November 10, 2015

On the trail of sustainable business at Slush

Duara Travels has piloted its service in Tanzania, where travellers have had the opportunity to live among the Kigamboni community.
Duara Travels has piloted its service in Tanzania, where travellers have had the opportunity to live among the Kigamboni community.
Duara Travels

Technology and startup conference Slush might still be perceived by many as a meeting place for game companies. In reality, the event draws all kinds of enterprises: for example, those seeking financing for businesses that promote sustainable development.

Sometimes the best thing about travelling is meeting the local people – moments where you suddenly blend into the crowd and become part of someone else’s life.

This is also something the founders of Duara Travels have experienced while travelling in developing countries. These experiences led to the idea of a web-based service through which travellers can find accommodation with a local family. The majority of the accommodation fee goes to the host family, and a portion goes to the community’s village bank and to Duara.

“We want travellers to see where their money goes and how their trip affects the life of the local community,” explains Johanna Vierros, one of Duara’s three founders.

Duara Travels was entered in the Finnish Trade Register a bit over two weeks ago, and the team is currently looking for a programmer. Although its technical realisation is still in its infancy, the company’s business model has been under planning since May.

“At the moment we have a pilot community in Tanzania. Our plans are to expand within Africa, and in Asia and South America such that we have a few countries on each continent.

At Slush, Duara Travels is seeking partners and meeting with investors.

“We are also trying to take in all of Slush’s energy – you never know what surprises lie ahead,” says Vierros.

Market gap in buffet restaurants’ left-over food

Another company hoping to gain financing and energy from Slush is Buffet Go, a Finnish online store where customers can purchase a meal of their choosing from a buffet restaurant. The meal can be discounted by as much as 90 per cent, because the customer can only pick up the food as the restaurant is closing.

Buffet restaurants produce a lot of left-over food that Buffet Go wants to put within reach of consumers.

Buffet restaurants produce a lot of left-over food that Buffet Go wants to put within reach of consumers.

Istock.com/Jason Lugo

“I have been interested in entrepreneurship and companies that can positively influence global problems for a long time,” explains Mikko Valtonen, CEO of Buffet Go. “Food waste is generated in all stages of food production, but one of the biggest waste sources is especially buffet restaurants. I thought that I could establish a company to address that problem.”

The service is currently in use in Finland and Denmark. Valtonen says the intention is to expand to any city in the world that has buffet restaurants. Finding markets should not be a problem, as he has so far not encountered such a service anywhere else.

Gifts from afar without major transport emissions

Finnay, developer of a mobile gift service, is heading to Slush for the second time now. At its first foray into Slush, the company presented its mobile app. This time, the intention is to network even more and to meet investors.

With Finnay’s app, the user selects the town where the person to be remembered lives. From the town’s range of options, the user selects the appropriate gift, say, baked goods from the local bakery, which is delivered to the recipient on the same day using a local courier service, wrapped and complete with a personal message.

“The service is considerably cheaper than regular postal service. In addition, this kind of gift-giving is more environmentally friendly and doesn’t cause major emissions in transport,” says Riikka Lindström, Finnay’s CEO.

Thanks to Finnay, small local companies receive greater visibility. That’s the motivation behind the company wanting to collaborate also with other startups. Lindström hopes that will happen at Slush.

Gifts can already be purchased in Berlin, London and Tallinn. The company is in the process of launching the service in Amsterdam and Stockholm and is seeking financing for a launch in the US market.

According to Lindström, the service can essentially be launched in a new city in just one day: all it takes is a local partner and a courier service.

Sounds like the ideal company for global expansion.

Riikka Lindström (left) will make Santa’s work a little easier when Finnay expands its selection of shops before Christmas.

Riikka Lindström (left) will make Santa’s work a little easier when Finnay expands its selection of shops before Christmas.

Finnay

Text: Anna Korvenoja

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