The Impact

A startup making smart gravel from plastics

To: The Impact Readers

Howdy 👋

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about GreenTech Media – the news site – shutting down. We were pretty shocked as some of you must’ve been.

We tried to explain why we think they were shut down by their parent company based on press releases and insights from operating in the media industry.

We also launched a brand new podcast – Contrarian Climate, where we are giving founders and entrepreneurs a platform to share their insights & opinions from within the industry. More on it below, this week’s episode already has over 1000 views!

In Your Inbox: Why GreenTech Media shut down; a startup recycling hard to recycle plastics; Alba Group partners with Singapore to recycle e-waste; Contrarian Climate Ep.1 Bitcoin and Climate Change

🚀 STARTUPS & TECH

Why GreenTech Media Shut Down

By: Swarnav S Pujari

Why GreenTech Media Shut Down
Wood Mackenzie announced that they are shutting down GreenTech Media after a strong 10 year run (Image: Unsplash)

The cleantech community was shaken today, including I, when Eric Wesoff announced on his new blog that GreenTech Media was shutting down. While the shock definitely drove anger into many in the community there seems to be a deeper set of reasoning that likely led to the shuttering of GreenTech Media.

Media is expensive to run, especially when attempting to deliver high quality content in volume. If there isn’t a direct path to monetization – it makes it hard for businesses to justify the cost.

The natural reaction many had was anger here – GreenTech Media (GTM) had become the go-to publication for cleantech news and analysis. Every startup wanted to be highlighted in there and every press release was shared with them. Especially now with the major transition occurring in the cleantech space it was shocking to see Wood Mackenzie – the consultancy that owns GTM – decide it was time to call it quits.

Energy Gang, GreenTech Media Podcasts and Meetups Live On

This was a needed relief and makes complete sense.

Sponsorships support the production of these shows, meetups drive networking opportunities for new businesses and the reach of podcasts with GreenTech Media’s Label get significant reach alone.

As a lead generation source, in the eyes of Wood Mackenzie, these specific media assets provide a low cost to no cost opportunity that they wouldn’t consider removing. Media assets at the end of the day still cost money and need to deliver value either monetarily or indirectly through lead generation.

The highly successful investment firm a16z shows how a publication approach can help them attract more investors to their fund and attract startups to want them on their cap table. Wood Mackenzie had similar business intentions with a publication like GreenTech Media.

By shuttering the publication/news site it shows that either:

A: Wood Mackenzie did not have enough resources allocated towards figuring monetization out
 
B: Began to see a decline in value generated from their website meaning monetization wouldn’t justify continuing to run the site

Monetization is Hard - Quality Content isn’t Enough

As mentioned in Eric’s brief post on GreenTech Media’s demise, media is in flux.

Everyone has a Substack, blog, YouTube channels and/or podcasts these days. It’s easier to produce, publish and charge for content than ever before. However, 90% of Substack newsletters will never get more than 100 subscribers, most podcasts will get less than 10 listens and most blog posts never get seen or ranked. While media is in flux – the algorithms that are powering these networks like Google Search and YouTube Search will always find ways to promote high quality content.

GreenTech Media was just that – high quality energy news and analysis. The only thing missing – a solid monetization strategy that would at least keep the publication at break even.

This is a classic in the startup world – company builds an awesome new consumer technology product and gains a ton of users who love this new tool. Company then realizes it has to monetize to pay the bills and engineers which results in trying frantically to charge for things or create value add features, but realizes the problem they are solving isn’t one that their users would pay for.

From an outsider’s perspective, this is what I believe happened. GreenTech Media couldn’t find a way to monetize and Wood Mackenzie was losing too much money, especially in today’s economic climate, so they had to let it die.

GreenTech Media’s Content Focus Away from Analysis Only (Their Competitive Advantage)

Everyone wanted to be in GreenTech Media. An article in GTM would change the course for the better for cleantech startups.

However, this became a bit of an issue.

GTM still had many gems of analysis published online – which is why I LOVED them – but there was a significant uptick in content that sounded more like a well edited press release than actual analysis on a new announcement.

GreenTech Media had the research and analysts from Wood Mac in their back pocket – which could have provided significantly more value had every piece included more of their insights than just general overviews of a startup milestone or policy change.

