What is Silicon Valley's key for success? And will Circular Valley® become just as successful?
These questions asked by keynote speaker Channing Robertson were the common thread of the second Demo Day. More than 300 high-ranking guests from the world of business, science and politics listened attentively to the professor emeritus from Stanford University, who has first-hand experience about how Silicon Valley became what it is today. Now he has visited the Circular Valley®.
The Demo Day on March 3, 2022, marked the end of the second accelerator program of Circular Valley®. Startups from Vietnam, Ecuador, Brazil, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, India, Latvia, France, Switzerland and Germany inspired the audience in the Wuppertal Stadthalle with their ideas for a Circular Economy. The young entrepreneurs offered insights into various sustainable business models, which differed greatly in terms of content. Tiles made from construction waste, a plant-based leather substitute, an upcycling network for old car tires, artificial intelligence for waste separation or the treatment of highly toxic industrial wastewater: there are circular solutions in almost every conceivable area and there are many realistic ways to replace the currently parasitic relationship between the economy and the environment by a symbiotic one.
The intensity of the preparations in the accelerator program was evident in the aplomb and quality on stage: in three-minute presentations the startups made the audience want to learn more. Afterwards, there was an opportunity for personal exchange and, in some cases, for finding future business partners in the foyer.
During the Demo Day, the impressive Circular Valley® network was also evident: Jochen Jehmlich, CEO of GEFA Bank and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Circular Valley® Foundation, expressed his thanks on behalf of the founders: "It exceeds my expectations by far." He also said that the internationality was a "huge success": "Cross-border cooperation, that's the world we want to live in."
In addition to partners and supporters from business and science, high-level politicians attended the demo day. In his opening speech, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Economics of North Rhine-Westphalia and patron of Circular Valley®, praised the "startup spirit" as the driver of the transformation to a Circular Economy. That is why the best possible conditions are being created for startups. He said it was "great to experience how Circular Valley® is proving itself in practice." He added: "If you continue at this pace, Circular Valley will have a huge impact on the economic development of Wuppertal, of Rhine-Ruhr and of North Rhine-Westphalia."
DGB Chairman Reiner Hoffmann emphasized the importance of the circular economy for the labour market. High-ranking representatives from the Ministry of the Environment of North Rhine-Westphalia and several members of the Bundestag and Landtag were also present.
What the guests took away was not only the awareness of the urgency that something must be changed, but also the certainty that there are already concrete approaches to solutions, as well as a spirit of optimism more contagious than Omicron. A little later, the FAZ headlined its follow-up report on the Demo Day: "A spirit like in Silicon Valley".
The guest of honor Channing Robertson, who is based there, concluded in his keynote speech that Circular Valley® has everything it needs to be successful, such as creativity, innovations and visions as well as economic, scientific and political framework conditions. What is important, he said, is that a culture is established in which failure is not condemned. Despite the physical distance, Silicon and Circular Valley® are already very close.