Sustainable Tech Entrepreneurs Strut Their Stuff at Ignite CleanwebPosted by Tom Bristow in blog September 18, 2012
On Thurday the 14th I attended London’s first ever ‘Ignite Cleanweb’ event. Nestled in the comfortable confines of Forward Technology’s trendy Camden offices and presentation space, an audience of tech entrepreneurs and sustainability enthusiasts were treated to 12 lightning talks on how software development is helping make sustainability a reality.
The ideas on show were diverse, but presenters were united by a conviction that environmental challenges can be solved by the power of the web. I’ve barely written a line of code in my life, but I was struck by the steely-eyed enthusiasm of the software wizards on stage.
Highlights for me included Sustaination, which is helping connect small farming businesses together to take on the big food suppliers and supermarkets. Transport solutions such as Loco2 are taking the frustration out of choosing trains over planes when travelling in mainland Europe. Similarly, Vinay Gupta showed how his company, Whipcar, has made peer-to-peer car sharing accessible to 90% of Londoners. Solutions like these demonstrate the power of the web to make sustainable behaviour change a breeze.
On the more visionary side were projects such as the Open Data Institute, co-founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Set up as part of the UK Government’s Open Data Policy, the ODI will act as an innovation hub to promote the use of data in business. CEO Gavin Starks has already shown the power of information with his previous company, AMEE (Avoid Mass Extinction Engine), which was also represented at the event. AMEE has worked with corporate and government clients to provide sustainability metrics and analysis, making carbon footprint reduction much easier to implement and communicate. Projects like these show that knowledge really is power when it comes to tackling climate change.
During a break from the talks it was encouraging to hear how many people were successfully starting their own businesses – first hand evidence of the fact that London has a booming technology industry. It’s a shame that finance is the economic sector that grabs most of the headlines, because there’s real creativity and passion on show here.
Rounding off the night, Ignite’s James Smith unveiled The Cleanweb Manifesto, and asked the audience to consider if software programming could change the world (hell yes!). He then called on the assembled developers to use their coding muscle to help us innovate away from environmental disaster. Inspiring stuff.
What Smiths’ call to action shows is that if climate change is a crisis, then the creativity of these entrepreneurs is a positive reaction to it. At Futerra we think that sustainability is now a problem of communication. Without the tools that these developers are building with their electronics and lines of code, we’d have a nigh-on impossible job.
A full playlist of all the talks from the evening can be found here.