Anna Minns headshot

An organisation that redirects surplus office furniture and fit-out items to charities is one of nine circular economy startups chosen to catch a break through a new accelerator program.

The Boomerang Labs Accelerator program is supported by the NSW EPA, EY and Bingo Industries. It aims to help innovative circular economy businesses build the skills, partnerships and connections they need to raise capital and grow.

While the accelerator program model is common in the tech startup space, Boomerang Labs is unique in applying it to Australia’s circular economy sector. The companies coming through the program will be of particular interest to the circular economy sector over the coming years.

During the six-month program, which begins on 29 April, the nine startups will participate in a range of workshops, mentoring, coaching and networking sessions. There is also a showcase event planned after the program ends in late September.

While it’s based in the offices of cleantech startup accelerator EnergyLab in the Sydney suburb of Chippendale, the startups come from across the country. For example, two are based in Melbourne, one is based in Canberra, and one has expanded its operations across the eastern states. 

It’s about seeing them grow

Unlike many tech accelerators, Boomerang Labs won’t take an equity stake in the startups that participate in the program.

Boomerang Labs co-founder and chief executive officer Anna Minns told The Fifth Estate that this is because circular economy startups tend to see returns less quickly than their tech counterparts.

“With the circular economy, and renewable energy as well, it’s a lot harder than building an app and watching it grow. A lot of it is about changing behaviour, and so you’ve got to take a much longer term view of these businesses,” she said.

“We’re mission driven around helping to drive the transition to a circular economy. So we just really want to see these businesses succeed and make an impact.”

Helping circular economy businesses to scale

Boomerang Labs, a non profit launched in 2019 to promote the circular economy, hopes to run the accelerator program annually going forward. It has previously run monthly webinars and two-day bootcamps focused on early-stage startups.

Unlike those earlier programs, each of the later-stage startups in the accelerator have been in business for at least two years, and have some traction in terms of investors, revenue or clients. In fact, around half of the startups previously participated in a Boomerang Labs event. 

“They had to be quite established. The main thing was that they had to have impact and the ability to scale. We want to help take them to that next level,” Ms Minns said.

“We have a pretty good network that we’ve built up over the last two years, so we promoted the program through our network. 

“We allowed three weeks to receive applications. Then we have a selection committee made up of EY, Bingo and ourselves, where we shortlisted applications, and we interviewed 16 startups. It was a full-on week last week interviewing all the businesses but it was really fun actually.”

Ms Minns adds that she would love to accept the startups that didn’t make this year’s cohort in the future, “because people are working on really great stuff”.

Meet the participants

Here are the nine startups participating in the accelerator in 2022:

Cercle Co

Founder: Patrick Manley

Cercle establishes circular systems that negate the need for single use waste in busy CBD environments by understanding human behaviour and introducing convenience based reuse.

Circular

Founder: Joel Wells

Circular develops new, circular-economy packaging technologies to help FMCG brands. It works on R&D and commercialisation of new packaging technologies that eliminates or significantly reduces plastic use, for which it has a suite of patents and provisional patents for. It generates revenue through the licensing of its IP to both brands and manufacturers.

Feedback Organic

Co-founders: David Sivyer and Christina Robberds

Feedback Organic is circular economy business based urban farms, offering a closed loop of food-waste-into-food driven by local communities.

Food2soil 

Co-founders: Josie Grenfell and Annabel Schweiger 

Processes?commercial food?waste?using?biotechnology, ?producing?a high quality,?biologically live liquid fertiliser?and?soil conditioner (a “kombucha” for plants and soil). 

GrainOut

Founder: Seamus O’Sullivan 

GrainOut manages food and by-product waste.

Generous and Grateful

Founder: Carmen Platt 

A double-sided marketplace that connects excess essential bulky furniture and white goods with people in need

Green Furniture Hub 

Founder: Justin Hatchett 

Redirects surplus office furniture and fit-out items from real estate projects away from landfill to other organisations

Ownershift

Founder: Amelia Crook 

Partners with Australia’s most innovative fashion brands to enable their take-back program and branded re-commerce store.

ReCo

Co-Founders: Danling Xiao and Anett Petrovics

A local refill delivery service to help consumers reduce plastic waste and carbon emissions. It uses a local delivery and collection system ? it offers refills in reusable jars, delivers to consumers and collects empty jars at the same time. We’ll refill a range of products from established brands, including eco-friendly cleaning products, organic dried foods and health supplements.

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