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Ep009 - The Solution Appetite - Tessa Clarke and Olio
Episode 125th June 2021 • The Spaceship Podcast • Laura Francois & Clement Hochart
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Tessa Clarke talks about how she created Olio, the app that is ending food waste. Olio connects people to others in their neighbourhood to share surplus food. She reflects on her journey creating a simple MVP to reaching 4 million users.



Tessa: It is possible to test your hypothesis without spending a penny

In the early days. You just need to find the super, super early adopters. They are people who you don't have to sell to, the minute you tell them you have got this thing that can solve their problem, they want to kind of rip it out of your hands and they don't care what it's called. They don't care what the colors and the design and the branding is. They just want that problem solved.

Clément: You are listening to Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of Olio. In this episode, we'll be talking about food, and how she created and developed a simple solution to help fix this complex issue.

Laura: This is the spaceship podcast, part of the spaceship masterclass, where we support change-makers and entrepreneurs in their journeys to solving big challenges our planet is facing.

Here we bring the theory to life by featuring thought leaders and impact entrepreneurs from around the world. 

And in this episode we met Tessa Clark to talk about her startup Olio .  The Olio app connects people to others in their neighborhood to share surplus food. When you think about how much food goes, uneaten at our dinner tables, or it gets thrown out by local supermarkets. There is more than enough to go around and that's not to mention the fruits and vegetables that we harvest from our own gardens that we sometimes don't even know what to do with. I mean, there's only so many carrots that one can eat

Clément: Tessa started only in 2015 in the UK with a very basic version of the app.

And it was a pretty quick success. Now, all you has more than 3 million, 600,000 users. That means we are talking about almost 20 millions portions of food shared through the app.

Laura: We are really, really  interested Tessa,to hear a little bit more about how you tested the appetite for this solution. I mean, the problem of food waste is clear and the statistics are very, very poignant, and I am very curious to know how you actually went from understanding this problem to testing whether or not people were interested in even considering this idea of sharing.

Tessa: Yeah. Great question. And we went through a pretty methodical process, actually a quick bit methodical process. So I had an experience when I was moving country and found myself with some foods that the removal told me I had to throw away. But being a farmer's daughter and someone who has a keen appreciation for just how much hard work goes into producing food. I wasn't prepared to do that. So I kind of set out into the streets to try and find someone to give my food. To cut a long story short, I failed miserably. I went back to my apartment and not to be defeated, I smuggled the non-perishable food into the bottom of my packing box. And that was the point at which I realized this was crazy the lengths I was going  to avoid throwing away perfectly good food. And I knew there was an app for everything, and I couldn't believe it wasn't an app where I could just easily post my food and neighbors living nearby could request it and pop around and pick it up.

So that was the sort of light bulb moment, I guess, if you like for, for the concept of Olio the first thing my co-founder session I did was to research the problem of food waste to find out if this actually was a problem bigger than my personal experience. And we very quickly discovered that it's an enormous existential problem with a third of all the food we produce globally each year being thrown away meanwhile, 800 million people go to bed hungry every night who could be fed in a quarter of the food that we waste in the Western world. And then the environmental impact of food waste we discovered was absolutely devastating. If it were to be a country, it'd be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the USA and China.

In a country such as the UK, half of all food waste takes place in the home. So that desk research put a massive tick in the box for sort of, is this a big problem we're trying to solve? But the next thing we needed to prove was whether this is a problem that anyone even cared about or not. And so we did a market research survey, which we distributed via lots of local Facebook groups.

And essentially the key data point we've got coming out of that was that one in three people told us that they were physically pained, throwing away good food. And we use deliberately extreme language, the physical pain to get away from the risk of sort of false positives of people kind of going, yeah, food waste is bad.

So we knew that one in three people are physically paying, throwing away good food yet they're having to do that the whole time. So that showed that not only is it a big problem on paper, it's a problem that people care about in reality, but that still didn't mean to say that people would take the next step in our hypothesis, which was that they would share their food with essentially a stranger. And we wanted to test this before investing our life savings, building an app. Quite honestly, no one might want. And so we, I just did that through doing a proof of concept on WhatsApp. So we via email contacted 12 people who had said that there were physical pain throwing away, good food.

They all live near one another, but they didn't know one another. And they didn't know us. And we asked them to take part in this crazy experiment for two weeks, whereby if they had any surplus food during that period of time, he was a group of people that were connected to via WhatsApp that they could share that food with.

