by David, Business Manager
Initially, we thought we would offer our bins for sale. However, after many meetings, we concluded that a monthly subscription system would be the best way to sustain our project. Subscriptions would allow us to improve our offer continuously by offering regular software and hardware updates as well as increased flexibility.
When we first launched Echooo on social media, we were a little disappointed with the results. Echooo focuses specifically on companies, but on social media, we also needed to engage with individuals, both old and young, to convince them of the value of our project. We therefore needed to find a balance in our communications. After a period of adaptation, and thanks to awareness-raising content and formats, we were finally able to reach the community we really wanted to touch.
With this mixed start on social media still in mind, we were particularly determined to launch our crowdfunding initiative on a high note, notably by appealing to those we had already reached in our community. Successful crowdfunding is not easy. We therefore prepared for it meticulously, starting by comparing several platforms and ultimately choosing Ulule. This choice was due to the local proximity of Ulule and the fact that many Belgian projects appear on it. Hello bank offered pitching possibilities to the best projects and although they selected us, Covid19 unfortunately prevented us from pitching.
The key to success lay in a real, successful and multi-directional strategy. Our mission was to connect with all the contacts and leads that we had developed over the year, using a carefully defined media strategy and various triggers activated at well-defined logically flowing points. We had preplanned 30 visual posts, 30 stories, our thank you banners and promotional videos. We explained our entire project, in French and in English, in a variety of formats for different media, networks and audiences. We had 25 events listed, and a rotation of different team members to participate in each event. The goal was to involve as many people as possible without ourselves becoming overwhelmed.
On February 28th, the day of the launch, we all gathered at The Space to push as much as possible to reach our first goal of 800€ in 5 hours. We contacted everyone we possibly could and ended up reaching 1200€ in less than 5 hours instead of just 800€. Over the following weekend, we did not let up on our efforts; on the contrary, we reached out to every contact in our network. Galvanized and carried forward by a green wave, we were able to collect 2000€ in 48 hours.
At the end of an intense month-long campaign, during which we always included a call to action to our crowdfunding, we raised 7030€. In addition to this, 104 contributors believed in us and in our project, made 125 contributions, and sent more than 90 supporting comments, each of which received a response from us.
We cannot thank these contributors enough for their support! We produced a short video in which each member of the mini-company thanked contributors in his or her native language. Feel free to watch it!
This marathon, an exceptional experience, allowed us to meet many people and make incredible contacts, each one opening up new perspectives.
Launch night was memorable. To be gathered at the Space, on our computers and mobile phones, in a frenzy, stressed out by responses, and then to see the contributions start rolling in and all the people who believe in our project come together, was a real accomplishment. I was so absorbed with the day’s mission that I forgot to leave early enough to get the last bus home. Sébastien also missed his bus so we ended up walking home in the rain to clear our minds and reassure each other we were not dreaming.
#CLIENT APPROACH STRATEGIES
Since the creation of Echooo, we have been looking for one thing above all else: feedback. This is why we offered many companies, free of charge, the opportunity to test our prototypes – from cardboard to wooden ones. In that way, we have been able to collect tips for improvement of the shape of our bin, the materials, the functionalities, etc.
With the same goal, we decided to participate in numerous pitches, networking events and meetings with experts, all in order to elaborate a solution in close collaboration with our potential market and thus ease the implementation of our project.
Some meetings really gave a new twist to the project. This was the case for our meeting with Ben Piquard, a renowned business developer; his creative and experienced approach strongly illuminated the audience we should target as early adopters: innovation companies. Isabelle Peemans, founder of Gracious, a consulting and communication agency, also spent several hours telling us how to be more impactful in our search for clients.
Our current strategy is therefore to target early adopters like Future Lab, Next Things, etc… Companies who like to test new technologies and solutions and put them in showrooms for their customers.
Our aim is to propose a co-innovation offer, i.e. testing of our trash cans over a period of, e.g. 3-4 months. We follow up via zoom meeting every 15 days and discuss the test’s progress.
When running a test with several companies, we organize collective zoom meetings, so everyone can exchange and share their experiences of the test conditions. We set achievement for specific time-periods and schedule individual zoom meetings for more personalized follow-ups.
Our goal is to understand fully how each trash can fits into dozens of different companies so that in future, we will be familiar with all types of business structures and we easily help each adopt our solution.
Our offer is simple: the company pays a monthly amount of 1500€ to participate in a co-innovation test, and together we try to understand the conditions needed for the best impact so that the organization can transform and become “eco-conscious”.
These co-innovators are not just customers but become our best ambassadors.
