Social entrepreneurship creates a green industry, which helps to solve environmental problems through the development of innovative solutions. Some companies go green either to reduce environmental harm or to gain consumer support.
- Tech startups have produced billion-dollar valuations for 'unicorns' like Uber, WeWork, and Airbnb.
- Green startups, however, seek to leverage technology to create environmentally-friendly products and to encourage social good.
- Green startups face unique challenges in attracting the right investors and competing with traditional growth-only focused entrepreneurs.
- Still, some have seen great success. Here we briefly profile just ten such green startups.
Green startups face additional challenges brought on by their inherent “triple bottom line,” social responsibility, economic value, and environmental impact. However, these ventures typically have founders with the passion and drive to rise above challenges, and they can grow fast while helping to protect the health of humanity and Earth. Green startups are attracting venture capitalists and are gaining new support from socially responsible investors, green investors, and popular crowdfunding platforms.
From healthy fast food to organic lawn care and alternative energy to grassroots organizations, here’s a list of 10 of 2018’s fastest growing green startups. These 10 green startups have built their businesses on a platform for a greater, greener world.
1. Impossible Foods Inc.
“We use plans to make the best meats and cheeses you’ll ever eat,” boasts Impossible Foods Inc., a startup offering sustainable vegetarian produce to conscious consumers across the United States. Impossible Foods was founded in 2011 out of Redwood City, California. By a complex molecular process, Impossible Foods selects specific proteins and nutrients from green foods to create imitation foods including cheeseburgers. Impossible Foods raised a huge $108 million in a Series D funding round led by UBS in October of 2015. As of October 2018, Impossible Foods had raised a total of $387.5 million in funding over seven rounds. The latest funding came from a Convertible Note round on April 3, 2018. Investors include Sailing Capital, Temasek Holdings, Bills Gates, Horizon Ventures, Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and Viking Global.
With the successful IPO of competitor Beyond Meat, the company has announced that it too is considering an initial public offering, although it would be too premature to do so right now.
2. Choose Energy
The Texas-based startup, Choose Energy, was founded in 2008 as a marketplace for clean technology and services. Choose Energy, launched with the vision of simplifying shopping for electricity and natural gas rates, plan terms and renewable energy options for the average consumer and small business. Choose Energy makes it easy for people to save money on energy costs by switching to a 100% green product such as wind power. In March of 2015, Choose Energy raised $14.2 million in a Series C funding round, and as of October 2018 had raised a total of $25.7 million. In 2017, Choose Energy was acquired by Red Ventures.
Holganix, “Organic lawn care,” sells environmentally-friendly lawn care products that contain natural microorganisms. Their products reduce the use of fertilizers as much as 90%. Holganix's management team successfully grew two multi-million dollar lawn care companies in the past and are now focusing on growing another with a “greater, greener goal.” Holganix pledged to eliminate 100,000,000 pounds of nitrates, 100,000,000 pounds of phosphates and 25,000,000 ounces of concentrated pesticides by Earth Day 2016. The green startup raised $300,000 in seed funding in 2015 and, in 2017, raised $3 million in a venture round. Total funding as of October 2018 was $4.9 million in six rounds.
4. Elevate Structure
Elevate Structure was launched in 2012 by a team of residential engineers in Hawaii with a dream of developing profitable real estate by building eco-friendly structures. The portable spaces are elevated above the ground and, therefore, use six to 20 times more usable space while minimizing the footprint on the ground. This also gives costumers flexibility to expand or relocate their green homes, which are constructed with a streamlined turn-key process that minimizes time and costs. Spaces around 250-square-feet will cost around $75,000 to $125,000.
Solarkiosk, a Berlin-based social enterprise has provided solar-powered autonomous business hubs to off-the-grid communities since 2011. By 2014, Solarkiosk had established six subsidiaries in different countries across Africa and Asia. Rural communities now have access to sustainable energy, refrigeration, water purification, charging, communication, technology, information and business opportunities previously unheard of. This bottom of the pyramid approach enables and empowers local kiosk owners with green technology. As of October 2018, Solarkiosk annual revenue was $4.4 million.
6. Freight Farms
Freight Farms, a Boston-based startup launched in 2010, develops shipping containers turned into self-contained farms. Freight Farms enables customers to grow fresh products using LEDs and hydroponics in any environment 365 days a year. Freight Farm’s Leafy Green Machine hydroponic shipping container has a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $85,000. The high-tech ConnectTM app allows for remote monitoring by controlling aspects of the farm such as humidity and temperature. Co-founders Jonathan Friedman and Brad MacNamara took off on Kickstarter in 2011 later generating a total of $12.2 million in six subsequent funding rounds.
WISErg describes itself as a "hybrid technology company combining bio-, clean-, and high-tech systems to create a revolutionary solution for managing urban-generated organics.” The Harvester product is a machine that transforms food waste into high-quality fertilizer before it becomes waste. The food matter becomes a sort of high-nutrient liquid that can be converted to organic lawn care products. Launched commercially in 2014, the company achieved early success. Harvesters are installed in stores and facilities including Whole Foods Market. WISErg has received $69.8 million in nine funding rounds as of October of 2018.
MowGreen.US is a quiet, gas-free lawn care startup launched out of Connecticut by a local team of advocates for alternative energy and environmental awareness. By replacing gas mowers with push mowers, such as the innovative proprietary “Reel2Reel” design, households can save the environment from 10,000 auto miles or more per year (the equivalent of one car on the road). The startup offers an array of products and services from lawn mowing to aeration, clean up and soil optimization leading the movement for grassroots green-oriented businesses.
9. Arctic Sand
Arctic Sand launched out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2011 with the goal of saving 80% of all energy that is lost in the form of heat worldwide. The power conversion technology startup offers products with proprietary technology developed and exclusively licensed from MIT. This technology, “Transformative Integrated Power Solutions,” significantly improves power conversion efficiency. Arctic Sand recently raised $19.35 million in Series B funding in November of 2015 reaching a total investment of $28.6 million in two funding rounds from six investors in October 2018.
10. Skeleton Technologies
Skeleton Technologies won the Ecosummit London Award for the best startup in 2015, as Europe’s biggest developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitor cells. Customers include the European Space Agency, which uses the product to solve power delivery and energy storage issues by recapturing the energy and providing peak and backup power. The startup has received 46.4 million euros in six funding rounds.
The Bottom Line
Entrepreneurs will continue to enter the green industry through the 2020s because support from more conscious consumers and investors is growing by the day. These companies choose to strive for a triple bottom line, aiming to generate revenue and profits for shareholders while also working to increase the social good and mitigate the environmental problems of the 21st century.
From large multinational projects to local grassroots startups, these 10 companies are capitalizing on the green revolution that has only just begun.