And we waited with bated breath, I think for 24 or 36 hours to see if any sharing took place. And finally to the first post came into that group. And then the rest of the two weeks, we had quite a lot of sharing take place. We met and debriefed with all of those participants afterwards and they told us three things.

They said, one, you have to build it. Two it only has to be slightly better than a WhatsApp group. And three, I love this. How can I help? How can I help you make this happen? And so that was the validation that we needed in a really low cost or no cost even way so that we then felt comfortable investing to build an app.

Laura: So that's really interesting. When I think about MVPs or you going this route of no cost, we're going to use something that's already built. We're going to use an app that everybody already loves that everyone's already on. Can you walk us through the process of actually deciding, like what could you have used?

You could have used a landing page or how do you decide, okay, what makes most sense? What, how can we leverage and not have to reinvent the wheel

This is a really important learning that I share with lots of entrepreneurs, which is that for many entrepreneurs in particular, if you're building a consumer facing startup, it is possible to test your hypothesis without spending a penny.

We in our particular instance, we were debating between a closed Facebook group and WhatsApp. And we just, as we looked at the kind of the immediacy and the user interface, we felt that a WhatsApp group would just had less friction for a user. And we wanted the kind of least friction involved in the process.

So that was why we chose what's at run the Facebook group. Equally, I will often say to people, you know, go see if you can build an Instagram following or use a closed Facebook group or just any existing platform. As you say, to test your hypothesis and this MVP approach, by the way, isn't just an approach that you use in the founding of your organization.

It's ideally an approach you use throughout its life cycle. So when we are testing, introducing new features, we might promote that feature in the app and then drive out to a landing page, whether all sorts of more detailed options. And we can measure, click through rates and conversion rates and stuff like that, which gives us data to then tell us what we might want to spend our time and energies building.

So before we move on from this,  you know, the MVP stage, which I love that you mentioned. It's not just a stage. It's not just a period. It's actually cyclical. It's something that can come back again. Again, it's a great tool. Um, it's quite daunting for whether you're a first time entrepreneur or not when you have to go out there and sell an idea that isn't fully formed yet, you don't necessarily have a name for it or maybe you don't have a domain that you .It's not real necessarily, but you have to convince people to try something out. There are two trains of thought. Some people go the whole way and they build a brand and then they test it out. Some people don't, you know, they have the name of a spreadsheet and that's, and that's about it and that's all they need to sell an idea. Can you talk about where on that spectrum, did you fall?

We realized really early on that nobody was going to certainly not the early stage to decide to use Olio on the base of an aim or branding. So we got our logo and our brand pallets all done for, I think, 150 pounds via, um, you know, one of those sort of people per hour.

I think it was one of those sort of freelancer websites, because we realized that early was just not gonna be made or broken by that. But I think for many businesses that is also the case. And I think perhaps sometimes entrepreneurs spend too long worrying about things that don't really matter. and for us, the other thing I would say is that it's really important to mentally segment your audience and figure out who you're going after.

So in the early days, you're not trying to convince the mainstream or the cynics or the laggers. You just need to forget about all of those people in the early days, you just need to find the super, super early adopters. And they are people who you don't have to sell to the minute you tell them, you have got this thing that can solve their problem.

They want to kind of rip it out of your hands and they don't care what it's called. They don't care. The colors and the design and the branding is they just want their problem solved. That's really, really important because in the early days, the vast majority of people you encounter will not be early adopters, which means that you'll just hear a lot of negativity and you have to just zone that out and just laser focus on the early adopters, who will be wide-eyed with excitement when they hear about what you're doing and you don't have to sell it.

Yeah. Interesting. So it's almost like if you have a really shiny brand, but it doesn't solve the vast majority of people's problems, you have to make sure that people are jumping, like you said, jumping up and down with excitement, regardless if it's a spreadsheet or a no name company, because it's solving a hair on fire problem.

Tessa: The very first people that you bring on are the most forgiving of all the floors in your terrible product, because they're just so focused on getting that problem solved. And that then buys you time to improve your product. Who brings on the next cohort of users who are slight less forgiving than the first people.

And you kind of go up on this kind of stepping stone. You can't see me, but I'm sort of drawing this out in the air. You kind of go from stepping stone to stepping stone, uh, and as you move across to the right and to higher and higher stepping stones, the quality of your product improves as time is passing.