Estimating costs was a difficult exercise considering the variables with many unknowns.
We use Firebase, a pay-per-use platform (for sending/storing data). This platform allows us to control our costs, but more importantly, it offers free tier services as long as we do not exceed a certain threshold, guaranteeing that we can confirm our estimates with our first client. Firebase invoices at the time of a transaction (writing, reading, deletion of a data) and via storage, as follows:
- X = the number of employees
- B = the number of trash cans: estimated at X*(3/10)
- Y = trash can opening: estimated at 140 openings/day per trash can
- S = the Gigs stored in the cloud: estimated at 10gb
Each time a trash can opens, it produces data: writing = B*Y
A user will request such data from each trash can for the current day, as well as a request per trash can for the week’s data. A user will also query other features on the app.
- writing = 200*X
- reading = (B*Y + B*7 + 200)*X
- storage: For the files of each application as well as some images : storage = (S-1)
Variable Cost Formula:
31*( ( B*Y +200*X -20000)*0.108 + ((B*Y +B*7+200)*X -50000)*0.036 )/100000
Fixed Cost Formula:
Counting a ratio of 10/3 employees per trash can we obtain:
- 0.97€/month for 15 users (only the fixed charge)
- 1.49€/month = 1 company of 50
- 21.50€/month = 1 company of 200
- 4460.15€/month = 1 company of 3000
- 22.02€/month = 1 company of 200 + 1 company of 50
- 42.54€/month = 2 companies of 200 + 1 company of 50
- 4883.18€/month = 1 company of 3000 + 3 companies of 500 + 2 companies of 200 + 2 companies of 50
Therefore, it’s clear that, as long as we are in the test phase ( <15 users), we will have almost no costs for usage of the Cloud.
The amount grows exponentially because, in our hypothesis, each user retrieves all the company’s daily and weekly trash can data bit by bit. This is quite an unusual scenario since some data remains stored in the device, not all users use the entire application every day and most users will only interact with a small set of trash cans.
This graph shows the evolution of the cloud cost according to the number of employees based on our scenario. As long as the bar is close to 0, our daily requests are offered free of charge by Firebase.
We have made several other estimates that can be found in our financial plan for the next 12 months.
#LOAN OR INVESTMENT
In a loan scenario, the debt from a loan is generally repayable in monthly instalments.
An investor contributes an amount as payment of shares on which dividends are paid and the shares increase in value as the value of the company increase. In the event of a sale, this investor will receive a share of the sale proceeds.
Determining whether a loan or investment is most suitable is therefore a question of balance. An investment is more interesting for companies, especially in the early stages, to minimize risk. Companies should request a low payout ratio. The calculation is as follows: interest rate multiplied by the total sum at an interest rate of 6%. A loan of 65000€ at a rate of 6% would cost 71000€ (including interest). This value gives the maximum dividend we are willing to pay using the formula 71k*6% = 4260€ to determine what we would be willing to pay annually in perpetuity.
Thanks to a formula indicated by the President of the European Business Games Alliance, since this amount is less than 27656€ the most judicious choice for Echooo would be to opt for the investment option.
Initially, our suppliers were general retailers such as Brico. Our production therefore had to evolve. We have tried to forge links with local producers, for example, we now directly source our metal from Sobemetal, a metal producer in Brussels. Of course, sourcing materials directly is more complex as we have to order in larger quantities, but this does allow us to limit the intermediaries and the carbon footprint of our materials as we create scale economies. The same evolution has taken place for our wood suppliers, as we have moved to a wholesaler who supplies wood to the construction sector.
The proximity of these suppliers not only allows us to participate in the economic development of the region but also to have greater flexibility and a better after-sales service.
We favour local suppliers and have chosen to reduce the number of intermediaries as much as possible to reduce the cost of our products. Our subscription formula also allows us to collect our trash cans and refurbish them instead of throwing them away, thus favouring circular economy and repairs. All this promotes sustainability while increasing the lifespan of our trash cans and making our project more profitable.
In addition, we opted not to use packaging on our products for these reasons:
Firstly, our product is bulky, so producing packaging would not only be expensive but would also produce a significant amount of waste, which would not be in line with our long-term vision of zero waste. In addition, our product is aimed at B2B, so we are selling the functionality of our trash cans not their packaging. As regards installation, we take the product on site so packaging is less important. However, we still have to protect our product when we deliver it so we use a unique reusable protection for each delivery.
