This Sustainable Startup Leads by Example
“Handprint offers ‘Impact as a Service’ by connecting companies to causes they and their customers care about. On the one hand, we curate diverse impact projects within the regenerative economy, focusing on habitat preservation, mangrove reforestation, coral reef reconstruction, and ocean plastic cleanups but fast expanding towards social impact as well,” Schillebeeckx explains. “On the other hand, we create plug-and-play digital technology solutions that empower our B2B and B2C customers to integrate positive impact into their services. Our suite of solutions forms a modular sustainability toolbox from which companies can pick and choose components that align with their values and their value proposition.”
Fortunately, the startup’s ambitious business model saw immediate success, validating the need for their service and building a strong foundation for the startup’s early stages. “Our first products have given us access to 2.75 million ecommerce stores worldwide giving us high-scalability potential,” Schillebeeckx tells of their early success. “Now we are expanding our toolbox with various POCs in industries as diverse as banking, paper, hospitality, travel, transport, shipping, and electricity. The flexibility of our toolbox allows us to help companies integrate micro-contributions to positive impact projects into any kind of business process, customer touchpoint, or employee KPI.”
The Beginning of an Eco-Friendly Startup
“The initial reason for starting Handprint was a collaboration that we set up with a friend of mine, who was at the time running his own company and decided to work pro bono for a while to help my NGO that I set up two years before Handprint [to] gain access to a subsidy,” Schillebeeckx notes. “We started working with Mathias, who's now our CEO, and that collaboration was so interesting and so productive that we very quickly decided that we shouldn't just collaborate on this one project, we should actually set up a venture together.”
However, the initial leap into a more permanent venture wasn’t Handprint. Two of Handprint’s would-be founders, Ryan Merrill and Simon Schillebeeckx, began with a nonprofit organization, Global Mangrove Trust, after spending a week in Myanmar. The organization’s mission was to raise funds for a singular Mangrove reforestation NGO; however, the pair was surprised at the rapid growth the project saw. After two years of operating the NGO, which included working with banks on blockchain technology and working with several partners in the space, the pair realized they needed to pivot. It was during this time that Handprint was born.
Looking Toward a Greener Future
What’s next for this greentech startup? The founders have a few different ideas, “We have two definitions of success in our company. One is that we want to become a Gigacorn. A Gigacorn is like a unicorn, a $1 billion company but the Gigacorn stands for the company that is taking one gigaton of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year,” Schillebeeckx says of the company’s goals, “but, I think when you're working in the space that we are working in, like regeneration, climate action, and biodiversity preservation, every little victory is a success and needs to be celebrated because we're really fighting against a lot of institutional pressures and inertia.”
To do this, Schillebeeckx plans to leverage his experience in the sustainability space and beyond. “My background is in sustainability, consulting, and I'm an academic, so I teach sustainable operations and business model innovation. Most of my research is around the intersection of how digital technologies [can] be used to achieve sustainable development,” Schillebeeckx says. “Handprint is a concrete project that turns all of that academic knowledge, which is largely useless, into something that's potentially meaningful and could hopefully change maybe a small part of the world or if we're very lucky, a large part of the world.”
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