And as you move through and bring on a more and more sort of mainstream audience,

Clément: Definitely agree with that. And it's really good to have an example, uh, like this and explanation from, from new directly, because we can point that in the course, that that makes me realize, like, how would you describe the job to be done, uh, by your app and your entire solution?

Our job to be be done is very simple. We're connecting people with a neighbor so they can give away rather than throw away their spare food, or we try and do that in a way that is easy, convenient, and fun. Now, most people hate food waste and as loads and loads and loads and loads of reasons why people throw away food, they change of plans, They go on a diet, they don't understand food dates. You know, it says unwanted food gifts over catering, et cetera, et cetera. But actually what we've realized is that the reason why that food ends up getting wasted is because people don't have someone to give that food to. And that is because we're no longer connected with our local communities.

And so Olio kind of solves that problem. We're not trying to stop you from having surplus food because we recognize that that's an inevitability of modern life. It's really hard to perfectly balanced supply and demand of food through a small household. And so when we're asked who our competitor is, it's not another app, our competitors is the rubbish bin.

And so when we're designing our product experience, we're constantly thinking, how can we get Olio to be as close to the bin as possible in terms of convenience, but much more importantly, how do we compete in a way that the bin cannot, how can we make this experience feel great? How can we make it super social?

How can we connect people with their community? How can we make people feel empowered? How can we enable people to build lasting friendships. And so all of those sorts of that's are real kind of area of focus. And we want to kind of try and get on par with the Ben with convenience, but then really dial up all the other good stuff that the bin can't possibly compete with.

Laura: Yeah. You bring up something really interesting, which is the social aspect. Because when I think about when I throw away food, of course, there's that pain and guilt. You mentioned physical pain. I can agree with that. You know, there's that feeling of, oh my gosh, I know this is wrong. I don't know what else to do with it.

And then there's the quick convenience part where it's, I just have to get rid of it. Spoiling or it's about to spoil or whatever else. Right. Um, but there is still a jump that needs to be made a lot, whether it's a logic jumper, convenience, jump for me to open up an app and connect with someone else. And if you're you're competing with the ease of throwing something, that's in a bin right next to you.

So that is, that's a big competition.

Tessa: Yeah. And that's, that's why we spend a lot of our time thinking about behavior change, and also behavioral psychology. You know, our early adopters don't need any persuading to open an app and to share some food with a neighbor, that's just an obvious and a given for them, but it becomes really challenging as you start sort of crossing the chasm in the terminology and moving over into a more mainstream audience who do need persuading.

Now, one of the things that we've discovered in our sort of foray into behavioral psychology is that one of the biggest determinants of behavior change is when people believe that everyone else is doing something when something has become normalized. And so we've worked really hard through our communications, but also through the product experience to just constantly reinforced to people that actually, this is something that millions of people now doing this, this is sort of what you do when, when you have spare food.

And then the other angle we've sort of taken at it is if for some people sort of sharing food with a neighbor, feels like too big. Perhaps they can dip their toe in the water with our community in terms of start sharing non-food items first, because actually that's already in established behavior. We share impact data back with people, so it makes them feel good.

And that then turns it from when it comes to sharing food from a sort of, why would I to actually instead, well, why wouldn't I,

Clément: um, I'm curious too. I mean, going back to the, the, the starting of, of, uh, audio, we see a lot of NGO, um, working for, for quite some time on, on food waste. What makes you choose profit versus nonprofit organization. And why did you make this choice?

Tessa: Um, we thought about what do we think is going to be most effective model to solve this problem? And once we realized the true extent of the environmental devastation that is caused by food waste, we realized that we had to come up with a model that would enable us to scale extremely quickly.

We were able to see endless examples of startups and businesses that have scaled globally to have enormous impact in a couple of years. And yet we were not able to find many or even any charities, for example, that have scaled to have a massive global impact. That immediately sort of took us to the sort of business route.

And then also philosophically, I think we feel quite frustrated that we live in this dichotomy, which says that charities do good and businesses scale really fast, but have a ton of negative externalities. And these are our two choices. We really wanted to be part of demonstrating that there is that third path, which is profit with purpose.

And that actually that should be the new business paradigm.

Laura: Do you ever feel like you're juggling?

Tessa: No! Because I feel like that's a question coming up. I get quite frustrated by that actually, because there's just this inbuilt incorrect assumption that profit and purpose are diametrically opposed because people are always asking sort of how you juggle that.

