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Run by Chivas Regal, The Venture is a $1million fund designed to empower extraordinary start-ups that use business to create positive change
The Venture is Chivas Regal’s global search to find and support the most promising aspiring social entrepreneurs who want to succeed whilst making a positive impact on the lives of others. With over $1 million in funding and resources, The Venture enables social entrepreneurs from around the world to realise their potential and gain exposure for their business.
Representing this year’s regional finalist is Charles Blaschke, MD of Taka Solutions: “We are an energy efficiency solutions provider. It’s a broad term, but essentially it means we’re on a mission to help buildings and individuals save energy, thus reducing their carbon impact. We do that using technology and engineering. So we try to fill the gap in buildings and homes between what they’re doing now in terms of energy performance and what they should be doing. A lot of people don’t realise that most buildings have the potential to reduce their energy by 50 per cent.”
What that means on a global scale is that buildings and homes that we live work and play in account for 40 per cent of the carbon output in the world, which is staggering. So if you put the two together, knowing that buildings consume much more energy than they should and that they also account for most of the carbon and energy consumption in the world, if all buildings were brought up to speed from an energy efficiency point of view, you could reduce their global carbon emissions by 20 per cent.
This can be achieved by some taking some basic steps. “This is not space-age coding that we’re putting on buildings,” explains Blaschke. “It’s not a secret nuclear box in the basement. It’s as simple as replacing light bulbs, turning your AC to a moderate level or installing sensors and equipment and operating it the way it should be.
"Change is in everybody’s hands. Everybody has the ability to make an impact, from an individual all the way to a building owner,” he adds.
The consumer-focused aspect of Blaschke’s work is just as important as the corporate one. While Taka Solutions has already enjoyed some success through its work with building owners and companies to assist with energy savings, the objective is to enable consumers to monitor their energy consumption through a mobile application that is already in development. The corporate side of the business works through a ‘paid-from-savings’ model. Once the energy of a building has been analysed through the Taka Solutions energy audit and solutions advised, the cost of energy savings solutions is provided by Taka, which then takes a share of the company’s savings once all measures have been implemented.
“It’s all performance based,” says Blaschke “It’s 100 per cent aligned with the client. The more we save, the more they save and the environment benefits as well because we’re reducing the carbon impact of these buildings. At the same time, the client gets brand new equipment, quality engineering and new technology in their building, at zero direct cost to them.”
With a background in mechanical engineering and considerable experience in the application of energy efficient design, Blaschke developed the initial idea for Taka Solutions after realising that there was a big problem with the UAE’s existing building stock that no one was addressing. This realisation unlocked a huge potential to save energy and money and soon, along with business partners, the decision was made to apply collective business experience to something that had big social positive impact.
With successful energy-saving contracts already under his belt, Blaschke decided on a whim to apply for The Venture. Although already active in participating in various competitions as well as seminars and panels, his initial thoughts were that the profile of the company didn’t meet the requirements. It was only within the last couple of days, when the email reminder for the application deadline popped into his inbox, he decided that the ‘social’ element required by The Venture did in fact apply to Taka Solutions.
With the lengthy application completed, Blaschke was surprised to receive an email saying that his company had been selected as one of the five finalists in the region.
After winning the regional finals, it was off to Oxford for the Accelerator Week, a week-long intensive kickstarter for all global finalists held at the Skoll Centre; an academic entity for the advancement of social entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. “It was like a mini MBA. Even though there was some prep-coaching and pitch-coaching to help us prepare for the finals in New York, it was so much more than that,” Blaschke enthuses.
“Even relative to my typical work week, the Accelerator Week was intense. We were there every day from 8am and after coaching was done, there would be social events too. Every minute was accounted for.”
There are other schemes and competitions around that award money to entrepreneurs but Blaschke is quick to highlight the positive impact of The Venture from a social perspective. The range of focus from each of the 27 finalists is impressive; from a job portal in Latin America for people with disabilities (Argentina) and a social network helping to fight loneliness felt by the elderly (Estonia) to a knowledge-sharing platform for farmers without internet access, the common factor is always the goal of improving people’s lives and the community in some way.
The global finals take place 12-16 July in New York, when the 27 finalists will go through the semi-finals round, which involves a closed room with five world class judges and five minutes to convince those judges that they should be awarded some (or all) of the money. Five finalists are then selected from the 27 and must present on a stage in front of a large crowd and the judges. Some $750,000 of the $1 million prize fund is up for grabs, with the other $250,000 being awarded over five weeks of public voting from 9th May. While the whole $750,000 could be awarded to one entrepreneur, it is more likely that the funds would be spread among several, in order to be more socially impactful.
Taka Solutions is pitching for approximately $300,000 in order to develop their app, which will help to open up the benefit of energy saving solutions to end users as well as businesses.
“We want to add value. We want to give that (energy-related) information to people who don’t have it so that they can clearly understand what they’re doing and what that impact is on the environment” says Blaschke. “The app will help to translate energy statistics into easy-to-understand information and also benchmark consumers’ consumption against their neighbours on a local level, but also on a global level.”
Blaschke concludes the meeting with some eye-opening information on what the region needs to do towards improving energy consumption, stating that if everybody in the world consumed energy the way we do in the UAE “the world would have ended 10 years ago”. Dramatic statement or harsh reality? It’s possibly a little bit of both, but without the raise in awareness, we might not be giving ourselves the time to find out.
Follow the Taka Solutions team and all other finalists’ progress on www.theventure.com. From 9 May, you can have your say; the five-week global vote phase starts on The Venture website. $250,000 will be split, $50,000 each week, between the finalists based on the number of votes cast for them.
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