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Innovating for Impact: Highlights from Workup4Future Demo Day

April 4, 2024

Ahmet Torlar

Innovating for Impact: Highlights from Workup4Future Demo Day

The day we've all been eagerly awaiting finally arrived – the Workup4Future Demo Day on 2 April 2024, at İş Mekan. It marked the grand culmination of an intense and transformative journey for some of the most promising startups in sustainability, disaster-tech, and various impact sectors.

The Workup4Future program, powered by Türkiye İş Bankası and GİRVAK and managed by Hackquarters by Tenity, aimed to support startups developing innovative solutions within the Sustainable Development Goals framework. Focused on disaster technologies, environmental sustainability, social inequalities, clean energy, waste management, and social service technologies, the program has handpicked startups that use smart technologies to enhance efficiency, protect nature, and contribute to climate actions.

What makes the Demo Day especially significant is its role as a platform where the fruits of months-long labor are finally showcased. It's a day when İşbank executives, group company officials, investors from VC firms and angel networks, corporate firm partners, mentors, founders, and ecosystem partners come together to celebrate innovation and progress. In a way, the Demo Day is a testament to the power of collaboration, mentorship, and a shared vision for a sustainable future.

Workup4Future Demo Day officially began with a series of welcoming speeches that set the tone for the day. Aydın Bozdemir, Mehru Aygül, and Sabina Babayeva, leading figures behind this transformative initiative, took to the stage, each offering their unique perspectives on the journey that had led to this momentous day.

Aydın Bozdemir, representing the unwavering support of İşbank, spoke of the bank's commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship within Turkey and beyond. His words painted a picture of a future where financial institutions play a pivotal role in nurturing startups that are not just profitable but also purpose-driven. He underscored İşbank's vision of a world where business success and social impact go hand in hand, a theme that resonated deeply with the ethos of the Workup4Future program.

Mehru Aygül, from GİRVAK, took the audience on a journey through the program's inception, evolution, and impactful milestones. She highlighted the collaborative effort that made the program a reality, emphasizing the collective belief in the power of innovation to address some of the most pressing global challenges.

Sabina Babayeva provided an overview of the program's achievements. Focusing on the tangible impacts made by the startups, she detailed how each startup was selected for its potential to contribute meaningfully to the Sustainable Development Goals. Her speech was a powerful reminder of the program's core mission: to empower startups to dream of a better world and actively shape it.

Panel on Social Impact Investments

The first panel discussion opened with a deep dive into the world of social impact investments, featuring an engaging discussion with Mehru Aygül from the Turkish Entrepreneurship Foundation, alongside Kaan Ertaylan from VerdantWave and Kurtuluş Atasever from Binamod, providing a deep dive into the crucial role of investments in scaling businesses for societal benefits.

Kaan Ertaylan shared VerdantWave's journey, emphasizing the company's mission to revolutionize material sustainability. "We're not just creating products; we're crafting solutions for the planet," he noted. VerdantWave's commitment stems from a profound understanding of the urgent need for sustainable alternatives in the market. Kaan recounted the program's early days, highlighting how it catalyzed VerdantWave's growth trajectory. "Our journey through Workup4Future has been pivotal in refining our pitch, understanding market needs, and ultimately securing strategic investments."

Kurtuluş Atasever detailed how the Workup4Future program provided invaluable resources, mentorship, and exposure, significantly impacting their development and growth. Collaborations with İşbank and engagement with the program's investment processes were pivotal in navigating the complexities of the market. "The first reaction from institutions using our solutions has been overwhelmingly positive, reinforcing the need for our work. Looking forward, we're exploring expansion into new sectors where our technology can make a difference."

Panel on Digital Solutions for Sustainable Futures

The "Panel on Digital Solutions for Sustainable Futures" brought together some of the brightest minds in the tech world to discuss how digital innovation can drive sustainability. Fırat Umur from İşbank's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Unit moderated the session, which featured insights from Mahir Okay Çelik, co-founder of Waste Log, and Doğan Çiçek, co-founder of Some Carbon. Each shared their unique perspective on leveraging technology to address environmental challenges.

Mahir Okay Çelik began by introducing Waste Log, a startup on a mission to transform the traditionally cumbersome and government-dominated waste management sector. "Our goal is to make waste management more efficient, accessible, and transparent through digital solutions," Mahir explained. He outlined the startup's growth ambitions, emphasizing the importance of scalability in a sector ripe for innovation.

Doğan Çiçek then took the stage to discuss Some Carbon's role in the carbon transformation industry. "We view carbon transformation not just as a necessity but as an opportunity to reimagine how industries can operate sustainably," Doğan stated. He highlighted the emerging consciousness within corporations regarding carbon footprints and predicted a tipping point for the widespread adoption of carbon transformation technologies.

Panel on AI Solutions for the Impact

The "Panel on AI Solutions for the Impact" was a forward-looking session that explored the vast potential of artificial intelligence to solve complex societal challenges. Moderated by Sabina Babayeva from Hackquarters by Tenity, the panel featured Zülal Tannur, the visionary founder of From Your Eyes, and Aybar Başaran, the co-founder and CEO of WorkyBe, who shared how their startups are leveraging AI to make a tangible impact.

Zülal Tannur introduced From Your Eyes as an innovative venture that uses AI to enhance visual experiences for individuals and machines. She elaborated on collaborations with various organizations, highlighting partnerships that have enabled From Your Eyes to broaden its impact and reach. Zülal shared heartwarming stories of new friendships and knowledge gained through the Workup4Future program, emphasizing the invaluable network and learning opportunities it presented. When asked about future aspirations, she expressed a desire to expand the application of AI technology into new sectors, such as healthcare and education, aiming to create more inclusive and accessible solutions for all.

Aybar Başaran further discussed sustainability with WorkyBe, a platform that uses AI to optimize energy and asset management for businesses. Aybar shared insights into WorkyBe's journey towards globalization, revealing plans to penetrate new markets and sectors with their innovative solutions. The participation in Workup4Future significantly bolstered WorkyBe's monthly recurring revenue (MRR), serving as a testament to the program's effectiveness in scaling startups. Aybar highlighted companies' current use of WorkyBe's platform, stressing the growing demand for digital solutions that align with corporate sustainability goals.

And it’s time to meet the startups:

Binamod: develops technologies that collect and analyze data from buildings. These technologies are used in various fields, including seismic risk prioritization, damage assessment, disaster management.

VerdantWave: produces durable biocomposite polymers by upcycling biomass waste with high carbon content to reduce the use of petroleum-based plastics.

WorkyBe: is an AI-powered universal sustainability platform to increase energy, asset, and team efficiency. By integrating predictive analytics and digital process management in a single platform, WorkyBe helps companies consume resources efficiently, decrease costs and emissions, and reach sustainability goals.

Some Carbon: is an industry-integrated R&D company that enables the conversion of industrial carbon dioxide emissions into green fuels.

From Your Eyes: Advancing AI-driven visual experiences from human to machine perspectives.

Waste Log: It is a mobile application that brings together source-separated waste with licensed collection companies and also serves as a digital solution partner for brands in their sustainability projects.

In conclusion, the Workup4Future Demo Day was a powerful reminder of what's possible when we come together to support innovation with a purpose. Let's carry forward this momentum, championing the cause of sustainable innovation and making a tangible impact on our world. The journey of the Workup4Future startups is just one part of a larger story— a story of hope, resilience, and the transformative power of innovation. Be a part of that story. For more information, visit the official Workup4Future website.