The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is one of the largest annual competitions in the field of sustainable entrepreneurship. However, it was not enough for this global competition to be known primarily in Europe and North America. This year, the organisation has been working to reach the best green start-ups from all over the world. We talked to Arjan Beerman and Linda Vermaat from the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge about improving its global visibility and outreach.

What would you say is the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge’s main goal for the future?
“Our main goal for the future is to contribute to solving climate change. In order to do so, we reach out to sustainable talent all over the world. Talent is everywhere, opportunity unfortunately is not. Not everyone has access to financing, networks and coaching. We asked ourselves: how can we ensure that more initiatives get a chance to succeed?”

Can you describe how you have changed your methods in order to reach more sustainable initiatives?
“Last year, we saw the number of applications growing tremendously. This had a lot to do with the fact that we began working with a number of partners, such as VC4Africa, Seedstars and YouNoodle in order to achieve greater diversity in our applications.

The immediate results this delivered made us decide to set aside a larger budget to continue to find start-ups via our partners’ networks. We work with Impact Hub Amsterdam, Get in the Ring, YouNoodle, Alpha Gamma, The Next Web, Seedstars and VC4Africa. They are well known in the field of sustainable and impact entrepreneurship. They are very excited about our competition and want to bring it to the attention of their entrepreneurial networks. We have in common that we are all looking for ways to match good opportunities with talented start-ups. Starting partnerships with such big names in the sector will push our competition to new heights. They help us to attract increased quality in the applications and realise a broader scope.”

Which other steps are you taking to increase you global outreach?
“With our competition, we want to show that a lot is happening all over the world in the area of making a positive impact. To increase our global outreach, we have taken big steps in making our communication more accessible by putting our ‘customers’, the start-ups, first. What is the best way to reach out to them? We realised that people process information more naturally when it’s presented in their native language. Language should never be a barrier in getting the message across, which is why we decided to translate our communications for specific regions. For example, partners in Brazil receive all our materials, such as newsletters and the promotional video, in Portuguese. We do the same for Arabic, Chinese or Spanish-speaking countries. The application and pitch still have to be submitted in English, but increasingly, we are working towards tailoring everything to our audience.

We have also improved ‘The Green Challenge Deep Dive’ finalist accelerator programme and we now examine the needs and wishes of each start-up more closely. Different team members follow different development trajectories and each start-up coach visits the start-up in its own work environment and context, no matter if it is South America, Africa or Asia.”

How does the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge start-up scout make a difference?
“Our start-up scout Linda has more or less become the face of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, by visiting impact conferences, meeting up with venture capital firms, co-working spaces and accelerator programs in selected areas worldwide. This year, we have focused on southern regions, such as Africa, South America, and Asia.

In addition to being on the road, Linda sets up webinars and Skype conversations, often together with our partners. Entrepreneurs appreciate the accessibility and openness. Linda advises the start-ups on all sorts of things. For example, last year’s winner EarthEnable, a low-tech idea with a huge impact, was primarily dedicated to improving health conditions in Africa through sustainable flooring. It was an additional benefit that the idea creates huge reductions in CO2 emissions. Linda encouraged this start-up to focus on the CO2 reduction aspect in their application, as at the end of the day, this is a green business competition.

It is our hope that the impact start-ups we support go on to play a crucial role in solving global issues. The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge prize money serves to accelerate start-ups towards entering their next phase. We would love to see that in 10 years’ time, a specific climate issue has been resolved by a disruptive start-up that was funded by our competition.”