EarthTech is on a mission to scale 1,000 youth-led social enterprises and positively impact 1 billion lives in the next decade.
“Ultimately I had a feeling something was missing, because all we ever talked about was money,” reflects serial entrepreneur, Ant Moorhouse, on his four years spent as a mentor for tech start-ups in Boulder, Colorado. “Every Pitch Deck was exactly the same: ‘invest in us and in three years-time everyone is going to be super-wealthy’. All they were looking to do was sell their widget and maximize valuation. For me, it wasn’t enough."
This nagging feeling turned into a lightbulb moment when Moorhouse returned from the US to his homeland of Australia, and he saw the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef during a diving trip.
“At that moment I realized, the next thing I do, has to be about the future,” he says over a Zoom call from Noosa, Australia.
“I’m a father, and one day I will be a grandfather, and if I’m not spending all my time and networks making the planet better for my grandkids, what is the point? When I’m on my deathbed, if all I have done is make money, I didn’t think that was good enough.”
So began the start of EarthTech Ventures, a social enterprise set up by Moorhouse with his partner Brian Keayes, with a mission to identify and scale high-impact, youth-led social ventures across the world, that will help achieve the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In a similar vein to the likes of One Young World and the Young Global Leaders Annual Forum organised by the WEF, EarthTech gathers "the cream of the crop", but unlike its peers, it sets them up in a 'Dragon's Den' style pitching competition, in front of a panel of interested investors.
In December 2019 EarthTech held its first global innovation challenge, which had over 855 global registrations. The top innovations were selected from 73 countries and the best of the best brought together at the summit. The three-day event was held on Makepeace Island in Noosa, owned by Sir Richard Branson. Investors paid around US$10,000 for their tickets to the event, while the short-listed young finalists were flown to the island and put up for free.
After three days of expert-supported judging process- as well as dinners, dancing and surfing (Moorhouse describes the vibe as “TedX-meets-Burning Man”)- ten finalists were announced, attracting US$1.5 million in funding for their initiatives.
One of the finalists is a company called Safewheel, set up by Bangladesh-born friends Faysal and Anas. Safewheel was created after one of the founder’s uncles died. He lived in a rural area and the ambulance couldn’t get to him quickly enough. They created an affordable, rickshaw-sized electric ambulance to get to the rural people of Bangladesh. Its response time is 300 percent faster, and its service charge is 50 percent cheaper than all the existing ambulances in Bangladesh. SafeWheel is now on track to positively impact 4.8 million people in the next 2 years.
Another one is Newdigit, run by Nigerians Derick and Authority, who had to strain their eyes as children to study in the evenings as they had no electricity for light. One of the founders lost a family member to lung cancer, caused by dirty cooking fuels. Their technology is a solar cell with an embedded system that breaks down dirty water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used to produce electricity via a fuelcell and to cook via a micro burner.
These initiatives are outstanding, says Moorhouse, because the young people behind them have a deep understanding of the local problem they’re trying to solve, and are doing so with relatively little access to money, which makes their business plan all the more innovative. “Their family has been affected by this. There’s no greenwashing. It’s not something they’ve read about at Harvard Business School. They are engaged at the coal face of the need, in the most dynamic markets in the world,” he said.
“And the amazing thing about these people is what they can do with a US$50-250,000 investment, which scales these innovations towards our goal of positively 1 billion people.”
The event is aimed at multi-family offices, corporates, non-profits and high net worth individuals who want or need to diversify some of their investment into social causes. “Impact is the fastest-growing asset class in the world now people are looking for an emotional ROI,” says Moorhouse.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Together in Action Summit, will be held virtually on the 26th November. Over 50 qualified and investor-ready social enterprises will be on the platform with around 100 impact investors and over 100 judges, mentors, advisers and pro bono agencies offering support.
The Together in Action summit also has a number of strategic partners including Water Aid, Save the Children, The Nature Conservancy, International Anti-Poaching Foundation, King, Wood & Mallesons and Respond Global.
Tickets and more information can be found here: https://togetherinaction.org/impact-summit-2020/
This article was featured in:
The Reset Issue