Category Archives: Vesta

Vesta’s Christmas Update

Season’s greetings from Vesta:

We’ve gone quite a while without a blog, but as things start to calm down after a frantic Q4, it feels like sensible time to consider and reflect on the last twelve months. It is sometimes hard to imagine that at this time last year, we had just kicked off our accelerator with Startupbootcamp, we only had one working Vesta and our platform and application existed far more in our imaginations than on our GitHub.

So what have we done in the last twelve months?

  • We finished Startupbootcamp and presented Vesta to an audience of more than 400
  • We started our first paid trials in the UK, Norway and Brazil
  • We built a the first commercially viable version of the full solution AND this was with most of the team working evenings and weekends only!
  • We presented at events in London, Birmingham, Hamburg and Bologna and were able to see the market for sustainable and functional packaging take shape
  • We built dozens of Vestas and now have a hinged-lid, spray, pump and pour configurations designed, built and tested. This has involved more hours of configuration, testing and careful manufacture than any of us could have expected, and our prototype models are a real testament to the skill and dedication of our engineering team
  • We have partnered with our friends at NEW consulting and made huge strides in Scandinavia as a result
  • We have deployed our application, our client portal and our amazing new website (look at the website, I’m not kidding, it’s awesome)

It’s not all achievements either. Looking back fondly on a year well spent is very satisfying, but a rose-tinted view won’t serve that well for next year. We have made loads of mistakes, got things wrong, ordered the wrong components, forgot to update a .PHP call, not planned enough time to test things properly and on one notable occasion, completely ignored that Android apps don’t like connecting to Wi-Fi networks with no internet connection (this doesn’t sound that bad, but it was a nightmare!!).

Simple mistakes are easy though. You look at what you did, figure out what went wrong, and you try not to do it again. The biggest challenge of the year was more psychological – how do you stay positive in the face of challenges, how do you listen to the subconscious voice telling you that this whole exercise is doomed to fail, how do you work with no budget and try to balance life, work and an outlandish dream project for a distributed team of people with amazing skills and lots of other things on their minds beside Vesta? Three things have, just, kept me on course this year:

  • Tremendous support from my business partners, my friends and family and my network. We have had so much great support and even the smallest vote of confidence is more valuable than I’d ever have expected before we started.
  • Belief in what we’re doing. The world has become aware that we are doing damage to our environment in a way that isn’t going to be ok or work itself out. People are looking to take action and I think we’ll see disruption to every industry as we all start to think more about how what we do changes the world around us.
  • As stressful as this is – and it really is – this is a different kind of stress. I, and the whole team at Vesta actually care if this works. We’ll be exultant if it does and devastated if we fail. However safe and secure what were doing before was, it didn’t matter like this.

And for next year?

  • We hope to close our funding round and bring the team on full time (stay tuned on this one)
  • We have a LOAD of new development work to do to make our service even better
  • We are looking forward to turning small trials into proper commercial roll outs
  • We’re looking forward to meeting new companies as clients and partners and to finding even more use cases for Vesta packaging all over the world

It has been a breathless, exhausting and exhilarating twelve months. I can scarcely imagine what I’ll be writing at this time next year.

Happy Christmas to all from Vesta!!

Tom

How Packaging Innovation is Helping Tackle the Plastic Problem

We founded Vesta in October 2017 on the basis that we believe that technology can be built into packaging to help remove the need for single-use plastic.

Since then, global awareness and action relating to the plastic problem has expanded beyond anything we could have imagined. The dominant users of packaging; manufacturers and retailers, have started to change their businesses in more dramatic ways than even we could have hoped. We’ve been watching closely over the last 12 months, and I’ll attempt to summarise some of it here.

I’ve identified four main categories of innovation, though this is not exhaustive and there are several innovations that cut across categories:

New materials

There has been enormous growth in the availability of short life packaging, including plant-based options (seaweed is looking promising). The ability to produce plastic-like packaging from sustainable sources that are completely bio-degradable is vastly encouraging, and the potential is there to do so at scale.

