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Mission First - Entrepreneurs for future
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Mission First - Entrepreneurs for future

Author: Mission First - Entrepreneurs for future

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Welcome to Mission First, the podcast to learn from successful entrepreneurs who are building a sustainable future for our planet and its people! Growing a company that aims at having a sustainable impact is not easy! That’s why I created Mission First. 
In each episode, I interview one entrepreneur with a company mission related to the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Our guests are entrepreneurs who have recently gone through these difficult first years successfully. 
Together we discuss their challenges and what they have learned on the way. We go into detail, with a specific focus on company culture, leadership, financing, growth and business strategy. 
That way you learn hands-on tips on how to build a better future and a successful company too.
11 Episodes
Today my guest is Christoph Berger, the founder and CEO of Vilisto and Planet Sustainability.  It is a perfect episode if you want to raise seed funding and to learn:  how to build the right team and hire the right employees how to optimize your recruiting process how to build a B2B greentech company with hardware and digital products With Vilisto, Christoph has developed a digital heat management system with self-learning radiator thermostats which reduce CO2 emissions & heating costs by up to 32%.  He has founded this company in 2014 directly after finishing his university degree in Energy systems. Since then, the company has 21 FTE, they are currently raising their Series-A funding round and they recently won the German Innovation Award 2020 for Climate and Environment.  They are rated 4.7 out of 5 stars by their employees on Kununu (the Glassdoor for German companies), so they have an extremely good reputation as an employer.  We will focus this episode on learning from his experience with his Do’s and Don’ts about:   “How to build the right team for a seed-round!“ We will also talk about his new online event Planet Sustainability, which brings together innovators and B2B startups.  Among others, you will also learn: How to best manage equity share distribution between founders   How they developed their MVP How they really failed their Kickstarter campaign and what they learned from it How they pivoted from a B2C to a B2B product for non-residential buildings How they funded their company until now (with 4 million € raised so far) How they found their first B2B client at a fair by doing something most of the startups don’t do at fairs Where to find and how to attract interns and working students The different types of business models they considered (performance contracting, renting model) 
If you want hands-on advice on greentech and renewable entrepreneurship, on relentlessness and product development iterations, on how to build a business and a product for a specific market like schools, on how to grow your company with strategic partnerships, this episode is for you! Today I have the chance to talk to Robert Schrimpff.  Robert is a serial entrepreneur. He has been the founder, CEO, or director of six companies, mostly in the energy sector. He has a huge entrepreneurship and business exprience. In 2015 he took the bet to start a new company called Solar for Schools. Solar for Schools provide solar energy to schools, as well as education on energy and sustainability to the kids of these schools. They already provide solar panels to over 150 schools in the UK and Germany. They have educated more than 77 000 kids on sustainability and how to cut carbon emissions with renewable energy.  Today you will learn: How Robert almost gave up this project, and what was the trigger with his neighbor and his daughter that convinced him to double the efforts to make it work How they adapted their strategy to win the trust of schools and their potential partners (councils, community energy groups,...) to be able to sell their solution to schools without being seen as a competitor  How Robert tried 3 different methods of lead generation...two methods who failed and the third one that was successful How they set the financing, business, and legal models of the company to develop the projects in each country they operate, and to make sure it is attractive for all stakeholders (investors, schools, and Solar for Schools)  How they grew their business with different types of partnerships (solar project developers, utilities, community energy groups, councils,...) Which strategy they used to develop a product that was really attractive for their audience, and how he positioned themselves in order to be attractive to the councils of schools, which initially see them as a competitor and didn’t really want to support them. Why Robert chose to make a for-profit company instead of a non-profit How to know when to give up or when to keep on iterating with your idea Why his experience in the solar sector made him decide to launch in two countries even though they were at an early stage, and how that strategy saved him from bankruptcy.  
