable business is a multifaceted term composed of the company’s mindset, people, goals, customers, and actions towards the better good of consumers and the planet. M Wallace Green describes the sustainable business as “a company whose business model co-exists within the harmonies of society and nature.” Jovita Tamosaityte, CEO & Founder at Impactful, added that a sustainable initiative starts with three main pillars: people, focus, and action, “How does our product or service contribute to society? Are we solving real problems that people need, or just creating overconsumption?” While some believe that to achieve sustainability you need to start small, Simon JD Schillebeeckx, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Handprint Tech and The Global Mangrove Trust says that even in today’s market there’s no business that’s 100% sustainable. And that should motivate business owners and associates to change the whole market ecosystem to be restorative and more in tune with our environment and nature. “We need to have businesses that are fundamentally restorative. We have done so much damage to our natural ecosystems that even being sustainable, which basically means not doing any harm is not good enough,” explained Simon JD Schillebeeckx. He emphasized that a business that is restorative and in tune with the environment benefits everyone, and thereby it should become a goal to achieve this state instead of just being partly sustainable. “We have to create businesses that have a primary goal to create public goods. Value for everyone and succeeds in appropriating part of that value so that they can be profitable. And for me, that is really what the future of sustainability is. We need something that is much more ambitious than just sustainable.” But goodwill alone can’t achieve fast and sure results. Companies need to embrace a full transition, while governments and regulators support it with incentives and financing. 3 trillion euros to support green initiatives All efforts should be taken into consideration to achieve greater goals and lay the groundwork for fully restorative and sustainable activities. However, a lot of established companies are afraid of sustainability because it means change and transformation, which can be expensive. However, if the organization is still in its early stages, Mr. Wallace Green believes it can benefit from being sustainable because nowadays, financing is more focused on supporting green activities, moving traction towards sustainable businesses. “There is 1 trillion euros in the Green Deal that the European Union is going to unleash on the European economies. The European Union is putting forth nearly 2 trillion euros to promote the economic recovery post-COVID. Now there’s going to be some overlapping across that 3 trillion euros, but that’s three really good reasons to start a business and to take advantage of that wind, catch your sail and do something.” told Mr. Wallace. 3 trillion euros is a significant amount, and many business owners are tempted by governmental incentives. However, to qualify for the financing, it’s not enough just to call your company sustainable, the whole organization needs to change from the core and develop based on a new mindset and goals. Challenging transition to sustainability If the company doesn’t have the basis of sustainability, the transition will be complicated and shift the company’s position in the market. However, according to Henrik Wagenius, Founder & CEO at Eucaps Ltd, businesses that were developed with sustainability in mind or those that integrated it into their strategy will only need to enhance sustainable initiatives and push the organization towards them. “Is there an easy solution for a company to become sustainable if that’s not the basis for the company? No. There’s no easy way. The only easy way is to rethink what you’re doing and to try to focus on what parts of that you can enhance or take out or skewer your business towards.” added Mr. Wagenius. Transition to sustainable practices is more challenging for large enterprises, raising the risk of greenwashing (a term used to describe an activity when a company or person position themselves as green and sustainable while doing a small fraction or nothing to achieve it). According to M Wallace Green, even though there are and will be companies that use sustainability to manipulate market advantage, in the end, genuine and actionable initiatives will gain a bigger market share. One of the most significant accelerators during the transition is employees. “Venture capitalists typically look for the area where you have the cool kids with the smartest ideas,” said Mr. JD Schillebeeckx. More and more talented people move towards sustainable business because it has tons of opportunities for young entrepreneurs to flourish. However, Simon JD Schillebeeckx believes that every business can meet the transformation if they change their mindset. According to him, the first step for a company to embrace sustainability and generate profit is to change the way it sees sustainability, and answer the question: “does sustainability become a limitation or driving factor?” “Sustainability is understood as a constraint that limits the potential. What makes you successful as a company is driven by lots of different things that can drive that success, sustainability being one of them. So if you consider sustainability in your corporate lives, anything in your equation, it can increase the size of your potential profits because there is value now and consumers care about as governments care about this.” explained Mr. Schillebeeckx. Sustainability has been on the radar for decades, and now we are on a threshold to a mass transition to greener and restorative business practices. While there’s plenty of room for improvement, changing consumer needs and new generations are already ahead of the process and might determine the success of it. But to transition to green initiatives, large organizations and developing businesses need to change their mindset and use sustainability as their driving force.