Developing a plan is one thing, following it is another, and sometimes we need to change the means to achieve our ends. In these exceptional times, Echooo, like many others has had to rethink strategies. The lockdown could have been a source of difficulties but that was not the case, quite the contrary. Swivelling, adapting and redirecting were among the first things we learned. Calls until 3am and zoom meetings every other day to motivate each other will remain engraved in our memories. We also had to learn a variety of tricks for staging “homemade” pitches to remain decisive and persuasive via videoconference, and continue to win prizes even in lockdown.
To boost our crowdfunding in its last few days we had to adapt more traditional communication methods to the new reality. With Filip, we spent a whole day in our neighbourhood distributing letters made of recycled paper and wearing gloves of course. The pitch 2m away from the open door was also a success. It was a decisive moment when I realized that our team could adapt to any unexpected event.
by Anas, Communication Manager
One of the first things we learned was to express ourselves! Throughout the adventure, we had intense pitching sessions with our coaches to improve communication skills. We practiced and improved by participating in numerous events.
PechaKucha by The Space
Despite some aspects of the project still being unclear at the time, our English-speaking team did not succumb to the pressure of this very challenging pitch format. As a result, we won first place against some very tough opponents.
Start Up World by Solvay
This was our first networking event but unfortunately, we did not get the chance to pitch. Nevertheless our presence at the fair allowed us to present our project, to meet other more experienced start-ups and so live a most enriching evening.
LJE’s General Assembly
This event simply allowed us to present our project to our shareholders.
This was one of the most challenging days of the year for all of us, but in the end, it was a great success. Proud of our stand, designed by Thomas, our performance allowed us to win the innovation prize awarded by Audi Brussels. We again received a lot of feedback that day, both from entrepreneurs but also from regular visitors.
Tomorrowlab & Livingtomorrow Hackathon
It was only a few hours before the start that we convinced this event’s organizers to allow us to pitch our project at the end of the hackathon. Claudia and David were real champions and received a standing ovation at the end of their pitching performance. The event ended with networking during which we signed up our first beta testers, Q8 and Delhaize.
StartLab Ichec’s “Having a positive impact”
It was during this networking gathering of positive impact young entrepreneurs that we chatted with Jérôme Thomas, advisor in charge of support for entrepreneurs in the Cabinet of Secretary of State Barbara Trachte.
Hello Bank’s PitchPitch
This event should have brought together the best crowdfunding projects on Ulule and Sabine and Claudia had been preparing for the pitch for several before its unfortunate postponement due to the lockdown. It’s only a postponement…
Inspiration Club’s Inspiration Time
We were selected to present Echooo’s project to entrepreneurial students from Solvay. Though the event was postponed, we already have our spot reserved for early October.
LJE Pitch challenge
The lockdown did not prevent us from participating in this important contest and winning it thanks to Claudia’s great performance via Zoom.
At 9.45 am, David was already set to convince the KBC jury with a 5-minute pitch in English followed by 7 minutes of questions and answers. Even more relaxed than during the hackathon at the beginning of the month; David’s pitching skills paid off and convinced each member of the jury.
LeanSquare’s One Hour Challenge
Also by videoconference, this challenge pushes participants to practice improving investor pitching and was as enriching as it was challenging. Answering the questions raised during this intense hour was certainly not an easy task. Nevertheless, the general feedback was very positive and the few criticisms were constructive.
It is crazy to compare my communication skills in September with how I express myself now. I have developed a definite ease that was sorely missing in September. Our continuous pitch training has given me self-confidence and I am now able to present Echooo’s project perfectly to any audience, under pressure and all while enjoying myself!
Mind&Market’s Digital forum
Our 3 minute video pitch was selected in the category of environmental impact.
#OUR MEDIA ENGAGEMENTS
Our first press appearance was at last February’s congress. When we heard that BX1 TV were at the congress we immediately reached out to persuade them to give us a slot in their TV news section. Fortunately, they were impressed and delighted to give us the opportunity to talk about our project. We did not stop there. At the beginning of March, we were in the Vivacité radio studios for an interview on the breakfast show Bruxelles Matin, again presenting our project. A few days later, we were broadcasting our good vibes on “Vivre ici Hainaut“. Finally, again at Vivacité, we went on “C’est pas fini“.
The lockdown could not stop us either, as Mike from Fun Radio gave us a few moments on the phone to talk about the project in “20h-23h“. We made the strategic decision to focus on media engagements as much as possible during the month of March to support our crowdfunding campaign and advertise our project. Around the beginning of March, we also started organizing events. We organized a cleanwalk, which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to Covid19. During April, an article analysing our project appeared in the pages of the magazine Trends-Tendance underlining the innovative, modern and inevitable aspect of our solution.