This episode’s guest is Maren Hjorth, one of the co-founders of Katapult Ocean and the founder of Fynd Ocean Ventures.  Both companies invest and support startups with a positive impact on the ocean: Katapult Ocean invests in early-stage startups (pre-seed & seed funding), while Fynd Ocean Ventures focuses on startups in their growth phase.  We talked extensively about Katapult Ocean, which has an accelerator program, has invested in more than 23 companies (150-300k€ per startup), and has built a network of 100+ mentors and partners worldwide.  In this episode you will learn: How Maren saw a market opportunity to start a smart investment company in the ocean space How she selected her co-founders How she found the first investors for her new fund How they use OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) to remain focus and learn to say no to anything which is not contributing to these objectives How she grew and selected her network of partners and mentors How she makes the most out of virtual events to network  How she made sure she could step out smoothly as a CEO of Katapult Ocean to start developing Fynd Ocean Ventures As usual for every episode, Maren shared her list of Do’s and Don’ts, this time about fundraising: 4 Do’s and Don’ts about how to raise pre-seed & seed funding as a startup. If you are:  a startup with a positive mission who needs to raise funding, or someone who wants to build an investment company/fund to invest in startups with a positive impact,  this episode is definitely for you! The link to:  Katapult OceansFynd Ocean Ventures The resources mentioned in this episode: Books and good reads:  McKinsey quarterly Harvard Business Review The fiction books from Maren’s aunt Influencers and resources to follow: Nina Jensen from REV Ocean The Ocean Panel  Kristian Teleki on Twitter
In this episode I had the chance to talk to Benny Mandos, founder and CEO of Got Bag.  Benny’s company is not just another backpack brand. They have for mission to clean up the oceans and they get their hands dirty: with their team and a network of 1500 fishermen they collect and recycle plastics from the ocean in Indonesia and turn these pieces into various sustainable fashion products.  Started in 2014, Got Bag has now more than 30'000 customers.  During this episode, we discussed Benny’s challenges and what he has learned on the way.  Among others you will learn: how Benny and his cofounder started Got Bag beside his full-time job,  how they manage to grow a profitable company and to fund it without investors how they organize the clean-up in Indonesia and their holistic approach to not only recycle PET but other types of waste in the ocean how they found and selected their partners all along the supply chain to make it as sustainable as possible how important certification and transparency of their supply chain are important for their team and their customers how he organized their Kickstarter campaign (and his pre-sales) before he quit his job Finally, from his entrepreneurship experience, Benny shared with us 5 Do’s and 3 Don’ts about how to create a sustainable fashion accessory. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, sustainable fashion, and you are passionate about our ocean, this episode is definitely for you!
In this episode, I welcome Vaitea Cowan, one of the co-founders of Enapter. Vaitea’s mission is to bring hydrogen and clean energy to the islands. For that purpose, her company has developed an electrolyzer that produces green hydrogen.  This high-tech product can among others replace diesel generators. It uses renewable energy to produce hydrogen that can then be used for various applications like mobility (planes or vehicles with hydrogen fuel), industrial use (use of the pure hydrogen), or to produce green electricity (when used in combination with a fuel cell).  Enapter has raised a total funding amount (seed and series-A) of 8.7 million euros and is now thriving with 100 employees in 4 different locations in Europe and Asia. Their products are already being used in 33 countries, and their next stage is to mass produce these electrolyzers in Germany, with soon over 200 more employees to be hired.  Vaitea is such a nice person, with an exciting story that led to the creation of Enapter in Thailand, and its development in Russia, Italy, and Germany, so I was thrilled to interview her for Mission First. In this episode you will learn: how Vaitea’s roots inspired her to start this company and to follow this mission how she ended up in Thailand, met her cofounders there how they trusted so much a technology that they decided to save from bankruptcy the company that was producing it, to keep their team, and to give it a vision and a roadmap     how they divided the roles and responsibilities between the 3 cofounders what were some of their biggest challenges and how they overcame them what are their USP and their technological competitive advantage  In particular, Vaitea shared with us the Do’s & Don’ts she has learned as an entrepreneur while creating this alternative fuel (like Walk the talk, Don’t follow general go-to-market strategy,...).  If you are into green technology and inspiring entrepreneurship stories, this episode is definitely for you!
In today’s episode, I had the chance to welcome Maayke-Aimée Damen. Maayke has received several prestigious awards for her pioneer work on the circular economy. With her company Excess Materials Exchange, she has for mission to eliminate waste from the dictionary. They help companies turn their waste into valuable resources. Together we talked about how they developed and tuned their products according to these companies’ needs and concerns. We discussed their extremely impactful results in terms of environmental but also financial impact for these industrial companies. If you want to learn more about circular economy, to learn how they developed a high tech product using AI and blockchain, and how Maayke kept her motivation high against all advice in order to create a market that  didn’t exist yet, this episode is for you.  In this episode you will learn: How she funded her company using a mix of public funding and direct revenue from companies who paid for their services (even for their first pilot) How the maturity of the circular economy market impacted the development of her idea until the launch of her company How she invented and developed the Resources Passport which helps companies to evaluate their resource assets  How she shifted and adapted her company pitch to her clients to get a better reaction and be able to sell her product better to corporate companies How she got invited to present 3 Ted talks and how she prepared them.  How they use blockchain technology and a new protocol to overcome trust issues and company technology secrets  What are the 3 cornerstones of her company product (Identity, Intelligence, Integral approach)  How they defined and set their 3 different revenue streams How they started their first pilot project with 10 corporate companies in order to develop and tune their products WITH these potential clients (and how she made it a paid pilot). Her tips as a CEO to get clients to jump on her journey and listen to her 
In this episode, our guest is Franziska Schmid, the CEO and co-founder of Junge Tüftler and the Tüftel Akademie. With her companies, Franzi and her team have taught technology through events, workshops, and webinars to more than 25 000 kids and teenagers in Germany, who have learned that way how to become young tinkerers and inventors. Franzi is a friend of mine, and I was very excited to learn more about the successful growth of her company, but also because she has an inspiring vision of education, and how her company should be developed in all transparency through a new organisation culture called holacracy. I was very curious to learn how they both share the CEO role with her co-founder and how she quit her job to found her company while being pregnant. I was also very keen to learn more about how they used that holacracy system to develop the companies to more than 25 employees, providing full transparency to the salaries, and using that system to give ownership and power in the decision making to all employees.  Together we discussed about: the importance of educating people and kids on technology, how she quit her job while being 5-month pregnant to co-found her company how her mission helped them to attract developers who find a meaningful work at her company, even though they can’t afford to pay them as much as in the corporate world how they are creative to find funding and support from third parties to be able to finance their projects and make them available for free to as many kids as possible the importance of the state in the education system, and the possibility to involve companies to help finance this education system the Open Badges system developed by Mozilla to show what people have learned  how they set up their recruiting system to be able to hire the right people fitting to their company culture and that holacracy system How to have an efficient but flexible system for the team schedule, as most of their employees work with flexible hours and part-time contracts  Learning to let go as a CEO Her learnings as a mother and entrepreneur How they took advantage of covid to focus on their strategy and the accelerated digitalization of their company. If you want to learn more about what flexibility and transparency might look like in the future of modern organizations, this episode is for you. 
