The decade that went by brought in a host of economic trends and one which really shook things around (mostly for the better) was the rise of startups. Startups have changed the way people view businesses these days by providing practical and sustainable solutions to a market that’s ever expanding.
More and more entrepreneurs are coming forward with startup ideas that have the potential to solve critical global issues like climate change, excess waste, water shortage and the extinction of flora and fauna. If you’re one aspiring entrepreneur looking for an innovative idea for a startup, here are some very likely billion-dollar concepts to ideate on.
- Plastic Recycling: Plastic is one of our biggest nemesis nowadays. Despite the fact that its existence is indispensable in the modern world, it has been doing more harm than good for the living. Talk about necessary evil! Whether or not you’re an environmentally-conscious individual, recycling can be your entrepreneurial calling. Plastic recycling particularly has a promising global market. The world is already crammed with plastic products and new plastic is the last thing this world needs. It’s time for recycled plastic products to take over. It’s estimated that there over $500bn of plastic lying around the planet. It’s cheaper to throw away, hence the plastic garbage that’s hurting our landfills, oceans and coming back into our food as microplastics.
- Waste Management by Robots: With the global waste increasing at an alarming rate, it is becoming harder to manage. The collection and disposal of such exorbitant amounts of waste is extremely challenging given the fact that it comes with some serious health and life hazards. And why should we let people risk their lives in managing waste manually, when there can be a very convenient alternative in the form of robots. Robotic technology has achieved some noteworthy milestones in the past few years.
Many waste management and recycling businesses are already making use of robots but waste collection is still an area where robotics isn’t much in use. Ideas for waste collection robots are already in works around the world. AltruBots, a Chicago-based non-profit company, has already developed a trash-collecting robot aimed to clean the Chicago River. Robots can also be trained to identify between different kinds of trash and segregate it accordingly to best recycle or dump them.
If you’re passionate about technology and a clean environment, waste collection robotics could be a great idea for your startup. You would not only be doing your bit for the environment but would also save many from risking their lives everyday, while making a sustainable business.
- Water Cleaning Technology: Clean water is fast becoming a luxury for all. While there may be traditional water cleaning solutions, there’s still a constant need to find new methods that are sustainable. The world is at such a stage that cleaning the available water isn’t enough. We need innovations such as AWGs (Atmospheric Water Generators) that can generate water from humid air. Tackling water shortage and providing clean water for an increasing population is one of the biggest challenges we’re going to face in this decade. For aspiring entrepreneurs, this can be a worthwhile challenge to take up. Some startups have already begun generating water from thin air. The likes of Maithri Aquatech and Uravu are offering AWG solutions in India. The AWG market is extremely promising and is expected to grow copiously over the next few years.
There are also simpler rural water cleaning solutions based on biosand. Providing localised clean water solutions offers a great business opportunity.
- Clean-Air & CO2 Reduction Solutions: Air pollution has come to its worst in the last decade and cities like Beijing and New Delhi have turned into giant gas chambers. Despite measures being implemented across cities, the air quality hasn’t shown much improvement. People are thus turning to air purifiers, especially for their homes. Air purifier market is obviously going strong and is expected to grow further. The challenge in this market would be to provide low-cost alternatives that can be easily bought by low-income customers as well. Startups like Nanoclean and AirOK are working on innovative air cleaning solutions. While an air purifier may seem like a quick solution it cannot solve the problem at large. Innovators need to focus on technologies that can help reduce the CO2 level in the atmosphere. A technology that can purify the air and reduce the carbon dioxide at the same time is something innovators can work towards. There are solutions that do this at city level too.
- Educational Outreach Technology: Lack of Good Education can be the root cause of most problems we face. Can the education be provided to the poor, at a low cost, in a scalable model, and still become a profitable business? I believe the answer is yes.
The growth trends in the education technology market can be quite tempting for ambitious starters but it’s time we focus on growth with social progress. Technology is helping us overcome limitations of distance, language, time and space. It’s a shame that in a time where we have Lunar and Martian probes, there are still places on Earth that are too remote for proper education and learning to reach. Education technology industry must focus on its outreach capabilities.
Startups must come up with innovations that can provide education and learning possibilities in remote and underdeveloped areas across the world such. Introducing education technology in poor and isolated areas would indeed be challenging but all the more worth. Education holds an important place in a country’s overall development. Educational tech startups would need to focus on remote, economically-weak and rural demographics. A few Indian startups aimed towards improving education in the rural areas are already in action.
- Healthcare ATMs: Healthcare is expensive. Expensive hospitals, highly trained doctors and infrastructure are hard to bring outside of the urban cities where rich people can afford such services. But what about the poor? Can we use technology to solve their healthcare access problems?
