Building Zebra Startups with Samsung
3 May 2021 - Luke Davis


At Impact Hub Berlin, we’re big fans of zebras. Specifically, we’re talking about zebra companies (although the stripy African mammals are nice too).

The term ‘zebra company‘ was coined in recent years in opposition to the notion of ‘unicorn’ companies, those startups valued at over $1 billion, who although being ‘disruptive’, can often leave social and environmental priorities by the wayside.

Zebras, in contrast, are both black and white: improving society while also being profitable. Rather than being self-centred and isolated, they band together in groups to mutually support each other and increase their impact.

As the implementation partner for the Samsung for Impact Germany programme, Impact Hub Berlin has been supporting three of the country’s up-and-coming green tech startups, working towards the aims of the EU Green Deal, to develop and grow their business. Here’s the lowdown on who they are and what they’ve been up to.

phelas

After an intensive selection process in 2020, the expert judges awarded the team from phelas third place in the overall contest, with the co-founders, Leon, Christopher and Justin receiving Impact Hub Berlin memberships alongside the overall support package.

With clean energy making up almost half of Germany’s power consumption in 2020, attention is rapidly turning to the issue of storage. The co-founders of phelas use a newly developed thermodynamic process that enables the storage of solar and wind energy in the form of liquid air. With this technology, power grids can store and use energy from renewable sources instead of planet-harming fossil fuels, “even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing”.

Working with Samsung for Impact’s industry experts, phelas have refined their product-market fit and business development strategy. They’re also a part of a new Research & Development project that will test their sophisticated technology in comparison to other future-oriented energy storage solutions. The programme managers were impressed by the team’s ability to handle such a complex hardware product with ease throughout the programme.

phelas have also reaped the benefits of the programme’s communications support, securing participation at this year’s Energy Storage Summit, and recently being featured on German TV (jump to 21:30 for their segment). You can learn more about their progress in co-founder Justin’s interview with Deutsche Startups, the official media partner of the programme.

Presize

The team from Presize – who some may recognise from their recent Die Höhle der Löwen appearance – was awarded second place in the Samsung for Impact competition. Their artificial intelligence-led technology allows clothing shoppers to more accurately find their right size when shopping online, which reduces the number of returns made. This in turn has led to over 37,500 kg of carbon dioxide reductions in shipping to date.

One of the key challenges for Presize’s co-founder Leon and Growth Manager Magdalena had been effectively measuring and communicating the full impact of their business model. With support from the programme’s experts from the Potsdam Institute, as well as Impact Hub Berlin member Lars, the team have been refining their assessment process and building a more sophisticated impact calculation model. A clearer communication of this is helping Presize’s prospective clients in the fashion industry to better understand the benefits of the technology and the need to reduce their CO2 footprints. Learn more in Leon’s interview with Deutsche Startups.

OroraTech

OroraTech were awarded first prize by the Samsung for Impact selection panel. The team uses nano-satellites to monitor wildfire risk zones around the world, identifying hotspots faster than existing tools can, and enabling rangers to take preventative action. Wildfires, which have occurred in record numbers in many parts of the world in recent years, pose a key challenge to the preservation of natural ecosystems and to turning the tide on carbon emissions.

Team members Sonja and Fabia were introduced through the programme to industry experts working in both Germany and the Amazon. In the latter stages of the programme, the team have crafted a go-to-market roadmap for Latin America – no mean feat given the geographical distance from Germany and the current restrictions on travel. Equipped with this enhanced knowledge of local conditions, the team predicts a strong impact in reducing the CO2 emissions caused by forest fires, and in preserving these vital ecosystems and carbon sinks. Learn more in their interview with Deutsche Startups.

As all three startup teams prepare for the final stages of the Samsung for Impact acceleration programme, each is taking with them the new skills, contacts and capabilities that impact entrepreneurs need to scale. We can’t wait to see the long-term results.

Interested in our startup acceleration services? Learn more about what we can do for your organisation, and get in touch with our team to enquire. Sign up to our monthly newsletter to be the first to know about our newest projects.