Upside – potential long-term large-scale solution, producing non harmful plastics. What’s not to like!

Issues – lifetime of bio-plastics, carbon costs of production, ability to scale, challenges to bio-diversity

Reuse

This year, and to great fanfare, Terracycle launched Loop, the first e-Commerce platform based on the ability to return packaging for cleaning and reuse. We at Vesta have already raised our concerns over the viability of Loop and I won’t do so again here, but if nothing else, it should be loudly applauded for its originality and the bold attempt to change consumer behaviour.

Upside –  increasing the number of uses of a plastic package has the potential to ENORMOUSLY reduce the amount of plastic we use overall. Put it this way – use the same package 10 times cuts plastic use 90%.

Issues – economics of pickup, increased demand on consumers, lack of convenience

Self-refill

Waitrose in the UK, along with a whole variety of others have started using the kind of refill stations we have only previously seen in health food shops. Ecover have also grown the availability of in store refilling stations.

Upside – similar to reuse. Plastic is not, in itself, the problem. It is that we misuse it.

Issues – taking large numbers of empty containers to the shop each time does not feel like a mass market sustainable solution. I believe a lot of us would like to do this, but it asks a lot of consumers.

IoT

Vesta obviously fits into this category, where connected packaging is used to help manage supplies. To date, we are the only packaging company we’re aware of that combine IoT technology with the drive to eliminate the requirement for single-use plastic. However there are other connected device companies out there using RFID and other tech primarily for provenance and tracking (if you are using IoT for packaging, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!).

Upside  – the meeting of sustainable reusable solutions with a convenient consumer proposition could mean self-refill achieved entirely in the home.

Issues – this is a new technology approach, so consumers will have to be willing to adopt new behaviour. Short-life refill packaging should close the loop allowing for manufacturers to avoid single use plastic all together, but we’ll need to make sure its impact is minimal. It should not be a surprise that we at Vesta think this is the way to go, but we are not complacent on the amount of work that needs doing to yield the benefits.

I am really excited by the number of companies making big strides in this area (including those we’re working with!). Honourable mentions also go to Iceland and Morrisons for both taking major initiatives to cut their plastic use.

However, it’s not all good news. Amazon are something of a laggard when it comes to a sustainable approach to packaging, and this week’s news that their latest envelopes are not even recyclable comes as a massive disappointment. We know now that in most markets, a sustainable approach to packaging is so popular with consumers that it comes with a price premium. It seems likely therefore that companies unwilling to make changes to help the environment will suffer correspondingly.

Vesta’s 6 Month Roundup

Since finishing the IOT StartUp Bootcamp in January, it’s been an exciting and whirlwind six months for Vesta. The bootcamp wrapped-up in style, with CEO Tom Mowat giving his pitch presentation to a packed audience at the IMAX in Kensington. And we haven’t looked back.

As the pressure mounts on companies to cut single-use plastic from their supply chains, Vesta’s combination of analytics and smart packaging gives them the tools to streamline fulfilment, and to provide refills in genuinely biodegradable packaging.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just shipped our most recent commercial prototype to a global corporation dedicated to incorporating IOT-driven smart solutions into healthcare. We continue to be developing products for various FMCG groups, and are delighted to have branched into Femtech – a rapidly growing sector that brings all the functionality of IOT to feminine care essentials.

In March, Tom held a seminar with the bright young things at the Holt Business School London, who came up wth some brilliant ideas about marketing and use cases for Vesta.

In May, we were delighted to win the opportunity to have a stand at the SUBCON show at the NEC, and Tom and our COO Dave Carr appeared there last week meeting new customers and some potential new partners and suppliers to boot.

To cap it all, we’ll be featured in the July 2019 issue of the brilliant Startups Magazine. Read the article here

The future’s looking bright, and we’d love to hear from potential partners who want to use IOT enabled devices to improve analytics, fulfilment, and – vitally – environmental credentials.

Happy summer everyone!