Country: Italy
Status: Graduated

InSymbio turns one company’s biowaste into another’s raw material


Age of business: Under one year
Name of business: InSymbio
Location: Salerno (SA), Italy
Team: Stefano Esposito (CEO), Egidio Criscuolo (CTO), Andrea Pastore (senior developer), Sebastiano Pan (project manager), Dario Pastore (sales manager)
Funding: €100k
Elevator pitch: InSymbio is a B2B e-marketplace that aims to make one company’s bio-based residues and waste another company’s raw material.
What does InSymbio do?

InSymbio is the first B2B digital marketplace for bio-based residues and by-products with biddings and analytics. We want to facilitate the reuse of agricultural and forestry waste in the bioeconomy sector for the production of biomaterials, bioenergy, biofuels, biochemicals and so on. Thanks to open data, InSymbio is also raising awareness of opportunities with information-based services.

How did you meet?

In 2013 Stefano founded Rethink – Sustainable Solutions, an engineering company that aimed to foster the transition to a circular economy model providing innovative solutions in the energy and environment sectors. Since then, sharing the same passion for sustainability and green tech, the team is working together to develop new solutions, such as InSymbio, for a better world.

Where did the business idea come from?

According to Eurostat, we waste around 33m tonnes of bio-based materials in Europe every year. These cheap raw materials could instead be used as feedstocks to produce fuels, products, feed and chemicals, replacing their fossil fuel equivalents. We are building InSymbio to compensate for the lack of digital sales channels in this sector, to aggregate data and to raise awareness: until now it was difficult for these companies to assess the symbiosis opportunities.

Are you working with any other partners?

We started to talk with the main associations of agribusinesses in Italy, such as Confagricoltura Salerno, with which we signed a letter of intent aimed at the development of the project. We are also working with the Orders of Agronomists and universities, organising workshops about the application of the circular economy to agriculture. We will start to search for additional funding as soon as we have enough metrics.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

First of all, I would have started my business sooner! It took me way too long to learn that I should ignore everybody’s opinion if my gut told me to. Second, If I was to start again, I would have dedicated more and more time talking with potential customers, understanding their point of view much before starting to work on the platform. It could have saved us a lot of time and money, and would have helped us to raise money more easily.

How has ODINE helped you so far?

ODINE is an awesome programme that is helping us with equity-free funding, networking and mentorship. Great partners like the Open Data Institute are introducing us to the best players in the agriculture sector. Mentors such as François Bancilhon, CEO of DataPublica, are supporting us with their great business experience. We are participating in incredible events such as the ODI Summit in London and the European Data Forum in Luxembourg.

What advice would you give to other companies pitching to ODINE?

Focus on your business model and provide as many supporting facts and figures as possible. I think that the main problem with open data is that it is not so easy to understand how to make money by giving something away for free. The revenue model and the go-to-market strategy has to be sound and credible. After all, ODINE wants to support the creation of sustainable businesses.

What would you say to other startups thinking of working with open data?

Open data is a tremendous resource that keeps growing in quality and quantity, is available to everyone for free, and yet remains largely untapped. The startups are in the right place at the right moment to discover their own way to create economic value reusing incredible amount of information. Just go out of the office, start to talk with people and find new solutions to their problems!

How would you encourage big business to buy into the open data movement?

First of all, big businesses could open their own data in order to increase their transparency and the loyalty of their customers, showing for example the efficiency or sustainability of a process. Second, applying advanced analytics to open data, blended with proprietary data sets, can help organisations replace traditional and intuitive decision-making approaches with data-driven ones.

What’s the key trend in open data at the moment?

Currently, government agencies are doing great things in the transport sector. However, with the development of the internet of things, we hope to see in the future more data about the energy and the environment: from our point of view there is great untapped business potential in this information.

This article first appeared on the Guardian.