How future-proofed is your startup? Three businesses taking a sustainable approach

future-proofed startups

Fishburners Interim CEO Alan Jones. Source: supplied.

For 11 years, Fishburners has been open to a wide range of early-stage startups and entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and walks of life.

This has included companies that make our everyday lives easier, such as by helping you skip the coffee ordering queue or find pet-friendly accommodation. It has also included companies working on projects that are a little more “sci-fi”, such as EV charging stations, AI-powered radiography, and automated cybersecurity.

But regardless of what industry the startup occupies, we’ve increasingly become aware of the need for these startups to take greater measures to future-proof themselves.

This requires working on how your business can solve — not contribute to — the world’s most pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges.

Because the viability of your business inevitably depends on the viability of the society, economy, and natural ecosystem it exists within.

And if your business is harming any of the above, we would predict it won’t be long for this world.

UN Sustainable Development Goals as a starting point

A great place to start in future-proofing your startup is with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or “SDGs”.

The SDGs cover a whole range of social justice issues ranging across gender equality, poverty, consumption, sustainability, clean energy, strong institutions, climate action, clean oceans, and more.

The big, intractable problems outlined in the SDGs are also the most valuable opportunities for startups to address.

These problems are huge, they are global, and they are not going away any time soon. Aside from the moral imperative to address them, they represent incredible business opportunities for startups wanting to make a difference, while also future-proofing their work.

We’ve recently been admiring startups that have taken this sustainable future-proof approach, tackling a range of global challenges and demonstrating how startups can make a difference while also making themselves viable for the long haul.

Here are three examples.

Case study 1: Addressing the impacts of climate change

A great example of this is Brisbane-based startup FloodMapp, which is addressing the impact of natural disasters like floods brought on by climate change.

FloodMapp has developed real-time intelligence that allows emergency managers to understand the impact on specific people, property, and critical infrastructure before, during, and after flood events. This enables more coordinated and targeted evacuations and swiftwater rescues, and the ability to route traffic around flooded roads.

With climate change-related natural disasters on the rise, a startup designed to minimise the cost of these disasters to the planet and people will have a large addressable market well into the future.

Every year, flooding displaces 20 million people globally and costs Australia $9 billion in damages. Our 2022 floods alone cost more than $11 billion!

A startup addressing these issues, and minimising or preventing these costs has a very bright future indeed.

Case study 2: Events for good

Another example is Humanitix, which believes in leveraging scalable tech within a 100% for-purpose model, disrupting existing for-profit industries and solving urgent social issues in the process.

Humanitix is a not-for-profit ticketing platform with lower booking fees that all go to charity, thereby disrupting the US$3.7 billion global ticketing industry.

According to founder and CEO Adam McCurdie, there are a wealth of urgent social issues that the for-profit sector is not currently addressing. A multitude of industries can therefore be disrupted using scalable tech to provide a valuable offering while also reinvesting profits into social causes.

McCurdie envisages a world where all businesses, structures, and systems work to serve the best interests of our planet and everyone (and everything!) sharing it.

It’s an approach that will never go out of favour with the broader public. In fact, we believe that consumers and businesses alike will only increase their demand for ethical ways of performing commonplace activities, such as booking an event.

When faced with the option of an event’s booking that donates to charity, and one that doesn’t — when both services are equally as convenient and streamlined — the choice is really a no-brainer.

Case study 3: Compassionate “dairy”

One startup that’s actively hedging against future issues is Compassion Creamery. It believes that startups must be focused on where demand is headed in the future, including by acknowledging that what is acceptable today may not be acceptable to future generations.

It’s estimated that 75% of the global population is lactose intolerant. But even among the lactose tolerant, there may be those looking to enjoy a cheese that doesn’t require separating a lactating mother cow from her calf.

Compassion Creamery has developed a world-first oat creme cheese that is plant-based, lactose-free, and vegan friendly, and also tastes really good.

Making dairy products out of oats instead of milk also has important benefits for the environment since oat milk production uses 80% less water and land while emitting 70% fewer greenhouse gases than its dairy counterparts.

Founder and CEO Sarah Qian believes the world is waking up to the environmental, ethical, and health consequences of consuming animal products such as dairy.

Qian believes that there will be a time when younger generations will look back at today’s consumption of animal products and be just as shocked as we are today by slavery or other previously accepted forms of injustice.

Compassion Creamery is an excellent example of a startup that has future-proofed itself from day one, and is potentially catering to a growing future addressable market.

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