Imagine a world where consumers have quick and easy access to sustainability information so that it can be integrated into their daily lives and decision-making? So that they can support sustainable companies and change the way they consume to create a better tomorrow? This is EIT InnoEnergy Master‘s in Renewable Energy graduate Joan Hereu’s vision, and he is on his way to making it happen!
Joan’s project, Sorvi (formerly known as EcoNet), has been incubating through “Sidewalk”– an EIT InnoEnergy entrepreneurship programme to support and help develop business ideas of Master’s students – over the last year. The start-up is an online marketplace based on sustainability that will offer consumers direct information regarding the sustainability of products. Consumers can then make informed decisions and affect the market through their demand for sustainable products and practices! Joan shares, “The most exciting side of this is the huge impact it can have. Our world is built upon our economy, and the truth is that money does drive the world. 58% of global GDP is based on consumer expenditure, so changing the way we consume can save our world!”
EIT InnoEnergy’s Sidewalk programme proved instrumental in learning how to start a business, as Joan explains, “I learned many things: where to focus, how to design your marketing strategy, how to deal with sales and financial forecasts, when and why you should pivot. Overall, the programme gave this complex idea the potential to become a real company – and what I value the most is working with a professional innovation mentor, an MBA professor and business angel. When Rafael Martins (a fellow student and great UX/UI designer) joined the team, the Sidewalk also helped us shape our MVP, and gave us the chance to test it in a real innovation atmosphere: The Business Booster (TBB).”
Joan shares what it was like to participate at TBB by EIT InnoEnergy, the world’s leading sustainable energy innovation event: “Having the pressure of presenting our solution in an international innovation event pushed us to move away from a business model that was far too complex, to come up with a simpler one, better focused and with a stronger value proposition. We could test that new model with different companies within our target market and got our first hint of validation.”
Joan recalls his time in the EIT InnoEnergy Master’s in Renewable Energy programme: “Inside the masters, I got to know about the business side of things which is radically different from my engineering foundation and being able to see both sides has given me many different perspectives and skills. I liked the focus on innovation, which I think is key to build a new and better world. I had the chance to work inside two cleantech start-ups: Smartive and Pro-Drone (now BladeInsight), getting a taste of real entrepreneurialism. At BladeInsight, I did my master thesis on a new solution to inspect solar PV plants using drone-based technology. It went from a vision to a team and to a prototype, working closely with key players in the solar PV market in Portugal. It was fascinating, and the challenge taught me many things that I now apply to our company.”
With a nomination for an EIT Change Award under his belt, Joan is now focusing on his PhD in sustainability and working diligently to bring Sorvi to market (you can follow their progress on LinkedIn and Instagram). He shares some final thoughts on his journey so far: “I started by working within an established company, with a decent salary and a comfortable schedule, but that wasn’t for me. So, I started spending my free time on my own thing. I got the chance to further my education in the field I love and incubate my idea within EIT InnoEnergy, feeling supported and recognized on the road towards achieving my dreams. What we do, we do to make the world a better place – so it’s wonderful to have people believe in us. When you put together people with the same view, motivation, and goal… amazing things happen. It’s the best takeaway from being in the EIT InnoEnergy ecosystem.”