‘Singapore’ and ‘Start-up’ – two words which are virtually synonymous with each other in Asia today. Why is it so? Well because Singapore offers a highly robust and largely unparallelled eco-system to a start-up setting wanting to set shop here. The start-up support system in Singapore starts right from infrastructure (mentor programs, entrepreneurial talk sessions, shared office spaces aplenty – just name it) to funding (incubators, inculators, crowdfunding platforms, VCs, angel investors and Govt grants where applicable) to a generally open-minded environment, one where a genuinely good idea can rapidly accelerate into a $ churning app/ a high value hardware/a supremely useful software or a much needed service.
It is in this very interesting space that I set out about six weeks back to identify the coolest Singapore based start ups which are aiming to make sustainable living easily accessible to one and all- a lot like Secondsguru honestly! After a fair bit of research, I picked out these four innovative start-ups which fit the essential criteria – that of being green and uber cool at the same time. They have been listed here in no particular order. In the course of my journey, I met some very interesting founders and can’t wait to see their respective ventures grow from strength to strength in the coming months. All the best guys!
Start up #1: 11th hour
What is it? A mobile app
Why is it eco cool? The app aims to reduce food wastage in Singapore
11th hour is a mobile app available on iOS and Android devices which was launched in Oct 2016 for the Singapore market. It enables food and beverage (F&B) merchants to offer last-minute deals for the food in their kitchen, thus helping cut down food wastage on a day on day basis. The app has drinks deals too. The primary idea came to the co founder, Mr Tan Yun Juan when he witnessed the sheer wastage of food in the hawker centers in Singapore- a classic case of identifying a problem and going all out to address it. Did you know that as of 2015, Singapore generated 790k tons of food wastage, of which only 13% was recycled?
How does it work? Just sign up, find the last minute deal you love, go over to the merchant outlet offering it, and use the offer. Easy right? Secondsguru spoke with Tan and asked him if getting F&B outlets to sign up for the app was easy. He said, ‘Some merchants feel that there is some dilution of brand value in associating with such a concept- particularly fine dining/big restaurants. To them, it indicates that they have leftovers and may not be approved of by their patrons.’
The good news: In a lot of cases, Tan has managed to explain the merits of using the app and it seems to be working. As of Jan 2017, the app has been downloaded 11,000 times and has 200 merchants on board.
Want to try it? Next time you are looking to grab a meal with your friends, give 11th hr a try. Its easy to use and has a very intuitive interface.
Start up #2: Refash
What is it? A mobile app, web app and physical store
Why is it eco cool? It enables women to sell and buy preloved clothes and bags
‘We help create value out of “trash”’ pointed out Aloysius Sng, the founder of Refash, when we spoke. Refash is a Singapore-based start-up that provides a platform for preloved clothes and bags to find a new home – the seller gets paid a percentage of sales, the buyer gets used clothes curated by the Refash team- thus making the adage of one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure come true.
How does it work? Refash currently is involved in the entire experience of a transaction done through the platform- they pick up the used clothes/bags from the seller, price these if the seller doesn’t want to, take pretty pictures, list them up on refash.sg or display them at one of their three retail outlets [locations here]. Buyers are then free to search for their favourite pieces online or offline. For a brand that has been around for 13 months, refash.sg generated sales of SG$ 650,000 from Jan-Dec 2016, of which nearly 50% was paid out to sellers for items cleared through their platforms!
With such an attractive value proposition Aloy and team have an interesting problem at hand- a wait-list of 4000 sellers keen to sell using their platform. The other issue, is that the items that come in store or online, need buyers. The real reduction of apparel waste will happen only when the sellers of used goods become buyers. The whole purpose is self-defeating if they end up buying new pieces to replace those they cleared up! Refash, is doing its bit to incentivize sellers by giving them additional buying credits when they buy from refash.sg.
In the pipeline: Aloy and team are working on two new initiatives under the refash umbrella
- A peer-to-peer marketplace to be launched in March 2017, where sellers of preloved clothes and bags can upload and list items themselves. Refash.sg will continue to take care of fulfillment and images standardisation. The fees charged will be lower for the sellers who use the peer-to-peer marketplace.
