Episode 3: Train to Frankfurt
Friday morning 7:11 am. Mid November 2019, a cold late autumn day. I’m sitting in the ICE train to Frankfurt. Going to attend a conference by SENGermany, planning to meet there with Babacar and getting to know lots of new people, connect and network.
But for now I’m enjoying the train ride a lot. Listening to my favorite music, looking out of the window into the darkness. Thinking about the ride over the past couple of months and the incredible speed with which things are happening. I didn’t even manage to write another episode of my blog series once a month as I originally planned. So I reserved this train ride for it.
When reflecting on what has already happened since the last blog post, it is just amazing - at least in my mind. I left it last time with my decision to leave SAP and turn my life upside down - and a promise to tell why it is called Aventurin in the first place. Let me start with fulfilling that promise first.
Why calling it Aventurin?
An Aventurin is a semiprecious stone. And it is said to have positive power (no, I’m not up for esoterism, but anyways). Its color is light green and well, green is said to be the color of hope. And last but not least Aventurin sounds close to “adventure” in English or “aventure” in French. Aventurin clearly is for me a very exciting adventure which is meant to contribute to hope and positive power in the world!
But why Aventurin ONE? There’s actually two dimensions to it. First, it brings together Aventurin Waste and Aventurin Consulting under one roof. Because they also belong together. Waste is to … well, you know that. And Consulting is for me to eventually earn a living with all I learned at SAP about methodologies for successfully bringing products to market that you develop under constrained budget - which is what I’m doing with Aventurin Waste as social business. And Aventurin Waste in turn will be my own reference project for Aventurin Consulting.
Second motivation is a bit more philosophical. I truly believe that there’s only ONE world that we all share, there’s no ‘my world’ or ‘your world’ or ‘their world’.
And there’s on top a very practical reason, that the “.one” domain was available and even cheaper than any other. :-)
What happened so far?
Starting where the last episode of the blog series ended. I actually left SAP end of August 2019 as planned and celebrated this day with friends as it marked a start into a completely new life. Saying bye to SAP ...
Until reaching this turning point I did my job at SAP as professional as before - I think - and used the time to meet colleagues I knew for a very long time to chat once more and say farewell. There’re so many people at SAP that were a big part of my life and I will for sure see most of them way less nowadays if at all. And I’m very grateful for having met all of them and learned a lot.
In parallel after being back from the Senegal mid March, I started pursuing Aventurin Waste with the time available in the evening and weekend. And talking to people about it. Because I also couldn’t do any different. If you burn for something, you want to talk about it. And as a very nice side story, I once read about what successful startups have in common. The common denominator was a founder who kept telling everybody about his vision, whether they wanted to hear it or not :-). And by the pure number of people that hear your vision and how much you believe in it and start believing in your story, you create reach! And built up a network and coincidentally find people that want to support you or know someone who knows someone who will connect you to some important person to bring your dreams to life. And I can clearly confirm this!
And this is also how Sabine joined the party. After I came back from the Senegal, my wife and I were visiting Florian and Sabine, who are very close friends to us. And not surprisingly I was talking about what I saw, what I felt when seeing the plastic waste, what I started researching and what I was dreaming of. And you could see Sabine catching fire :-). And there you go, we’re working very closely together now complementing our diverse capabilities, experiences, strengths, networks, …
So first thing Sabine and I determined was that if we want to sell our story to other people, we needed to have something to show. You cannot always start telling the whole story or putting together in an email again and again the same documents, which pretty soon will be outdated. So we started building our internet presence at www.aventurin.one/waste and did this right from the start in three languages, because this is where we think our audience (you) is at home. And again we found people supporting us, because they believe in our dream. One of Sabine’s friends is Eva who is translating our website into French and the blog series you’re reading right here is translated into French by Chantal and Thomas, who worked with me at SAP. THANK YOU!
