Our goals? No waste and minimal resources!

Joining the Sustainability Challenge not only elevated our nature-based solution startup but also helped us to grow personally. We were able to gain extracurricular experience of running a project and had the opportunity to apply the knowledge we acquired during our studies at WU Wien. We managed to get traction and find our way in a rather complex ecosystem of sustainability and impact-oriented ventures.

Who are we and why did we join the Sustainability Challenge?

We are C:aire and our goal is to make every breath worth breathing. That is why our team is working towards air purification through biological filtration. The team consists of Sophia Keyner (WU), Jasmo Nickol (WU), Marlies Müller (BOKU), Dubraska Moreno (Uni Innsbruck), Nihar Mehta (IAAC) and Mario Sequeira (IAAC). We are building a filter that would eliminate unhealthy and damaging chemicals in the air with the help of bacteria that degrades pollutants. It is a targeted air purification technique with no waste and minimal resources used. Matter is not added but VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) are taken out of the ecosystem.

It has been inspiring to see others realize their ideas.

The decision to join the Sustainability Challenge was unanimous and came from the fact that all of our team members are still students. The motivational factor was the diversity of the participants and teams tackling different sustainability issues. It has been inspiring to see others realize their ideas.

The program provided structured and guided support, access to the network and the stage for brainstorming. With the help of mentors from 4 different universities we were able to get connected to various stakeholders not only in the business area. We managed to develop our idea further, found a completion to our team and great mentors with whom we got connected. The program offered a wide range of helpful and essential workshops to get started and the help was tailored to our needs, which was the key element to our success.

What have we learnt?

Since the beginning of our journey as a startup and the rollout of Sustainability Challenge 20/21 we have faced several challenges and found it helpful to discuss them with experts and other founders. Impact orientation and the interdisciplinary nature of our team make success even harder to achieve. That is why we decided to draft our own list of advice to inspire the following batch of founders explore innovative ideas and dive into the synergies that are available at WU and other universities.

  • One of the lessons we learned from our journey is to never stop asking questions when moving forward. Demand as much feedback but do not let it handcuff you. Perfectionism is not the factor that pushes early startups forward but rather the “let’s just do it” mentality.
  • It is already hard to work in a team as everyone has their own idea in which direction the project should develop, and it gets even harder when the team members come from different fields. Align incentives and make the broad view of the topic your advantage.
  • Customer is the jury. Even though sustainable solutions should be the goal that everyone strives for, listen to what your customers need. Social and environmental impact is ‘hot’ but there must be more value to that, unfortunately.

Do you also want to join the Sustainability Challenge?

Participation in the Sustainability Challenge is possible in one of two tracks. In the Service Learning Track, projects are realized together with practical partners. In the Start-up Track, students implement their own sustainable start-up idea.To be a part of the Sustainability Challenge (start in fall 2021), you have to hurry up: Today is the final day, you can apply for!