How best to deal with excessive consumption, deforestation, pollution, social inequalities or the lack of working conditions? It is thinking about these and other challenges that, over the next three months, ten technologically based startups are joining the Maze X programme, a new European accelerator designed and launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations and MAZE with the law firm PLMJ Sociedade de Advogados as a founding corporate member.
Among the startups selected, five are Portuguese and all are European based. A solid team, an innovative product or service with a great potential impact, an already validated business model and recourse to technological tools are criteria common to all participants. Correspondingly, the problems raised and the solutions proposed range from a beauty services in the home platform, which integrates employees in vulnerable situations as regards the labour market (Sparkl) through to an automatic irrigation system that autonomously applies the best irrigation plan adapted to the different crops and environments so as to make a drastic reduction in overall water consumption (TriggerSystems) or a network that enables the purchase of clothing directly from responsible and environment-friendly manufacturers so as to foster greater consumer awareness and cut down on the waste resulting from the fashion industry (Springkode).
Other projects include the app SitEinander, which enables families with young children to organise free babysitting services with their neighbouring families; the Rnters platform for the loaning of all types of items and that seeks to counter excess consumption and nurture a sharing economy; Tuki, that seeks to optimise the organisation of workers by shifts in the restaurant sector helping the community to find the best employment solutions (full-time, part-time or temporary), with better conditions for all; the Goodbag, a reusable bag with a chip inserted that provides discounts or vouchers to plant trees each time it gets used in partner stores; and Canguru Foods: The Urban Food Box, a sustainable system of food production that combine principles of the bio-circular economy of urban agriculture with agricultural technology to design and build more ecological constructions. Two other start-ups are also to develop pilot-projects in association with the Maze X partner companies: PLMJ is helping out with developing the app MyPolis, with the goal of promoting the civic involvement of communities and dialogue, whether between citizens and political leaders or between employees and their companies; and while BNP Paribas is to provide a boost to Chatterbox that strives to enhance the social integration and employability of highly qualified migrants and refugees.
In addition to the three month residency, the Maze X acceleration programme provides six months of support and consultancy and includes a stipend (equity exempt capital) for entrepreneurs totalling 7500 euros to cover their costs during their stay in Lisbon. Furthermore, the start-ups may later join a European roadshow with the objective of presenting their projects to other investor and corporate networks and thus drive their businesses onto new levels.
Originating at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2013 (as the Social Investment Laboratory), Maze works with entrepreneurs and impact investors to develop effective solutions for social and environmental challenges. Since 2014, the programme has already raised three million euros for high impact start-ups in Portugal and is currently raising a 40 million euro risk capital fund so as to invest in the European start-ups that have already received Gulbenkian Foundation backing.