Curious about working in envirotech?

What I've learned co-founding a circular economy startup as a 20-something and how you can get involved.

Are you a young professional or student captivated by the promise of sustainability and environmental impact? If so, you’re in the right place to explore the burgeoning world of envirotech – a sector that’s not just about solar panels and recycling but encompasses a wide array of innovations aimed at combating climate change. Whether you’re considering envirotech education or actively seeking environmental science jobs, this blog post offers invaluable insights. From transitioning careers to understanding the Circular Economy, we delve into the essentials you need to know to build a meaningful career in envirotech. Read on to discover how you can be a part of this exciting and impactful field.

Nick is a long-time Rippler and Co-Founder of IQ Energy Australia,, you might know him from his days at Global Voices or chucked him a sneaky follow at @thebeercraftreview. He was selected as one of our Emerging Civic Leaders in 2021 his career has zigzagged beautifully from hotels and hospitality, to international affairs, to circular economy startups.

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What even is envirotech and should I consider it?

Environmental technologies, also known as envirotech, have exploded over the past few years and there are incredible inventions and ideas coming from all kinds of places. There are hardware technologies, like solar panels and flightless taxis, and there are software technologies, like blockchain and apps. There are many startups innovating and stepping up to the challenges of climate change, and other environmental challenges, and it is a fantastic and exciting space to be a part of.

How I went from hospo to running an enviro-tech startup:

I am the Co-Founder of IQ Energy Australia, a Melbourne based startup, which holds the IP license for the Asia-Pacific region for the Canadian IQ Energy technology. We are a technology provider company that deploys modular and containerised turnkey units that convert various waste streams into resources. In addition to this we are also developing a renewable energy unit which efficiently turns heat into power. Our aim is to accelerate the region’s evolving Circular Economy by addressing local issues with local solutions.

Innovating in the circular economy and 4 things you should know:

Globally the idea of a Circular Economy has taken off, simply put it is the idea of waste never being wasted and instead being reused at their highest value. The best place to read about the Circular Economy further is on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website as they are pioneers on the topic. I thought I would share with you five points I have come to realise about starting, or even just working, in the envirotech space and I am very happy to answer any questions out there, just reach out!

Building a Circular Economy is about reshaping the business as usual (BAU) framework from take-make-waste to reusing resources over and over

1. Learn the basics of building a strong business foundation

For me there has been a lot of learning around how to build a business in general, even before adding the environment lens to it, especially as I have come from a hospitality and not for profit background!

There are many useful resources on the Victoria Government website around building HR policies and procedures, there are accelerator programs or bootcamps, like Boomerang Labs and The Incubation Network, who are very helpful in terms of building slide decks and understanding how to present yourself/telling your story and there are many articles and short courses online that can help you in building the core foundation of your business, such as risk, legal and marketing. Having the business foundations right means the envirotech business you are working with, or founding, can flourish into action without having the worry of needing to build all the business components later when you are busy in project discussions.

The following step is to build your go to market strategy, there are many resources to help with this, but my top tip is to narrow this down to a specific target market and do not let your target customers get too wide. The key is to figure out what the problem/pain point that your technology can solve for customers and not just focus on the benefits of the technology you are pitching.

My tip: avoid getting too caught up in the envirotalk, this is a very loud space with many naysayers and tyre kickers and you could sit on 24/7 webinars, however the important thing is to keep pushing towards action.

IQ Energy suite tour I did to an industrial composing facility.

2. Familiarise yourself with the sector language

Survivability, spadeable, people centric, turnkey, plug and play, net zero, ACCU, thermoneutral, intermittent vs. continuous power, % dry solids, emerging contaminants, etc.

These may look like random words, but they are all key terms my startup uses to either frame a conversation or pitch or they are the key words that a specific sector wants to hear. Doing some research to know the terminology when entering any sector is important because it can help strengthen your discussion. For example if you are pitching to the defence industry, they want to hear words like ‘survivability’ to highlight the resilience and strength of your unit in difficult terrain, however if you are pitching to a wastewater plant about their biosolids (sewage sludge) and converting these to resources, they want to hear the product produced is spadeable (easy to handle with a spade) and what % dry solids (moisture vs. solid within the wet waste) can be achieved.

You won’t know all the terminology straight away and many of them crop up in conversation and it is best to write them down and research what it means later but using some of these terms in different sectors can really help in establishing your credibility within a conversation.

3. Always prepare for these two hard questions:

Mentors, investors, government and business stakeholders always ask these two questions:
  • Does your solution scale?
They want to know can your solution address the significant problems that are out there and will it make economic sense in doing so. Government is often interested in creating jobs and scaling up manufacturing, they want repeatability of your solution and businesses want to know how your units can scale up to meet the bigger problem. Think about the large cities around the world and how much sewage the populations of these cities create infinitely, solutions are needed to scale up to meet this large demand, and although small solutions can have their place, there needs to be options that can rapidly grow to address challenges we are facing as a community.
  • Is your solution financially viable?
In short is this solution set up to make money as a business or is this just a charity. Being a business does not mean you cannot reinvest the money into other social impact projects or hold yourself even further accountable by being a B Corp, but the solution needs to make financial sense in order for it to be a stable long-term solution and not be reliant on government or community handouts. Other questions you may be asked is to explain your pricing strategy or highlight some of the issues you have had along the journey and being honest about this always helps in building the business relationship and can help your reputation.
My Tip: I also recommend coming to every meeting you attend with at least three to five questions ready to go, this makes you look professional and helps with the conversation, people are busy and it is important you make them feel like you have valued your time with them.

It's fun, people are the great to work with.

Those are a few quick tips to have a think about if you want to develop or work with an envirotech startup. I highly recommend it as it is a load of fun, and you meet the best people. I am always happy to talk envirotech, Circular Economy or even startups in general so please feel free to reach out!

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