We’re continuing to work with our technology partner Biofabrik to better understand the capabilities of the engine, what needs to be taken care of for the stock feed (the plastic waste input material), what exactly is the output, how to deal with it, … And because neither Sabine nor I are chemists, we reached out to our friends to find people with this knowledge and we’re in parallel in the process of building up a partnership with academia to accompany us. Trying to get a tandem in place with a university in the Senegal and Germany.
We also founded a non-for-profit friends association to being able to collect money here in Germany and providing donation receipts (we’re accepted by German tax authorities as non-profit making). This is also where I donated a part of my SAP compensation package so that German government is sort of helping here as well ;-). And by the way, if you’re up for supporting us, please visit our friends’ association web page.
An important aspect of our work is to deepen and expand our network in the Senegal, which is why we reached out to the German Ambassador in Dakar Stefan Roeken as well as the EC representative in the Senegal Irene Mingasson. And we’re getting very strong support from both of them and their teams, not financially but through their network, which is likely even more valuable. Through the German Embassy we got in touch with GIZ in Dakar, which is the German execution arm of the ministry for international collaboration called “Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit” or GIZ in short. All of them consult us very actively in critical questions and connect us to the right people in the Senegalese economy, who can contribute to our dream.
We also started as part of the ActOnPlastic initiative and are member of the current cohort, where SoulBottles, ProjectTogether and Röchling Stiftung are the main drivers of the initiative …
And we’re talking to tons of people to getting the funding right for this project, be it associations like Röchling Stiftung, be it the “Referat für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit” of the Saar region government, be it private connections, be it through my SAP network, be it CSR budgets in the Senegal, be it … if you happen to know someone who has some pile of money left and wants to do something for society, maybe even against plastic waste, just send him along ;-)
We’re also levergaring the SAP Alumni network which is super helpful. Connecting to former SAP colleagues who are now God knows where and do God knows what. And are open to support!
Aventurin Waste also supports meanwhile the EntrepreneursForFuture (E4F) initiative.
And with that we have caught up mostly with what happened so far I think and turn it into the future.
I will go to the Senegal again, but this time Sabine will join me. We’re heading there to meet friends from the first visit as well as heavily extending the network. We will meet the people in person, that we started the conversation with already, e.g. from German Embassy, from EC representative, from GIZ, from Senegalese government ...
We want to get clarity about the best possible region to start the production of the first installation, which is planned for second half of 2020. And I keep hearing that I’m optimistic, yet having challenging goals keeps us being focused. :-)
We also need to solve questions like the best suited legal form for running our social business in the Senegal. We need to find out who would be a good partner to start with thinking of a classical plastic recycler. We need to find out the governmental regulations for running such a business. We need to talk to potential customers of ours who would buy our end product. We need to understand in more detail what the life of a waste picker looks like. We need to understand how possible collection services for plastic waste might look like and whom we could partner with. We need to understand whether we could cross finance our business when working with other companies who need to get rid of their plastic waste. We need to see whether we find companies who want to partner with us and support us with some CSR (corporate social responsibility) budget. And the list goes on and on and on …
Looking at this list, we will likely not solve all of them in one go during these not even two weeks. But we will plow ahead
Over the course of the trip, we will also visit the people I know from Feb/Mar time, with whom we also started meanwhile environmental education projects with scholars and students. Under the paradigm of “learning instead of relearning”.
Nobody said it would be easy, but it is absolutely worth it and rewarding!
Before leaving to the Senegal, we will also go more public locally here in our region. We will have a first event late November to engage with people in our region and getting their support for the planned approach in the Senegal. Yet we will also kick off a discussion around plastic waste here. We have other issues here in Germany than the Senegal with plastic waste. And there will be other solutions than in the Senegal.
And the historical Christmas market in Saarbrücken will provide us another opportunity to get in touch with people.
Now heading back home with the train again, leaving Frankfurt main station with a nice perspective. Very promising!
In the next episode ...
In the next episode of this blog, we will talk about what we could achieve during our trip, new challenges that will surely come up and new opportunities. And new friends. .
All the best, Sabine and Achim