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Behind the scenes with Dan Yates – Greener

At Storm, nothing brings us more joy than our clients and a few months ago we introduced you to our friends at Greener. For those of you that don’t know, Greener is a matchmaking service between food and drink companies and sustainable packaging suppliers. We were very proud to be part of their initiative and built their B2B match making technology. Post launch and with a bit more experience behind him, we’d like to further introduce you to Dan Yates, Co-founder and CEO of Greener. In this post we will hear about the joys and challenges of launching his eco conscious start up.

In your own words tell us about Greener, how the idea came about and what your mission is? 

We first had the idea for Greener shortly after I left a consulting job in the Netherlands. I felt quite burnt out from being in a corporate environment and was looking for a new challenge and the chance to do something truly impactful. At the same time I was talking a lot with Mehrnaz, my co-founder, about sustainability and the challenges we faced as a society around waste. She was in the middle of a PhD researching sustainable supply chains at the time and was simultaneously energised and frustrated by the problems we were facing

Over those conversations, she laid out a number of concerning trends and developments – particularly around the food industry – that  were eye-opening to say the least. What became very clear is that the food industry was, like many others,very broken and that there were no simple fixes in sight.  What solutions were available were hyper localised and not very scalable despite the increasing awareness that sustainability was a global problem requiring serious systematic and systemic change

We became committed to building something to help solve these problems. This was in the summer of 2019 after which we spent about a year testing different solutions. We tried an e-commerce angle to make it easier to buy sustainable products. We tried a consulting angle for small businesses. We tried building a simplified carbon analytics dashboard. But whatever we did our ideas fell short of the real scope we had been hoping to achieve. 

So like many founders before us, we headed back to the drawing board and worked  to reframe the actual problem we were trying to solve. We managed to boil it down to quite a simple notion; that businesses were unable to find and work with the right partners to reach their sustainability goals

The way we saw it, as long as businesses are not working with the right partners we are not going to be able to build genuinely sustainable supply chains. Our job then was to make it easy for businesses and solution providers to find each other. To do that, and do it intuitively, we turned to another piece of technology that has revolutionised the ways we can connect – matchmaking software. And so the idea of sustainability matchmaking was born. 

The rest is history I suppose.

What has been your biggest challenge whilst launching Greener?

Besides the usual hurdles that startups encounter I think the single biggest challenge we faced was communicating our idea – which was quite novel – to our target users.  The idea of using a platform to discover matches is one we are all used to thanks to the prevalence of dating apps, social networking sites etc. But we are far less used to seeing it in a B2B context where businesses still rely on word of mouth and who they know to make those sorts of connections

Our challenge was to take that novel, technology-based solution to a market that wasn’t necessarily used to it. This scale of this problem was exacerbated by the COVID lockdown which meant that we weren’t able to speak to our users face to face or attend conventions and trade shows. So we had to get good at digital communication very, very quickly! 

And that all says nothing about the other issues of building a team or fundraising during a global pandemic. It’s been a pretty turbulent first year to say the least.

Throughout the process of setting up and launching Greener, what has your greatest achievement been?

There are a couple of achievements that I’m really proud of. Obviously raising enough money to even get this thing started was amazing, and securing Innovate UK funding in particular felt like a huge stamp of approval for what we were working so hard to build.

Also, as I touched on a bit before, putting together such a fantastic team during a global pandemic was no mean feat. I feel very lucky to get to work with these incredible individuals everyday. 

All that said, the greatest achievement has to be actually pushing the button to go live with the platform and then getting over 100 businesses on board from around the world in the first months. Our users have been so generous with their feedback and support, and that helps us to know when we are on the right track, where we need to improve and maybe most importantly that people really like what we’re building.

We’ve got a long way to go but despite everything I couldn’t have hoped for a better start.

Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to work with an agency and how you feel it was beneficial as a startup to outsource your technology? 

Starting a company, especially with limited resources, is a constant process of calculating opportunity  cost. As a team we have a lot of skill in engineering, maths, and supply chain research/theory. But what we didn’t have was a proven track record of building polished software products. Pretty early on we had to decide whether we wanted to develop those skills in-house or work with an experienced partner. We decided to work with an agency because it could speed up the process and guarantee a quality MVP, while also ensuring the rest of the team could focus on flexing their strengths. 

That partnership worked incredibly well for us, particularly because the team shared our passion for the product that we were building. The whole process was extremely collaborative and communicative and we are so proud of the product we created together.

Can you give us a sneak peek into what the future at Greener looks like?

The past six months were all about testing the waters, seeing whether users liked what we were building and understanding exactly what they needed from the platform. As a result, we’ve gathered a vast amount of feedback and the next step is to get back to building and start implementing it all. 

We created Greener with the aim of making sustainability a central part of business rather than an afterthought, and I can tell you that we will be introducing various new and improved features to make that easier and more intuitive for small businesses. Stay tuned for that over the next few iterations. 

Business-wise, I’m working on our next funding round – so watch this space!

A big thank you to Dan for sharing his story with us. We can’t wait to watch Greener progress and change the world, one sustainable packaging piece at a time.

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