Initially Sébastien was lined up to represent Echooo in our very first televised interview with BX1. It turned out however, that he was not yet comfortable in front of the camera, so fortunately Sabine was able to step in at the very last minute. Since then, Sabine has taken on most of the media work.
However, Sébastien refused to give up and he made up for the disappointment of the BX1 interview by participating in our first radio interview at Vivacité. Though very stressed before the interview, against the odds, he relaxed once on the set of Antoine Fleurus and the occasion proved to be very satisfying for the whole team and especially for Sébastien.
We main goal is to leave a footprint in companies; however we are always looking for initiatives to spread our good vibes via other channels. In order to spread Echooo’s values even further, we organised a cleanwalk in Forest to raise awareness about waste management. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled due to Covid19, but we intend to come back fighting and organize a cleanwalk every two months when the situation is back to normal.
I was really looking forward to the uniqueness of the cleanwalk. It was to be an opportunity for individual interactions on a personal level. Having worked so long on technological solutions and features to reconnect companies to the weight of their consumption, we felt it was also important to reconnect with individuals, with fellow citizens willing to get involved in the zero waste movement and share ideas around this theme while having fun.
by Eliane, Team Manager
We are a team of 9 young entrepreneurs, all pupils at Sacré-Coeur de Lindthout but also all from different backgrounds, with different paths and choices for the future. From Germany to the Congo, passing by Spain; from nature enthusiasts to geeks to sports enthusiasts; from future students in marketing or psychology, to students in sewing and graphic design, we have all come together around the values and missions of Echooo.
Our differences have been an endless source of ideas, inspiration and resources. From the beginning, we have determined each task assignment, each assumption of responsibility, to fit the personality and goals of each person. Rather than losing our identities, we lived the mini-company as an experience to get to know ourselves better, to work on our shortcomings and for each of us to boost our strengths and specificities. Given the complexity of our solution, we had to keep growing. Expert support was essential initially but we would need to learn to fly alone for Echooo to remain viable in the long term.
By using software that facilitates team management, logistical organisation and design amongst other things, we have optimised our efficiency to get the best from everyone. We achieved all our objectives after in depth reflection and self-learning. Instead of problems or barriers, we see challenges and opportunities to obtain new skills. We have strengthened our connections to each other and to zero waste, as hard work has brought our project to life and our plans come to fruition. This is why our team is more determined than ever to use this opportunity to continue to develop our project and ourselves.
Three people unfortunately had to leave the mini during the Christmas holidays because they could no longer balance schoolwork with Echooo. For my part, it was not always easy; I hesitated for a long time but in the end could not give up the mini. After everything we have experienced since, I am so happy I made that choice. Balance both experiences has just pushed me to learn to manage my time better.
During the month of January, tensions arose between different members of the team, notably because of their differing levels of involvement, uneven exam results and post-exams frustrations. We organized a special meeting with our coach Elias to air our feelings and improve our team cohesion. Team members became aware of mistakes they might have made and learnt how to work better together in the future.
We enter a world where everything is measured, objectified, stored and processed. The explosion of data is self-evident, after mobile phones, televisions and connected cars, trash cans inevitably follow to finally make a push forward the field of waste management. We can reasonably estimate that we have a value proposition ahead of its time; Ben Piquard reckons that Echooo is 5 years ahead of its time. We are therefore in an exploratory and pioneering phase, ahead of the optimal maturity of the market and before the advent of the inevitable. We have to prepare the ground and understand the stakes in order to be the cornerstones of this new world. We need to facilitate, accelerate and resonate in time and space.
#REGISTRATION OF ECHOOO
At the end of the rich adventure provided by LJE, Echooo needed a new framework from which to face future challenges. We therefore created our own non-profit organization, to keep our green momentum going and to keep the echo of the last few months resonating. Our official structure is a great achievement while being a true challenge. However, we are not facing it unarmed; we have taken the care to anticipate and prepare for what comes next. We have our partners behind us, and Entreprenants, a support structure for entrepreneurial initiative, beside us. One of the Echooo team also plans to take off a gap year after school to devote all his time and energy to the development of the project during this crucial period.
#AN ECHO FOR MORE
Our varied range of services tailored to the specific needs of our clients allows them to benefit fully from our solution. Our goal though is to keep advancing, continuously improving our services to better meet the needs and future challenges of customers. We echo the feedback from the market to improve our products, develop their functionalities and provide more to our clients.
You are seduced by the opportunity and you wish to participate in a co-innovation.
Our project continues! Other steps will be added to this beautiful project that is dear to our hearts. Your journey that explores the construction of the Eechooo project step by step has just begun. To be continued…