Linas Agro: “We are bringing the holistic point of view in the agriculture ecosystem”
Agriculture plays an important role in our sustainable development. We are very happy to introduce our partner Linas Agro who will join us at Rockit Acceleration Program. We are interviewing Modestas Sutkaitis, Head of IT Department at Linas Agro group who is presenting the company’s challenge: “Innovations in remote crop (or farm) monitoring and farm credit score estimation to work more efficiently and profitably”. Hello Modestas, let’s start with a very broad question. What is the vision of sustainable agriculture in Lithuania? How far have we moved in that direction? The current vision of sustainable agriculture in Lithuania, as in the whole EU, is focused on the reduction of nature pollution and more efficient use of available resources in order to minimize the negative impact of human activities on nature. “Linas Agro” is happy to be a part of that process and to be able to contribute to a cleaner planet. I have to admit that since the very start we have built a business that was oriented to long-term decisions, sustainability, and growth. We always seek soil quality, plant yield, and environmental pollution reduction. We are constantly cooperating with the most experienced breeders to ensure the most adopted plants in our climate zone. What is more, we want to use the Geoface program to monitor and evaluate crops from satellites, thus saving farmers time, resources and making crop management decisions promptly. I believe that these are big steps towards a more sustainable economy and participation at Rockit Impact Accelerator will be another milestone. No doubts that your contribution to Rockit Impact Accelerator will bring new and important changes to the ecosystem. Can you also tell us when and why has Linas Agro started believing that sustainable innovation can be financially beneficial? Linas Agro has always paid increased attention to sustainable innovations that allow more efficient use of available resources and higher returns from the tools used in the agriculture business. This mindset leads Linas Agro to success because we always aimed to help our customers achieve better results while maintaining sustainability. Your mindset is really inspiring! But are there any challenges you are facing today by working in the agriculture industry? The main challenges we face today are to remain leaders in the development and application of innovative technologies in agriculture in Lithuania and the region. We strive to remain competitive in the markets where products grown or produced in Lithuania or the Baltic States are exported. Sustainability policies and ambitions to reduce the use of natural resources, climate change and pollution vary from country to country. The cost of any production in such countries which has low ambitions towards sustainability will be lower and they will have a competitive advantage in export markets. Although technology adoption in agriculture has a long way to go, we believe that this is the right way to be sustainable and competitive at the same time. Working in this area for many years you probably have seen many great case studies of successful businesses in the market. Could you share several examples that are inspiring you as a company? Three decades ago, when Linas Agro started the business, agriculture in Lithuania was very underdeveloped. There was a great lack of knowledge about plant growing and the technical park was very poor. However, the desire to improve and apply the experience of Western Europe in Lithuanian farms helped to take strong first steps. There was constant communication with scientists and at the same time the development and application of cultivation technologies on farms, which helped to achieve better results for farmers working with Linas Agro every year. Could you name 3 startup characteristics that would make the team perfect to solve your challenge? A decent level of a technological solution, the ability to adapt innovation to our project, domain knowledge in farming. What do you think are your company's biggest strengths and values that you will bring and share with startups at the ROCKIT impact accelerator? Our biggest strength is our wide range of activities across the group of companies. Linas Agro multiple businesses, related to agriculture across the Baltic states. So we’re able to adopt various types of startups. We believe that we will bring a holistic point of view of agriculture to the ROCKIT Impact accelerator. Thank you very much for your time and valuable insights! See you at Rockit Impact Accelerator very soon!
Challenge powered by Telesoftas
TeleSoftas, our partner at ROCKTIT Impact accelerator, is looking for startups with brave ideas and the ambition to make an impact in the space industry! “We always believed in people and empowerment. We think that ROCKIT Impact is a great tool for empowering these people and their ideas, especially while focusing on sustainability. We are more than happy to be part of it.”, - says Algirdas Stonys, CEO and Founder at TeleSoftas. TeleSoftas provides product engineering, digital transformation & consulting services to clients worldwide. Founded on principles of networking, sharing, and open collaboration, we aim to improve society for everyone through cutting edge technology, innovation, and know-how. Join our accelerator program and take a chance to pilot with Lithuanian businesses and create a proof of concept that is ready to scale.