Had the team at GTM invested more in curating higher quality analysis pieces even on press releases – it would have made them that much more valuable in the industry.

Imagine reading articles with GTMs wealth of information tied back to companies, trends and policy moves in the industry. A full picture in every article, every day. Now imagine they pay wall locked half of their content with simple messaging – “support our writers by subscribing to GreenTech Media +”.

Knowing this community many would have shelled out $5/Month for that level of quality and that might have been enough to keep it going.

Breakeven really isn’t enough

Justifying ROI for media and press is hard – rarely does it directly result in sales or guarantee that it can pay off in any period of time. Website traffic, clicks and Google rankings can prove how well a piece of content performs, but it can’t tell you what revenue it would generate for your core business.

Charging a subscription also adds additional stress on the business as it has to then optimize for increased quality and subscription retention.

Running ads might reduce the user experience and slash the number of us that go to the website to read

Asking for donations is great for indie writers, but hasn’t been demonstrated to work for large publications supporting writers on staff

This probably means that any form of monetization strategy would have not justified the time + resource investment Wood Mackenzie would have needed to make to keep things going.  

While you might think it would be worthwhile to keep GreenTech Media’s sites and content mill running – even at breakeven via a subscription…from a business perspective Wood Mac has better performing media assets that deliver significant value to the community and make money today.

This move makes sense.  

This is Great for the Cleantech Community

It is an opportunity.

When an incumbent publication falls, people begin to search elsewhere for that content. GreenTech Media was a classic situation of not being a business critical operation. It was an advertising/lead generation platform for Wood Mackenzie – when the sites failed to justify it’s costs, the “campaign” is killed and resources are piled into projects that are performing well.

Hence the continued support of their podcasts as mentioned above.

What this has done is create a void – a void that the loyal readers will frantically look to fill. Seeking out other publications providing similar content or following authors that went independent from the editorial team at GTM.

That void is going to be painful enough for some people that more publications will find monetization and charging for their content a lot easier.

There are many great writers out there – with GreenTech Media gone, now you can find a writer or publication who may be providing even more value than what GTM was delivering to you.

Discovery of these smaller publishers will now become easier.

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🚀 STARTUPS & TECH

A Solution for Complex Plastics

By: Daniel Kriozere

Arqlite
Arqlite creates smart gravel from hard to recycle plastics. (Image: Arqlite)

This week Sebastian Sajoux, the CEO of Arqlite, talks about how Arqlite is fitting in to help with plastic recycling and re-use.

How/why did you start Arqlite?

In 2012 I started to learn about B-Corps and creating impact through impact. I decided to travel to Europe to see what I could find out there.

When I got to Europe, I saw solar and recycling bins everywhere. I was amazed by the concept of the sustainability, especially because Argentina was almost 20 years behind. I realized that there could be a lot of positive impact that we could create on the environment. As a result, I started studying environmental consulting in Spain and realized the big issues that were happening, especially with plastics.

When I got back to Argentina, I started offering my consulting services for big companies, including Coca Cola and Unilever. This was my starting point, and the more I learned and consulted in the space, the more I realized that I needed to provide a solution.

I started Arqlite in 2015, and went through Fledge, a startup accelerator in Seattle. The question I started with was: how can we treat unrecyclable plastics and turn them into a product that can be massively used?

Can you describe what your company does, the impact, and how it differs from other competitors in the space?

We are diverting laminated plastics from landfill, the environment, and incineration. Laminated plastics are composed of multiple types of plastics, making them non-recyclable, as you can only recycle plastics of the same-type together. For every ton of plastic we get, we produce one ton of product that then can be sold. For end users, each bag of 100% recycled Arqlite Smart Gravel reduces plastic pollution in our oceans, lakes, and landfills.

Arqlite is a recycling technology company developing high-efficiency materials made 100% from plastic waste. Our recycling system can process non-recyclable plastics, providing an eco-friendly solution at a competitive price to landfill fees. We take the best plastic polymers to create desirable properties, like being light, durable, elastic and inert, and then we turn that into a product. Our primary product is Arqlite Smart Gravel; a light artificial stone aggregate used in construction and landscaping, 10 times better for insulation, and 3 times lighter than mineral aggregates. If you have to transport thousands of cubic yards of gravel, and we can make it three times lighter, then you will be able to load three times a truck and cut the costs by a third.

