I was so grateful to present the keynote at the Amsterdam Dance Event Innovation Battle at ADE Green yesterday, and to learn more about the amazing strides forward that are being made in reducing the footprint of big festivals. Eight major Dutch festivals signed up to a landmark agreement with the Dutch environment ministry to go waste-free. I caught a panel where Rob Scully talking about the 100% renewable energy solutions for Greenfields at Glastonbury, Govert Reeskamp talked about creating miniature festival-sized smart grids. There were lightning talks about everything from a generator that creates electricity from urine to Julie’s Bicycle talking about how big data can help big festivals be kinder to the Earth. Open House put innovation challenges out that asked entrepreneurs to come up with ways to distribute tap water to avoid plastic bottle waste, and there was an innovation dedicated to solving a problem I didn’t know existed: tent waste. Apparently a vast number of people buy tents new for use at festivals, use them for a couple days, and leave them behind where they end up as landfill.
Open House’s Innovation Battle was a kind of Dragon’s Den — ideas got pitched and then interrogated by a panel of judges made up of Jim Stoltz, founder of Tedx Amsterdam, Sander Bijlstra of Q-dance, Patrick van der Pijl of Business Models Inc, and Jan Willem van der Meer, founder of Paylogic.
I was particularly pleased to see who won the battle, and why.
The jury said there may have been other contenders that had sounder business models, but they awarded the 25,000 Euros to the team that had “a big idea about changing the world:” Pelican House, for their circular-economy startup: headphones you lease instead of own. They set out to solve one problem: you buy an expensive set of headphones, use them hard, a single wire breaks or a connection comes loose, you’ve got sound in one ear or crackles every time you plug them in, and most people throw them away and buy another. This despite the fact that the really expensive bit, the speakers, are probably fully functional, along with 90% of the rest of the headphone. Their solution: pay 5 euros a month for a really good piece of gear. Pelican House will replace it if it breaks, fix it, and turn it around to another customer. The headphones are modular as well — so you can replace just the component that fails. And instead of hard-wiring the cable into the headset? YES, they do what quality headphone manufacturers used to do as a rule: run a plug instead. Step on a cable? Plug pops out instead of ripping a wire from a soldered connection.
The bigger problem that they’re taking on, of course, is throw-away consumption — one of the root causes of our planet’s peril. Pelican House is a perfect illustration of the kind of “Entrepreneurial Activism” that Elon Musk is practicing, which I talked about in my keynote.