- Adding kids wear to the preloved marketplace.
Want to try it? The service is currently for female patrons only. You can download refash and use it or ask the women in your life to use it.
Start up #3: Aerospring Gardens
What is it? A vertical planting system
Why is it eco cool? Grow your edible garden- eat fresh and pesticide free veggies
The idea behind the vertical planting system from Aerospringgardens.com came to the cofounders after getting a jolt looking at $ values of fresh vegetables- tomatoes in particular- in Singapore. It was then that Nadine Keller and Thorben Linneberg decided to grow their own veggies. And that they did. A year and a half after this incident, and a few veggie growing ‘learnings’ later, they had a prototype and created their own hydroponic gardening system. Why hydroponics? Well because growing veggies in a water-based system was just easier than soil, not to mention near elimination of soil based pests! After the initial prototype, encouraged by friends, they spent some more time perfecting the planting system and the plants that grow best in Singapore. And this is how the Aerospring Gardens system was launched in Feb 2016.
How does it work? The Aerospring Gardens vertical gardening planter system comes in a assemble yourself kit which takes all of 15 min and can be ordered online or picked up at the store. It can grow between 27 to 36 plants in cups placed around a plastic column. There is an in-built self watering pump with a timer so you do not need to plan your travel around your plant watering schedule. All it needs is – adequate sunlight, a water source, power source and the hexgrow liquid nutrient [The nutrient is available at the Aerospring Gardens website and store]. What about pests? Pests are a nagging problem with edibles in Singapore, but not to worry, you can always connect with the founders to ask specific questions. Additionally the founders have set up a community of Aerospring Gardens owners which is a closed group on FB- to share solutions to common pest problems and any other questions that the recently converted urban farmers may have.
Want to try it? If you looking to being an urban farmer with the Aerospring Gardens system you must know:
- The founders conduct regular workshop-style sessions for new buyers so that they can experience the actual working of the planter, first hand and learn about what grows well in the system in the tropical climate of Singapore.
- The system uses no soil at all and 10% lesser water than conventional farming.
Start up #4: Gift-It-Forward
What is it? An e-invite platform that helps you plan and manage birthday parties
How it is eco cool? The perfect solution for reducing b’day party excesses and learning about social responsibility
In the words of Theresa Chan Evanoff, “Gift-It-Forward is an online platform that helps parents and children plan parties with a charitable twist”. The idea came to her when after three kids of her own, she realized that the family spent a lot of time buying and packing gifts for birthday parties and also that a lot of the gifts that her children received were either duplicates or just not needed. [Not to mention the appalling waste of wrapping paper!]
How does it work? Like other e-invitation websites, it allows users to choose their invitation designs and manage responses. Where it is different is that it also lets the birthday boy/girl tell all their friends and family about what gift they hope to receive, which charity they’d like to support, and how much they will commit to the charity (between 50% to 100% of their donations). The list of charities on Gift-It-Forward are here. Instead of shopping and wrapping gifts, the guests have the option to give monetary gifts through the site and the money gets split between the host’s desired gift and charity. In short, it’s a win-win for everyone!
My experience, first-hand: I first told my kids about the concept behind Gift-It-forward when we featured Theresa, on Secondsguru in September 2016. My 7 yr old son was seemingly impressed. A few months later, he came across Theresa talking about the Gift-It-Forward platform at his school holiday fair in November. What struck a chord with my young man and made him choose the Gift-it-forward platform, was twofold:
– Firstly, the bit about donating to a charity- Society of Prevention of Cruelty to animals (SPCA) in particular as he loves animals;
– Secondly, he appreciated the idea of getting one big gift he really wanted, over multiple gifts, many of which he either has, or doesn’t have use for.
He was pleased with the experience, as he received very generous gifts from his friends using which he managed to raise a substantial amount for SPCA and his own gift.
Want to try it? Try it out for your own or your kids birthday next time you have a big party.