Every year, 3 young student startups receive the StartLife Young Heroes award. This year, Sesolo Mello, algae producer Algreen, and HackLent with shakes for gamers received an award of respectively 2500 and 1250 euro.
Replacing paraffin in South Africa with a biofuel made from waste cooking oil
In the beginning of 2016 Jacob, Max, Nico and Roy founded Sesolo Mello. The 4 founders, who met during the Climate KIC summer school in 2015, worked on a business plan to produce the biofuel ‘Sesolo Mello’ from waste cooking oil in South Africa. After presenting their plan to the StartLife review board the startup entered stage 1 of the StartLife Incubation Program.
Co-founder Roy Hendriks: “In the townships of South Africa people mainly cook on paraffin oil. This creates unhealthy living conditions due to released toxins for families and the environment. We believe that something can be done about this. In the coming years we want to set-up local production units to produce environmentally friendly biofuels for households”.
Up and running At this moment two team members are present in South Africa. They are testing the first ranges of their fuel in the Kayamandi township to develop the product based on user experience, while writing their MSc. thesis for Wageningen University about it.
In the next years the team will set up their first production facility and spread their concept in South Africa, before going to other countries as well.
Hendriks: “With the loan of StartLife we are able to develop our product while validating some key assumptions. We also aim to generate traction in the next months to show that people really want to switch to our alternative.”
StartLife Incubation Program With the StartLife Incubation Program StartLife offers startups pre-seed loans (up to 85.000 euro), workshops, active support by a personal coach, a connection with Wageningen UR, and an international network needed to accelerate their business.
The startups Algreen and Sesolo Mello, partly founded by Wageningen University students, received a StartLife microcredit this week. They will use the loan to further explore the algae market and the opportunities to replace paraffin oil with a biofuel based on local waste in South Africa.
On the photo the Algreen team: Hendrik Staarink and Stefano Canziani.
Spirulina production – Algreen
Hendrik Staarink, graduate of Wageningen University and master student Stefano Canziani both share a passion for algae and founded Algreen in April 2015. This summer they set up a production facility for the eatable microalgae Spirulina on Wageningen campus and got an office at student incubator StartHub. Hendrik: “This year we improved the microalgae production, worked on the needed certifications for human consumption, and found several small customers. We can now produce a significant amount of Spirulina. Our next goal is scaling up our sales network. We see the micro credit as a spinning wheel to get publicity and to invest in our international sales activities.”
Cooking on biofuels – Sesolo Mello
Sesolo Mello is founded by four ‘guys’, and has a clear mission: making social and environmental impact by replacing paraffin oil used in low income communities for cooking, with biofuels from local waste. Co-founder Jacob Bussmann: “By cooking on paraffin oil many toxic compounds are released, with a negative impact on human health and the environment. In the coming year we will start a pilot project in South Africa to develop a production unit for biofuel in a township close to Cape Town. Prior to this pilot project we will use our time to get to know our customers and to adopt our product to their needs. The plan is to start with upscaling the amount of production units to let other township benefit from our idea as well by the end of 2016.”
Every year several students and recent graduates receive the microcredits of StartLife to further explore their idea for a startup. “It is great to see that there are more and more students, like the founders of Algreen and Sesolo Mello, who work out their business ideas into a concrete business plan. With our loan they can start the first business activities”, Jan Meiling, managing director StartLife says.
Read more about the funding opportunities of StartLife