The first order of business for a startup is recognizing that there is a problem to be solved. From that point onward, early stage companies need to translate that vision and help others understand how the problem will be solved. In celebration of Earth Day, we thought it would be interesting to look at how a handful of global startups are tackling environmental and sustainability issues where the problems may have a fifty or one hundred year horizon.
We’ve given thousands of startups a lift through the Microsoft BizSpark program, and are noticing that many of them are using Azure alongside open source software to tackle some of Earth’s most pressing environmental issues.
, for example, is a New York-based startup changing the way humans interact with the planet. It provides utility companies with powerful tools that transform real-time energy data into information allowing for more efficient energy consumption. Founder Vassilis Nikolopoulos started his company to empower people to use energy more wisely by giving them the tools they need to make smarter choices and in the end, promote a more sustainable environment.
“One of my goals with Intelen was to build an eco-friendly startup that could change the way people understand and consume energy,” he says. “I wanted to shift human energy behaviors and raise awareness towards a more sustainable way of living, so I decided to create a unique data analytics platform. It’s a combination of a dashboard, a learning management system and a mobile app that can act as an informational and educational gateway between the cloud and humans.”
As a B2B SaaS company, Intelen’s app is now in the pilot phase being downloaded by corporate clients and their customers. So far, the startup has 4 utility customers and over 30 corporations enrolled. More than 1000 people have downloaded Intelen’s Azure-based solution.
“Our full product and cloud SaaS platform resides entirely on Azure, including our analytics clusters, web front end and mobile APIs,” says Nikolopoulos. “We are using the OSS containers on Azure and deploy open source using Azure tools very fast and efficiently. Right now we have more than 40 virtual machines using Ubuntu Cloud plus Apache, My SQL, MongoDB, NGINX and other open source packages to help us offer the best possible service.”
And across the ocean, Thuto-Paul Gaotingwe, founder of Modisar in Botswana, became interested in sustainability issues when he noticed that small-scale livestock producers in his country were being threatened by large corporations. Because of production changes there was a business shift toward a mass concentration of livestock which led to environmental problems such as water pollution, land degradation and an imbalance of nutrients in the soil.
“The small, traditional livestock farmer was being disempowered,” Gaotingwe says. “So we are trying to solve their lack of access to valuable information and management tools by offering them seamless access to useful information and effective livestock management practices. Our offerings give the farmers a way to ensure economically and environmentally sound, sustainable livestock production. We knew from day 1 that we needed to raise awareness on eco-friendly issues for the farmers to help them understand how to protect the environment.”
Using Azure and its native applications, Modisar offers farmers reminders for vaccinations, feed and care activities; a financial feature that helps farmers track their expenses; livestock management plans that encourage farmers to improve their herds and a knowledgebase that teaches farmers about various livestock diseases and how to prevent or treat them. More than 600 farmers now use Modisar.
Nikolaos Katertsidis became interested in sustainability issues as he learned how much modern society is dependent on flexible, on-demand, affordable electrical energy. When the European Commission’s Low Carbon 2050 Strategy called for an 80 to 95 percent cut in greenhouse emissions, he realized he could help. Neuron Energy Solutions
was launched to remotely monitor and manage the conversion of solar energy into direct current electricity.
The startup’s flagship product, the SolarEye Platform, uses Azure for built-in artificial intelligence and serves as the backbone of all of the company’s SaaS offerings. Open source software in combination with Azure has been critical to the company’s success.
Katertsidis is optimistic about the future of the green economy.
“Over the last decade, the green economy has shown unprecedented growth which is expected to continue in the coming years. It’s driven by the need for environmental sustainability and protection,” he says, “If you’re interested in developing a green solution, building in the cloud is the place to start."
As you’ve seen here, Microsoft offers numerous tools to help. Cloud computing lowers energy use and carbon emissions from IT by reducing wasted computing sources, flattening relative peak loads through a shared infrastructure, operating servers at higher utilization rates and data structure designed that reduce power loss through improved cooling, power conditioning and more.
When small organizations move their business applications to the cloud, energy use and the applications' carbon footprint per user are reduced by more than 90 percent. Developing in the cloud has taken startups in thousands of directions. It’s nice to know the cloud offers benefits for the planet, too.
- The Microsoft for Startups Team