One application of our product is in manufacturing concrete. Industry can use our gravel as an aggregate for making lighter concrete. Creating lighter concrete means that you need less steel to hold up a lighter structure. Companies can save on costs, buildings with our technology contribute towards LEED and have better insulation, all while helping the environment.

We started in Argentina, recently launched in the US, and now we are working on our first license in Europe. We want to scale the technology globally by selling licenses so we can multiply the impact.

How are you thinking about the market and policy?

We are constantly seeing and hearing about new things coming up. For example, in Europe there is a new bill that for every remodel of a house must include a sustainable or recyclable material. This is big because now construction companies will be looking for options. We are aiming to be a top choice, as we are price competitive and our product has additional benefits.

Companies are required not only by government, but also by consumers and users to become more sustainable. So leading companies are building more sustainable and more efficient.

What are the current trends in the sector? What does the future look like?

I’m more and more confident that the problem of plastics will be solved at some point because there are so many people working on the problem from many different angles and solutions. We need many solutions to grow and create impact. If we can get big companies and government to support these ideas, that will greatly help solve the plastics problem.

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📃 POLICY & FINANCE

ALBA Recycles Singapore’s Electronic Waste

By: Matthew Morris

ALBA group
ALBA group is partnering with Singapore to recycle electronic waste for secondary use. (Image: ALBA Group)

ALBA Group is a German waste management company creating a zero-waste economy by reclaiming precious materials for secondary use. Skilled in deploying collection programs to recover e-waste, Singapore’s National Environmental Agency (NEA) has awarded ALBA a license to develop an e-waste collection system for the Southeast Asian country.

Singapore is home to more than 5.7 million people, yet it generates over 60,000 tons of e-waste annually. To remedy this, the Singapore government is making producers responsible for the end of their product’s life.

Why Does it Matter?

  • Many electronics contain toxic substances like lead, PVC, and mercury. When these chemicals sit in landfills, they absorb into the soil, polluting the groundwater and air. For context, e-waste constitutes 2% of the United States’ landfills but contributes to 70% of overall toxic waste.
  • Various rare and precious metals are used in electronics. Recovering these components means less energy will be used to mine for new metals.
  • In the US, there is no uniformity between the federal levels and states on what is and not prohibited for discarding e-waste. Setting minimum requirements across the board can incentive more actionable recycling plans.

What’s Next?

  • As consumers and producers become more responsible for recycling e-waste, global awareness will likely rise, pressuring other governments and corporates to take greater action on a diverse array of recycling measures.
  • Increased market value for recycled materials will drive more innovation in the space. For the roughly $4B e-waste recycling market, government action can spark new, efficient, diverse recycling methods.

Thoughts

This initiative by a tech-heavy nation in Singapore signals to the rest of the world how problematic e-waste really is. Seeing the nation contract with a multinational firm in ALBA marks the importance of recycling, and having a reputation for success in similar programs, ALBA will make a large dent in Singapore’s e-waste problem.

What will be interesting to see over the first year of this program is how effective the messaging and public perception is about this new e-waste collection program in action. How well will citizens partake in the program and how will ALBA and the Singapore government educate people about the problem of e-waste? Many nations will be watching how successful this collection program is and see how it replicate it within their own borders.

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📻 PODCAST UPDATES

Bitcoin is the Key to Solving Climate Change w/ Jeff Booth

Contrarian Climate is a podcast focused on exploring “contrarian ideas” and new perspectives from people focused on helping address climate change.

Jeff Booth is a serial technology entrepreneur and currently working at the intersection of climate and crypto. With a focus to help ensure life is comfortable for his kids and family he wrote the book: The Price of Tomorrow to explain why he believes we need to fix our financial system first to solve the world’s biggest social issues, including climate change.

This interview is highly insightful and dives deep into why our financial system is holding back the benefits clean technologies like solar bring us.

Jeff Booth’s Book: https://amzn.to/3tA4VuJ
Jeff Booth’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeffBooth

Check out and subscribe to our Youtube Channel for future episodes!

Writers: Swarnav S Pujari, Daniel Kriozere, Matthew Morris

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