Healthcare ATMs can provide them with access to healthcare, while making it sustainable business propositions of its providers. These resemble the traditional ATMs with a provision for medical screening, basic diagnostics, even include blood tests , over the counter medicines dispensing and remote connectivity to doctors. Some healthcare ATMs have already come to use across some states in emerging countries like India. The ATM models reduce the healthcare costs, and the rural patients data when aggregated can be worth millions for several stakeholders including pharma companies. Firms like YOLO Health specialize in developing healthcare ATMs that provide basic medical screening and emergency facilities. With extensive development in this technology, the rural and isolated areas of the world can get basic healthcare and first-aid facilities.
- Vegan Food:
When we consume dairy products and meat, we are supporting animal farming which is leading to:
- Poor living conditions of animals (Tens of billions of them)
- Health issues in people (Animal products can expose humans to various bacteria and viruses)
- Environmental decline (The no.1 cause of climate change happens to be animal farming as it is building up excess of methane gases while making poor utilisation of natural resources like land and water)
- We are mis-sold the idea that milk, dairy, meat products are good for us. If you ever happen to watch ‘The Game Changers’ or ‘Cowspiracy’ on Netflix, you’d understand how bad animal products can be for everyone.
Veganism is catching up fast especially with the youth. Most people are not properly familiar with vegan recipes and ingredients which is evident from the lack of dedicated vegan restaurants. Since the market has been growing steadily and is expected to do so in future as well, it’s the right time for vegan food startups to establish themselves. Startups like Vegan Bites, Wegan Foods and Good Dot are championing the vegan cause by providing options such as plant-based meals, non-dairy milk, and vegan meat. In this noble industry you’d not only do your bit to save animals but also yield some great profits along the way.
- Food Technology: The tremendous growth of the food tech industry seems like an obvious fact nowadays. But if we see beyond the obvious, there are areas which need more exploring. These include 3-D food printing and vegan meat manufacturing. Both the industries are capable of providing sustainable alternatives to the conventional foods. While 3-D food printing can help save on time, money and effort, vegan meat manufacturing can offer a healthier and more ethical option to conventional meat. However, there aren’t many 3-D food printing startups in India. Foodini is one of the few 3-D food printers in the country. The vegan meat market seems more active on the other hand with the likes of Vezlay, Vegitein and Ahimsa Foods leading the way.
- Drone Delivery Systems: While drone delivery systems may not be a new phenomenon anymore, its commercial use is still not in action (given to India’s strict policy on drones). Drone startups are still creating a strong presence in the market. While the legal permission drone deliveries may take some time, aspiring drone entrepreneurs could take some cues from Zipline, a silicon valley company that is steering the world’s first national drone delivery network in Rwanda. More and more drone startups must focus on delivering urgent medical necessities and food packages in required locations. Such drone systems can also prove quite helpful in the event of floods, droughts and other such natural calamities. The market is comparatively new but it is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
- Bee Preservation: Bees are responsible for most human food production, with their pollination. Nearly 84% of the commercial crops are insect-pollinated and bees happen to be the primary pollinators in our ecosystem. This fact should be enough for everyone to understand how important bees are for human survival. Since the early 1990s, there has been a rapid decline in the population of the honey bee. The risk is high with the declining numbers of many different species of bees around the world. In fact, seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees have already been declared endangered. This may be a rather new area for entrepreneurs to explore but deserves a lot more attention. Companies like UBEES, Macedonian Honey and ApisProtect are doing their bit for bees, beekeepers and farmers who depend on bees. This industry hasn’t been explored much by startups in India. That makes it all the more important as an industry. Most startups related to this field are still focusing on honey production and not yet addressing the issue i.e. preserving various species of bees.
Another Bonus startup idea – Sustainability Consulting: Like McKinsey leads the way in Strategy consulting, IBM in IT consulting, there is a need for corporates to bring sustainability consultants to achieve their goals. With a positive trend visible towards sustainability, businesses and individuals are seeking expertise on sustainable technologies and practices. Companies like Consultivo and Sattva Consulting are specializing in sustainability consulting and provide solutions for counterbalancing carbon emission, water and waste management, incorporating clean technology and more. Sustainability industry is expected to see a steady growth in the coming years. There is room for many more sustainability consulting firms to be setup.
If you want to have a startup of your own, there are plenty of ideas to work on. But when you choose an industry or idea, take a moment to ask yourself – Is this going to make the world a better place for all (humans and animals alike)? The answer to this question may provide you with a strong motivator. Smart and sustainable innovations have the power to address problems without creating more problems. Although challenging, for an aspiring entrepreneur, that could be a tempting idea to explore.