From our perspective, they're entirely mutually reinforcing. 

Laura: Definitely agree. And I think with the community at spaceship, the challenge is that most of the entrepreneurs we work with are focused on really big systemic problems and are sometimes faced with a lot of questioning around aren't you a nonprofit or shouldn't you be a nonprofit? What does the audience say and think of, of what it is that you're doing?

Tessa:  I think you can do is zone out the naysayers. Focus on the people who get it, surround yourself by people who get it, and then just really focus on executing and proving your point rather than talking about your point. And eventually the laggards will we'll get with the program and they will figure it out.

Um, but you, you just kind of stay focused on the positive vibes and surround yourself by people who are gonna support that. And don't get distracted from executing. English expression, which is the proof is in the pudding. And I think this is one of those great examples.

Laura: Oh, definitely. So, so, so on that point, how do you deal with negative feedback? I mean, has it ever made you consider either giving up on the idea or giving up on the business model or

switching things up?

Tessa: There's always some interesting data coming at you from any negative feedback. So you should never dismiss it. You should always listen to it and try and identify what can I learn from it?

But as soon as you've taken the learning, you just need to switch off from it and move on. I read, um, Geoffrey Moore's books of...

Transcripts

Tessa:

It is possible to test your hypothesis without spending a penny

Tessa:

In the early days, you just need to find the super, super early adopters

Tessa:

They are people who you don't have to sell to. The minute you tell them

Tessa:

you have got this thing that can solve their problem, they want to

Tessa:

kind of rip it out of your hands and they don't care what it's called

Tessa:

They don't care what's the colors and the design and the branding is.

Tessa:

They just want that problem solved.

Clément:

You are listening to Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of Olio.

Clément:

In this episode, we'll be talking about food waste and how she created

Clément:

and developed a simple solution to help fix this complex issue.

Laura:

This is the spaceship podcast, part of the spaceship masterclass

Laura:

where we support change-makers and entrepreneurs in their journeys to solving

Laura:

big challenges our planet is facing.

Laura:

Here we bring the theory to life by featuring thought leaders

Laura:

and impact entrepreneurs from around the world.

Laura:

In this episode we met Tessa Clark to talk about her startup Olio

Laura:

The Olio app connects people to others in their neighborhood to share surplus food

Laura:

When you think about how much food goes uneaten at our dinner tables

Laura:

or gets thrown out by local supermarkets

Laura:

There is more than enough to go around... and that's not to mention the fruits and vegetables

Laura:

that we harvest from our own gardens that we sometimes

Laura:

don't even know what to do with.

Laura:

I mean, there's only so many carrots that one can eat

Clément:

Tessa started only in 2015 in the UK with a very basic version of the app

Clément:

and it was a pretty quick success

Clément:

Now Olio has more than 3 600 000 users

Clément:

That means we are talking about almost 20 millions portions

Clément:

of food shared through the app.

Laura:

We are really, really interested Tessa, to hear a little bit more about how

Laura:

you tested the appetite for this solution

Laura:

I mean, the problem of food waste is clear and the statistics are

Laura:

very, very poignant and I am very curious to know how you actually went from

Laura:

understanding this problem to testing whether or not people were interested in

Laura:

even considering this idea of sharing.

Tessa:

Yeah, thats a great question.

Tessa:

And we went through a pretty methodical process

Tessa:

actually a quick bit methodical process

Tessa:

So I had an experience when I was moving country and found myself

Tessa:

with some foods that the removal told me I had to throw away.

Tessa:

But being a farmer's daughter and someone who has a keen appreciation for just

Tessa:

how much hard work goes into producing food

Tessa:

I wasn't prepared to do that.

Tessa:

So I kind of set out into the streets to find someone to give my food to...

Tessa:

cut a long story short, I failed miserably

Tessa:

I went back to my apartment and not to be defeated, I smuggled the non-perishable

Tessa:

food into the bottom of my packing box.

Tessa:

That was the point at which I realized this was crazy the lengths I was going to

Tessa:

avoid throwing away perfectly good food

Tessa:

I knew there was an app for everything and I couldn't believe it wasn't an app where

Tessa:

I could just easily post my food and neighbors living nearby could

Tessa:

request it and pop around and pick it up.

Tessa:

So that was the sort of light bulb moment, for the concept of Olio

Tessa:

the first thing my co-founder session I did was to research

Tessa:

the problem of food waste to find out if this actually was a problem

Tessa:

bigger than my personal experience.