In this episode discover how Lubomila Jordanova left her corporate job in fintech to start PlanA as a solopreneur. Lubomila is a very engaged and inspiring leader who has won a lot of awards in the last two years for her work with Plan A and for her impact as an entrepreneur. We broke down how she turned a wake-up call in 2016 on a beach in Morocco into a company that generated close to 1’000’000 euros in donations for environmental projects.  Next, we analyzed step by step how she pivoted and transformed successfully that donation platform into a software as a service tool, currently used by 100+ companies to reduce their carbon footprint and to become more sustainable.  Among others, you will learn: how she bootstrapped the company and her first steps as a solopreneur, how her mission to fight climate change and her passion helped her find enthusiastic collaborators and grow a team of dedicated employees,  how she learned enough about data science and climate change to be able to start a data-driven company alone without a scientific background, how their communication strategy and Linkedin helped them to get 500 applications in two days for their new job offers,  how they evaluate company culture fit during their recruiting process,  How she built her following and Plan A’s following on Linkedin all organically, without any PR or paid advertising how they keep their employees motivated through continuous training, and by making her company fun to work at. If you want to learn about data-driven product development, pivoting, and communication and recruiting strategy, this episode is for you.  
Captain Paul Watson was one of the co-founders of Greenpeace. In 1977 he left that organization to create Sea Shepherd. For more than 40 years, Sea Shepherd has been defending the oceans, saving the lives of thousands of whales, and fighting against illegal fishing. Today I am incredibly honored to have the chance to learn more about his fantastic story and experience building the biggest non-governmental navy in the world. Among others, we discussed his experience with branding, how they came up with their new flag logo, and how it tremendously impacted their revenue. We talked about how they maximize their operation efficiency, how they avoided any paid promotion, and instead had people choosing to join them. We talked about his first steps to fund and kick off Sea Shepherd at the beginning, as well as how they set the organization administration and operations in such a way that it is an international movement with independent entities working on their own campaigns. We talked about leadership, passion for the mission, and how they find and recruit their volunteers and crew members. We spent a long time, in the end, talking about his communication strategy and the tactics they used to get so many TV documentaries filmed about their cause. We discussed also positive and negative press, haters, and how far you can go to get media attention. If you want to have a lesson on communication strategy, leadership, and how to grow one of the most charismatic and impactful NGOs in the world, this episode is for you.  
Today, our guest is Jeff Kirschner, a fantastic storyteller, and an inspiring entrepreneur. With his startup Litterati, he created a community of 170’000 people who are on a mission to clean the planet.  During this episode you will learn: How he started and financed Litterati as a solopreneur in parallel to his consulting career. How his TED residency, his TED talk, and their Kickstarter campaign contributed to his progress.   How he started growing this community organically using only Instagram, without having to build an app.  How the power of its mission helped him attract his first collaborators and his co-founder. How they managed to move their community from Instagram to their Android and iOs app, which was a very tricky move. Jeff was extremely honest by sharing with us his biggest mistake with Litterati, how that mistake hurt him and his community, and how they fixed it with his team. Finally, Jeff also discussed with us his list of 4 Do’s & Don’ts on how to build a community, which, as promised, are super insightful and hands-on tips. Visit for the resources and bonuses linked to this episode.
Welcome to Mission First, the podcast to learn from successful entrepreneurs who are building a sustainable future for our planet and its people!  In this episode I explain you why I created Mission First, what you are going to learn, and I introduce you to our first four guests.
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