Each year, Australians send 7 million tonnes of food/organic waste to landfill. As this organic wastes breaks down methane, a greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere and contributes to global climate change.
One startup, Waste Ninja, is looking to step in and tackle this issue. Waste Ninja bill themselves as an “Infrastructure as a Service” social enterprise that uses proven technology to divert organic waste from landfill while recovering valuable resources including renewable energy and organic fertilizer.
We sat down with Darryn Pinto to find out exactly what that means and how he hopes to turn waste into money as he scales his startup. But first Darryn took a step back and explained how the idea for Waste Ninja first occurred to him. Prior to Waste Ninja Darryn was working in the airline industry overseeing airline catering. It was while visiting a third party catering operators facilities that he saw first hand how much food waste was returned from a single plane.
Initially his interest was more focused on the financial cost of all this waste. As he was responsible for overseeing part of the airlines financial performance he wanted to understand how he could reduce the cost impact of throwing all this food away. While diving into the problem deeper however, Darryn saw that there wasn’t just a financial cost, but also an environmental one.
That’s when he turned his attention to tackling the issue. Darryn went on to test demand for the service by engaging with potential customers, researching different solutions to the problem and identifying partners who had solved parts of the overall problem.
During this process Darryn noted that there have been a number of challenges to overcome. In particular the waste market is “a capital-intensive business model and an industry dominated by some major multinationals”. Not only that but “researching and understanding the market in order to build a solid business plan has been challenging, since limited information about running a waste business is publicly available”.
That’s where Energy Lab, an accelerator program focused on clean energy solutions has been able to step in with Darryn noting that “EnergyLab, via their program and mentors have been a massive catalyst to overcoming the above challenges. Within weeks of being on the program, the program and its mentors had introduced me to organisation I would not have otherwise been able to speak to, including potential investors and large corporates for partnership discussion.”
EnergyLab has also helped provide access to capital and credibility to Waste Ninja as they look to engage with larger businesses.
Reflecting back on his journey to date, one of Darryn’s early mentors recommended “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. Darryn found the learnings from the book particularly important for people who are leaving a corporate career to start a business. In particular, Darryn highlighted that “while a corporate career armed me with plenty of useful knowledge/experience, it also entrenched some terrible habits that aren’t particularly useful for a startup.”
Darryn went on to say “the most relevant example of this is how most organisations I worked for approach decision-making and new ventures. We often relied on certain people within the organisation’s instinct to determine what was right/wrong, and spent vast sums of money ‘perfecting’ the idea in accordance with that person’s opinion before launching the idea. If you take this approach in a startup, you will run out of money and time very quickly and likely end up with something your customers don’t want!”
Looking forward the next 3-6 months for Waste Ninja is all about execution. Darryn is immediately focused on launching and providing the physical service in key markets throughout the country. Within the next 12 months Waste Ninja will look to raise further capital based off of the success of their initial launch so that they can scale the business and help do their part to tackle climate change.
You can learn more about Waste Ninja on their website.
This article is part of an in-depth series we are running on the EnergyLabs Accelerator Program. Over the next few months we will be profiling all of the startups taking part in EnergyLabs program to showcase how they are tacking some of the world’s most pressing challenges when it comes to clean and renewable energy.