They are the most early-stage start-up amongst the other eight Accelerate2030 finalists, but a very successful year earned them a spot in the accelerator program. Beginning of February “Wholesurplus”, a web application that links retailers and food banks in order to prevent food waste in Turkey, was launched by Olcay Silahli and Arda Eren. Already 80 tons of food has been saved in seven months, and the goal of Wholesurplus is to increase this by a factor of four before the end of this year. During the scaling week both co-founders will visit the Impact Hub. We had the opportunity to speak with Olcay about the concept and idea around this project.
Olcay: “A specific interest in food waste came when I worked as a brand manager for Unilever. I did several projects abroad in Ireland and Kenya and in 2013 I was involved in a globally linked food waste project in Turkey. Unilever eventually changed the focus of the project to food security, but the whole thing kept triggering me. Was there anything we could do to solve food waste? When I did market research I discovered the concept of food banks and found some in Turkey. While talking to them, I noticed that a sustainable food donation model was missing.
Eventually we started to work on solving issues on both sites by developing a web application in which they can see when and how much food is available. Food banks and retailers are using their own computers for planning.
We embedded the solution on their way of working instead of making them working differently. Retailers can post their surplus and food banks have to confirm they received everything. A simple and efficient system without a lot of paperwork. Right now we cover Istanbul and within two to three months we will extend to the rest of Turkey. Also we are going abroad and will work together with the city of Dusseldorf in Germany.
Cultural and operational challenges
If I have to name our biggest challenges I would first say the fact that the concept of a social enterprise or impact entrepreneurship is not really understood in Turkey. Here they feel these projects should always be not-for-profit. A second challenge for us was the operational part. The infrastructure in Turkey for food banks and delivery were not developed.
In the beginning food banks were not getting food from companies or retailers at all. They just received money donations from the state and bought fresh food to help people in need. Next to this food delivered was not meeting the food security standards well enough and the network of distribution was not fully developed either. By developing our platform we managed to change this model.
“Within 5 months we went from 50kg to 80 tons of food and hopefully by the end of the year we can save 300 tons of food.”
It was always one of my biggest dreams, setting up my own company before I was thirty and now I am starting to realize it. I am happy we now managed to reach out to the critical mass and hopefully potential partners. I am also very proud of our team. Everybody is so motivated, they are not here to improve their CV or to make money, but because they believe in our mission.
To other entrepreneurs I would like to say: “Focus on your customer and the solution instead of investment. If you have these two, investors will come. Apart from this: You need to keep on walking! Sometimes you will get frustrated, but always believe that you are going to solve it, because only then you will.”
Our future goals? We want to have one waste platform to integrate and connect different companies and counter parties. Our goal is to prevent every source of waste in the value chain with the data we have on food products (for example waste checking in stores) and to create awareness within companies on how to prevent food waste. We are hoping that our Accelerate week will help us to understand which countries are interesting for us to target in order to figure out a good strategy.”
This article is one in a series in which we get to know the International Finalists of our Accelerate2030 program a little bit better. Accelerate2030 is a 9-month program co-initiated by Impact Hub Geneva and the UNDP with a mission to scale the impact of ventures that contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals internationally. All nine finalists will be present at the Impact Hub Geneva from the 6th until the 13th of October during the Scaling week.