2021 promises more opportunities to green startups in Lithuania
Despite placing a larger emphasis on sustainability and becoming Europe’s leader in plastic packaging recycling in recent years, Lithuania remains a below-average performer on the EU Eco-Innovation Scoreboard (ranking 22 out of 28). To help address this, Lithuanian FinTech hub ROCKIT together with Triple Top Line startup accelerator and private equity fund Katalista Ventures will be launching the country’s first accelerator programme focused on growing sustainable startups engaged in creating impactful B2B solutions for local and international enterprises. The accelerator is scheduled to start in March 2021. Lithuanian consumers go green, businesses take notice According to the Sustainable Brand Index Lithuania 2020 compiled by Stockholm-based SB Insight, 60% of consumers are in the habit of discussing the topic of sustainability with the people around them, and 71% take sustainability into account when purchasing goods and services. Even though sustainability is a recent addition to the agenda of many Lithuanian enterprises, some are already leading the pack in their respective categories. Case in point, AUGA Group, one of the largest organic food companies in Europe has been ranked among 10% of best-rated companies in the food and beverage sector globally in terms of sustainability according to the conducted sustainability analysis of the company by ISS Corporate Solutions last year. “Given that sustainability has now become the new normal, we need to be the game-changers behind the development and adoption of technologies intended to mitigate the environmental impact of our activities. We believe that our new sustainable business model and technologies will allow the AUGA community to live, eat, work, and invest more sustainably,” said Gediminas Judzentas, Marketing Director of AUGA Group. Innovative solutions address water pollution issues Back in 2015, Lithuania signed and adopted the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. According to the 2020 Lithuanian Sustainability Ecosystem Overview by Katalista Ventures, the most covered SDGs in the Lithuanian ecosystem are Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Partnerships to achieve the Goal while least covered SDGs are Clean Water and Sanitation and Life Below Water. In fact, around 40% of lakes and 50% of rivers in Lithuania fail the criteria for good water quality, and the Baltic Sea is considered to be one of the most polluted seas in the world. Lithuania’s progress towards achieving SDGs related to clean water has thus far been slow, yet there are some ecosystem players trying to steer things in the right direction. For instance, back in 2020, BaltCap – the biggest private equity fund in Lithuania – helped organise the Baltic region’s first international Clean Water Hackathon. The aim of the competition was to develop actionable and financially viable solutions for mitigating issues related to pollution that unite all three Baltic States. According to Šarūnas Stepukonis, a partner at the BaltCap Infrastructure Fund, clean water is a key factor in most efforts designed to ensure a sustainable future on this planet: “Innovative solutions developed during the competition will have significant potential for investors, and will likely have a positive effect on global markets.” The winner of the competition – the Lithuanian startup Ekodrena – provided a solution for mitigating the negative environmental effects of farming, which constitutes the main source of surface water pollution in the Baltic Sea. The solution involves an adjustable underground drainage system that regulates water retention in the soil, thereby preventing fertiliser runoff. Start-up ecosystem players encourage positive change Although start-ups might have the popular image of putting business growth above anything else, many of them do, in fact, care about the health of our planet and are busy working on reconciling green technology with the bottom line. One of such companies, Norway’s CHOOSE, builds digital tools for businesses, their customers, and private individuals, enabling them to compensate for their respective carbon footprint. Another good example is Skeleton Technologies, which is now considered to be Europe’s biggest developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitor cells. In 2020, reacting to demand from both consumers and private businesses, the Lithuanian start-up hub ROCKIT started shifting its focus from primarily FinTech-related activities to include more events intended for the promotion and advancement of sustainable practices. The ROCKIT Impact Accelerator programme – “people, planet, and profit” being its holy trinity – will focus on developing solutions to support the achievement of UN’s SDGs and enable start-ups to join the sustainability-driven community working on climate action, renewable energy, responsible production and consumption, and other pertinent areas. Šarūnė Smalakytė, Head of ROCKIT, believes that discussing sustainability in Lithuania is a prerequisite for making it an integral part of the country’s existing businesses: “The importance of sustainability should apply not only in our daily life but in business as well. We believe that striving for a positive impact could help us educate, inspire, and empower bigger communities to act towards a better, quality-first approach to life. FinTech companies can be sustainable, too. In fact, focusing more on sustainability can help companies attract additional investment and more successfully recover from the consequences of the global pandemic.” The ROCKIT Impact Accelerator – designed and operated by Katalista Ventures which has 10+ years of investing experience and has worked with start-up accelerators in Spain and the UK – will take place over a period of 4 months, and offer an Alumni Programme. Start-ups will be selected based on their maturity (1-2 years), track record, the relevance of the problems being solved, and vision of sustainability. Partners include Elektrum, Swedbank Lietuva, Linas Agro, TeleSoftas and Telia Lietuva.