Tessa:

And we very quickly discovered that it's an enormous existential problem

Tessa:

with a third of all the food we produce globally each year being thrown away meanwhile,

Tessa:

800 million people go to bed hungry every night who could be fed with

Tessa:

a quarter of the food that we waste in the Western world

Tessa:

Then the environmental impact of food waste we discovered was devastating...

Tessa:

If it were to be a country, it'd be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emission after USA and China

Tessa:

In a country such as the UK, half ofall food waste takes place in the home.

Tessa:

So that desk research put a massive tick in the box for sort of :

Tessa:

is this a big problem we're trying to solve?

Tessa:

But the next thing we needed to prove was whether this is a problem that anyone even cared about or not.

Tessa:

So we did a market research survey, which we distributed via lots of local Facebook groups

Tessa:

And the key data point we've got coming out of that was that 1/3 people told us that they were

Tessa:

physically pained throwing away good food

Tessa:

We use deliberately extreme language : the physical pain, to get away from

Tessa:

the risk of false positives of people kind of going ; "yeah, food waste is bad"

Tessa:

So we knew that one in three people are physically pain throwing away good food

Tessa:

yet they're having to do that the whole time So that showed that not only is it a big problem on paper,

Tessa:

it's a problem that people care about in reality, but that still didn't mean to say that people

Tessa:

would take the next step in our hypothesis : that they would share their food with a stranger

Tessa:

We wanted to test this before investing our life savings building an app

Tessa:

Quite honestly, no one might want.

Tessa:

So we tested that doing a proof of concept on WhatsApp

Tessa:

Via email, we contacted 12 people who had said that there were physical pain

Tessa:

throwing away good food.

Tessa:

They all live near one another, but they didn't know one another.

Tessa:

And they didn't know us.

Tessa:

And we asked them to take part in this crazy experiment for two weeks, whereby

Tessa:

if they had any surplus food during that period of time, here was a group of people

Tessa:

that were connected to via WhatsApp that they could share that food with.

Tessa:

And we waited with bated breath, I think for 24 or 36 hours to see if any sharing took place.

Tessa:

And finally to the first post came into that group

Tessa:

then the rest of the two weeks, we had quite a lot of sharing take place.

Tessa:

We met and debriefed with all of those participants afterwards

nd they told us three things:

they said, 1- you have to build it

nd they told us three things:

2- it only has to be slightly better than a WhatsApp group, and

nd they told us three things:

3- "I love this, how can I help? How can I help you make this happen and grow?"

nd they told us three things:

That was the validation that we needed in a really low cost or no cost even way

nd they told us three things:

so that we then felt comfortable investing to build an app.

Laura:

When I think about MVPs or you going this route of no cost, we're going to use something that's already built

Laura:

We're going to use an app that everyone's already on. Can you walk us through the process of actually deciding

Laura:

what could you have used?

Laura:

You could have used a landing page or how do you decide what makes most sense?

Laura:

How can we leverage and not have to reinvent the wheel

Laura:

This is a really important learning that I share with lots of entrepreneurs

which is:

if you're building a consumer facing startup, it is possible to test your hypothesis without spending a penny

which is:

We in our particular instance, we were debating between a closed Facebook group and WhatsApp.

which is:

As we looked at the immediacy and the user interface, we felt that a WhatsApp group would had less friction for a user

which is:

We wanted the kind of least friction involved in the process So that was why we chose WhatsApp

which is:

Equally, I will often say to people : go see if you can build an Instagram following

which is:

or use a closed Facebook group or just any existing platform

which is:

to test your hypothesis and this MVP approach by the way,

which is:

isn't just an approach that you use in the founding of your organization

which is:

It's ideally an approach you use throughout its life cycle.

which is:

So when we are testing, introducing new features, we might promote that

which is:

feature in the app and then drive out to a landing page, whether all sorts of more detailed options.

which is:

And we can measure, click through rates and conversion rates and stuff like that, which gives us data

which is:

to then tell us what we might want to spend our time and energies building.

Laura:

before we move on from the MVP stage, which I love that you mentioned it's not just a stage, a period

Laura:

It's actually cyclical, it's something that can come back again, it's a great tool.

