Saving the lives of homeless and vulnerable people living in the most extreme weather
By 2030, 2 billion people will need access to housing, double from today. Hence, there is a need for almost 400 million affordable homes worldwide, and a market opportunity of over $4 trillion. This market is grossly underserved, where India itself has a demand for over 60 million homes in the next 5 years. The current annual supply is less than 100,000. This leaves a huge gap, and an opportunity to provide new shelter solutions and technologies developed from the ground up. billionBricks was founded in 2013 as a design studio using cutting edge innovation to invent systemic shelter solutions and technologies with the potential for rapid scale. It then uses market based instruments and a direct-to-consumer approach to achieve faster results and overcome traditional bureaucratic hurdles and dependencies on government institutions. Its first product, weatherHYDE, launched in early 2016, is the world’s only reversible all season family tent designed to save the lives of homeless and vulnerable living in extreme weather.
billionBricks’s competitive advantage is its innovation team, razor sharp focus on bottom of pyramid consumer and unique hybrid business model. Most affordable housing competitors focus primarily in keeping the cost of the product low and build cheaper homes, unlike billionBricks which is consumer-focused and innovating to serve people’s needs. This is unlocking new demand and opportunities for high quality shelter solutions. An example is PowerHYDE, billionBricks’ rural home which self-finances itself through the sale of solar energy it generates. As a result, the consumer can skip traditional bank financing for which they are mostly illegible, and still able to have a home. In this example, Architecture BRIO’s Indo-Dutch team is undertaking ground research, design and engineering of PowerHYDE, while billionBricks is building partnerships with governments and institutions and raising capital to implement and execute. With WeatherHYDE, billionBricks’ $100 house (tent), a one-for-one business model made famous by Toms shoes has become viable in shelters. It is currently being marketed in the United States to campers and outdoor enthusiasts at a higher price, giving every purchase a purpose. For every four weatherHYDEs sold for private use, one is provided to a homeless family.
A collaborative online funding platform for projects with a sustainable impact
The Sustainable Finance Collective Asia (SFC Asia) is a collaborative online funding platform to fund sustainable and high social/environmental impact proposals in Asia. It was initiated by ING Bank Asia and aims to accelerate the funding of sustainability projects on circular economy, sustainable energy and positive social impact. The Funding Panel includes Credit Suisse, FMO, ING Bank and the UNDP-UN Social Impact Fund, who collectively offer a range of capital including debt, equity and/or mezzanine, guarantees, currency and commercial covers, also aiming to leverage on blended finance. This platform will enable financial solutions efficiently under one roof. The Collective supports and provides advisory through an Expert Panel comprising of the Funding Panel, technical/engineering consultant Atkins Acuity, positive impact experts Sustainalytics and global legal firm Clifford Chance. The Expert Panel will help companies to fine-tune their sustainability projects to improve the proposals.
The basis of SFC Asia is collaborative innovation itself, in order to accelerate the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Nationally Determined Contributions, and translate dialogue into tangible action and impact. The platform is innovative and unique because it bundles impact assessment, financial solutions and capabilities from separate institutions, which you normally do not find under ‘one roof’. Also access to these credible players is simplified via a website. Whilst the launch was only in the end of November 2016, SFC Asia is already reviewing circular economy, sustainable energy and impact proposals from across the region, and finding expertise synergies to make funding of the proposals happen.
Each of the Panel members aims to encourage businesses to become more sustainable and are ready to roll-up their sleeves for game-changing sustainability projects that may not be a straight forward funding story. The fact that they are collectively willing to provide support and think along with the Proposers sets SFC Asia apart from those who merely provide funding or services. For example, applicants to date and future proposal submitters who are currently preparing their applications, have expressed that the purposes are aligned, and take comfort in finding that common passion: to transition the society at large towards a more sustainable future. This builds trust under the common ‘Why’, and will increasingly draw more companies to SFC Asia for funding and advice, as green and social transitions continue to accelerate in Asia.
A collaborative co-working space to push innovation.
The Unilever Foundry, established in London in 2014, and Singapore in 2015, provides a single entry-point for innovative startups seeking to partner with Unilever, enabling the company’s global brands to experiment with and pilot new technologies with more effectiveness, more efficiency and speed. The Unilever Foundry in Singapore has enabled Unilever to engage more than 100 startups, launching 14 projects in areas such as marketing, data analytics and sustainable procurement.
In 2017, LEVEL3, a collaborative and innovative co-working space conceived by the Unilever Foundry and Singapore startup, Padang & Co, was opened. Located within Unilever’s regional headquarters in Singapore, the workspace aims to push collaboration and corporate innovation boundaries by bringing together Unilever, startups, and entrepreneurs to create new partnerships that deliver real and meaningful business impact. LEVEL3 is a first for Unilever. It is also the first co-working space to be located within a FMCG corporate organisation within Asia. Housing LEVEL3 in Singapore was a strategic move. As one of the leading financial hubs in the world, coupled with its Smart Nation vision, Singapore continues to be seen as Asia’s innovation hub and a hotspot for startups. With over 1500 startups headquartered in Singapore, it was an easy choice when there are 4.2 billion consumers within a six-hour flight.
The Unilever Foundry and LEVEL3 aim to bridge the world of Unilever’s biggest global brands with leading innovators and entrepreneurs, with their dynamism, their speed and their products. This collaborative innovation is a winning formula for both the startups as well as Unilever. By leveraging the partnerships established through the Unilever Foundry and LEVEL3 in Singapore, Unilever is tapping into disruptive startups to discover new ways of working, new ways to understand its consumers, new ways to reach new consumers and new ways to continue Unilever’s mission of making sustainable living commonplace across the region. At the same time, the company is learning from the startups it works with to be more entrepreneurial, allowing it to ultimately serve its consumers and customers better.
To date, 15 startups are establishing themselves in-house at LEVEL3, including Adludio, ConnectedLife, Datacraft, EcoHub, GetCRAFT, Next Billion, Olapic, Snapcart, TaskSpotting and Try and Review.
Read more about the other Winsemius Awards 2017 finalists here