The Internet of Waste Bins: Interview with the Co-founder of Enevo
Enevo aims to make Big Data indispensable in the waste collection industry, with a sensor-based solution that tracks container fill-levels and optimizes pickup routes accordingly. When Enevo received $8 million in financing this summer, one investor compared the Finnish startup to Airbnb and Uber in its potential to disrupt a conservative industry. Indeed the smart logistics solution is rapidly gaining traction with waste collectors around the world – from Boston to Tokyo. We met up with Co-founder Fredrik Kekalainen at the Recycling & Waste Exhibition in Birmingham, UK, to hear his story.
How did you get the idea for Enevo?
The business idea was sparked during a car ride back in 2011, when my friend and I were discussing the increasing housing association fees in Finland, especially those pertaining to waste management. My friend (the other co-founder) Johan Engstrom’s housing complex had recently launched a new waste management system, where waste haulers picked up all the different containers – for mixed waste, cardboard, scrap metal etc. – with separate trucks, regardless if they were full or not. Since the housing association had to pay for each pickup, the collections eventually amounted to over 9000 euros ($11,500) per year.
So I was listening to this, my friend explaining and complaining in the car and I was like, “Wait a minute.” I had already been playing around with the idea of setting up a new Internet of Things company. So I thought, “Maybe we can build a smart logistics system that would actually allow the waste collector to come and pick up the containers on demand, when it’s actually needed. So that’s where the idea came from.
How does your product add value to waste management companies?
Well, it’s a complete solution. We use wireless sensors for getting the raw data from waste containers – providing the analytics to build up trends and predictions. Then we calculate the routes and the schedules, and how the fleet needs to be utilized to collect in an optimal way. So rather than using 100 trucks to operate a set amount of customers and routes, we are able to reduce it to 50 or 60 trucks. That’s the essence of our solution.
Then of course our Software-as-a-Service technology enables total transparency between waste collection and disposal, because we collect data and know exactly what’s happening to the fill levels of each container: was it collected, when, and how much material was in there at collection. Our customers very much appreciate this transparency.
To access our service, our customers can either use a tablet or desktop interface. The tablet interface is designed to help the driver complete daily collections efficiently. It guides him along the most economical route and enables him to report any problems or issues directly from the field. The desktop interface is designed with the management team in mind. It gives a more detailed view of the collection operation: the location of the trucks, fill-levels, future collection plans, road traffic alerts and more.
So who belongs to your customer base?
Our customers are from different markets, with somewhat differing value chains. They include municipal waste management organizations handling their own collection, or outsourcing their collection to third parties. Other customers include private waste management companies, as well as producers of waste that have a legal obligation to collect for example electronic waste. We are also starting to see demand from the public sector, as they have a lot of facilities – schools, hospitals etc. – that generate huge amounts of waste.
What was the key success factor to get through piloting and start signing customers?
For the first customer we signed, we set up a system for free and guaranteed savings. We knew their cost per collection, and asked 10 euros ($13) for each collection they could eliminate with our service. One day before signing a contract, they called us to say they wanted to do a fixed monthly fee instead, because they realized maybe these guys have something very clever. After that, with mounting proof and customer cases,our business basically enjoyed a snowball effect.
How is the competitive landscape?
Typically competition comes from the hardware side. So there is still no one providing the complete solution that we do, which is surprising. Our business model is unique, and we will keep forming both the market and the demand so that it won’t become just a hardware play, which doesn’t make sense for anyone.
Finally, where do you see yourself in a few years into the future? New markets?
We are already expanding into to the bulk materials delivery business. So instead of measuring the fill grade, we will monitor how quickly a container gets empty. This lets the customer know exactly how much is used at any given moment, and when to refill – be it heating oil, gravel, sand or diesel. We can then optimize the delivery schedules the way we do now, using the exact same algorithms, but in reverse. So that basically greatly expands our potential markets.
If you would like to learn more about Enevo or other innovative companies in the Recycling & Waste sector or any of our 18 primary sectors in the resource innovation universe, be sure to check out our i3 platform.