Purpose is something we are all looking for and something many startups have at the core of their business. But what exactly is purpose? And how do some startups use their business ideas to drive real impact in the world?
Whether it be touching the lives of those impacted by climate change, the pandemic, war or the lack of access to the financial system when arriving in a new country goes above and beyond and places, there are many startups across Europe establishing themselves as a force for good.
2022 was a bit of a strange year, to say the least, as the severity of the climate crisis escalated, an energy crisis unfolded and wider geopolitical turbulences have all left a lasting (and hurtful) impact.
Within this context, innovative thinkers have been working in the background to make the world a better place. They are improving livelihoods, making the planet healthier and generally leaving positive, forward-thinking energy. Here, we take a look at 10 innovative startups that caught our eye this year. They’ve all gone above and beyond to deal with some of these challenges as 2022 proved to be a year worthy of all history books.
Ada: EdTech startup based in Vienna, Ada combines female empowerment with lifelong learning. It leverages the microlearning approach to give women the tools they need to elevate and highlight their skillsets. Offering an app, Ada provides continuing education through bite-sized and easily consumable 2 minute videos. Users get daily tips from leading experts and can decided when and where they want to learn. Each user also gets a personal journey created to help them master challenges and achieve set goals and an individual weekly plan is created and adapted to the needs of each woman. The latest data shows that providing clear growth opportunities, personal development opportunities, and a diverse environment are ways to increase female recruitment, female growth, and female retention. Founded by Kosima Kovar (CEO), the startup caught our attention this year for its commitment to empowering women.
Helios: Having created one of the first digital eco-banks, Helios is a French fintech combining banking with effective climate action, and pioneering a new approach to protecting the planet. On a mission to limit global warming, Helios was co-created in 2020 by Maeva Courtois and Julia Ménayas as a new sustainable and ecological banking solution, allowing environmental investments. At Helios, not a single Euro funds polluting industries, such as oil, or coal. On the contrary, the ethical player only supports environmentally-friendly investment projects from the very first euro. Unlike conventional banks, Helios ensures complete transparency regarding the destination of the financing. The startup raised €9 million this year and has built a community of over 50k people.
Chatterbox: Founded in 2016, Chatterbox is a language learning platform bringing companies closer to diverse talent. It uniquely offers active practice alongside algorithmically matched native language coaches who share their students’ professional backgrounds and interests. On a mission to shake things up in the labour market, the company helps the growing numbers of marginalised professionals find opportunities in the online economy. The first product is an AI-powered, multi-award winning online language learning platform that employs marginalised people in need of work to teach their native languages – and this is why it has caught our eye. It’s creating a fairer global economy and empowering people to use their skills to build a more globally connected world. Based in London, the startup raised €1.7 million in March 2022.
Empower: The shift from a linear economy where producers would manufacture anything as cheaply as possible with little responsibility for the recycling costs or cost of waste, to a circular one where producers are liable both for the recyclability and content of all of their products – represents one of the biggest business opportunities this decade. And this is what Empower wants to help push forward. Founded in 2018, Empower’s platform incentivises transparent and traceable collection, sourcing & recycling of plastic waste globally. It uses blockchain-powered tracking that digitises waste streams and makes them available to buyers and sellers. Based in Oslo, the startup is building the infrastructure for a more circular economy and we think they have an impressive and innovative approach.
HumanForest: On a mission to provide affordable mobility services to all while reducing air pollution, HumanForest is a UK-based startup that in 2021 launched its new fleet of truly green, fun and safe electric bikes in London, and has since partnered with Deliveroo. Built with sustainability at its core, using innovative technology to improve battery life and reduce waste, the rental e-bikes provided by HumanForest are probably one of the most cost-effective micro-mobility solutions on the market. We recently chatted with Caroline Seton, co-founder, to learn more about how HumanForest approaches social impact – looking beyond the environment to also support positive health and wellbeing.
Open Bionics: Bristol-based Open Bionics wants to reimagine how we approach physical disabilities and make bionic limbs more accessible. Founded in 2014, the prosthetics company develops affordable, assistive devices that enhance the human body.Its first product is the Hero Arm, a multi-grip bionic arm which is less than half the price of its nearest competitor. Each Hero Arm is custom-built, and for the first time ever is available for upper limb amputees as young as nine. It was developed by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne, two founders on a mission to change the perspective on disabilities and create an accessible era of bionics.
Blisser: Stockholm-based startup, Blisser, is an exclusive platform connecting users with prestigious talent and impactful leaders united for the greater good. Founded in 2020 by Sara Fernstrom at the height of the pandemic, Blisser was created in an effort to create positive change in the world. The result is a platform that marries arts and entertainment with philanthropy. It allows people to purchase personalized video content from their idols, knowing that the profits are being donated directly to a charity of the talent’s choice. Through personal messages that entertain and inspire, global social issues and charities are highlighted with a minimum of 10% of every video message purchase donated to a charity. In October 2021, the company secured €860k to boost its global launch.
Hackyourcloset: Based in Stockholm and founded in 2016, Hackyourcloset is building a solution to disrupt the clothing industry at scale. The retail sector has seen big disruptions over the past year, with moves towards sustainability, more online purchasing due to the pandemic, and a shift to circular thinking. Hackyourcloset lets users rent clothes instead of buying new garments – they estimate that renting instead of buying new, can reduce individuals’ carbon monoxide footprints for clothing by up to 97%. The young company have been enjoying steady growth and wants to expand across Europe.
WalkSafe: Founded by Emma Kay in London, WalkSafe exists to help make the world a safer place, especially for women. The app offers a suite of tools to protect people – including, regularly updated police crime data to show users where the recent crime hotspots are, so they can pick safe routes to walk home. The app allows users to alert contacts if they’re feeling unsafe whilst walking and has now been downloaded by over half a million people. Further, the app visualises serious crime reports as icons – an algorithm cycles through police data to refresh and update the map twice per week. The startup began 2022 by picking up €360k and has grown since then, also hosting a Women Leading the Change event which saw like-minded individuals come together to discuss the current epidemic of VAWG (violence against women and girls).
Lottie: Across Europe, social care provision is in crisis. The fallout of the pandemic coupled with some questionable government decisions has left social care on its knees in many places. UK-based Lottie has set out to radically transform elderly care through its later-living marketplace. Founded in 2021, the digital platform was launched as a care home comparison website that only works with the most vetted care providers, ensuring that care seekers find the right level of care at a fair price. Lottie is also free to use, meaning it is accessible to all. The company secured €7 million in July 2022 and hit a €52 million valuation, in addition to a seven-figure acquisition of Found, a CRM software dedicated to the care sector.
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