Laura:

It's quite daunting for whether you're a first time entrepreneur or not

Laura:

when you have to go out there and sell an idea that isn't fully formed yet

Laura:

You don't necessarily have a name for it or maybe you don't have a domain that you

Laura:

.It's not real necessarily, but you have to convince people to try something out.

re are two trains of thought:

some people go the whole way and they build a brand and then they test it out.

re are two trains of thought:

Some people don't, they have the name of a spreadsheet and that's about it

re are two trains of thought:

and that's all they need to sell an idea.

re are two trains of thought:

Can you talk about where on that spectrum, did you fall?

Tessa:

We realized really early on that nobody was going to certainly not

Tessa:

the early stage to decide to use Olio on the base of an aim or branding.

Tessa:

So we got our logo and our brand pallets all done

Tessa:

for 150 pounds via, one of those sort of freelancer websites

Tessa:

because we realized that early was just not gonna be made or broken by that.

Tessa:

I think for many businesses that is also the case

Tessa:

Perhaps sometimes entrepreneurs spend too long worrying about things that don't really matter

Tessa:

and for us, the other thing I would say is that it's really important to

Tessa:

mentally segment your audience and figure out who you're going after.

Tessa:

So in the early days, you're not trying to convince the mainstream or the cynics or the laggers...

Tessa:

You just need to forget about all of those people. In the early days, you just need to find the super early adopters

Tessa:

They are people who you don't have to sell to the minute you tell them, you have got this thingthat can solve their problem

Tessa:

they want to kind of rip it out of your hands and they don't care what it's called.

Tessa:

They don't care the colors and the design and the branding, they just want their problem solved.

Tessa:

That's really, really important because in the early days, the vast majority of people you encounter will not be early adopters

Tessa:

which means that you'll just hear a lot of negativity and you have to zone that out and just laser focus laser focus on the early adopters,

Tessa:

who will be wide-eyed with excitement when they hear about what you're doing and you don't have to sell it to them

Laura:

So it's almost like if you have a really shiny brand, but it doesn't solve the vast majority of people's problems

Laura:

you have to make sure that people are jumping up and down with excitement

Laura:

regardless if it's a spreadsheet or a no name company, because it's solving a hair on fire problem.

Tessa:

The very first people that you bring on are the most forgiving

Tessa:

of all the floors in your terrible product, because they're just so

Tessa:

focused on getting that problem solved.

Tessa:

That then buys you time to improve your product

Tessa:

The next cohort of users who are slight less forgiving than the first people

Tessa:

And you kind of go up on this kind of stepping stone, (you can't see me, but I'm sort of drawing this out in the air)

Tessa:

You kind of go from stepping stone tostepping stone, and as you move across to the right and

Tessa:

to higher and higher stepping stones, the quality of you product improves

Tessa:

And as you move through and bring on a more and more sort of mainstream audience.

Clément:

Definitely agree with that. And it's really good to have an example because we point that in the course.

That makes me realize:

how would you describe the job to be done...

That makes me realize:

by your app and your entire solution?

Tessa:

Our job to be be done is very simple.

Tessa:

We're connecting people with a neighbor so they can give away rather than throw away their spare food.

Tessa:

We try and do that in a way that is easy, convenient, and fun.

Tessa:

Now, most people hate food waste and there are loads and loads and loads of reasons why people throw away food

Tessa:

they change of plans, they go on a diet, they don't understand food dates

Tessa:

You know, it says unwanted food gifts over catering, et cetera, et cetera.

Tessa:

But actually what we've realized is that the reason why that food ends up getting wasted

Tessa:

is because people don't have someone to give that food to

Tessa:

And that is because we're no longer connected with our local communities.

Tessa:

So Olio kind of solves that problem.

Tessa:

We're not trying to stop you from having surplus food because we recognize that's an inevitability of modern life

Tessa:

It's really hard to perfectly balanced supply and demand of food through a small household.

Tessa:

When we're asked who our competitor is, it's not another app, our competitors is the rubbish bin.

Tessa:

So when we're designing our product experience we're constantly thinking :

Tessa:

how can we get Olio to be as close to the bin as possible in terms of convenience,

Tessa:

but much more importantly, how do we compete in a way that the bin cannot

Tessa:

How can we make this experience feel great? How can we make it super social?

Tessa:

How can we connect people with their community? How can we make people feel empowered?

Tessa:

How can we enable people to build lasting friendships.

Tessa:

And so all of those sorts of that's are real kind of area of focus.

Tessa:

And we want to kind of try and get on par with the bin with convenience, but then

Tessa:

really dial up all the other good stuff that the bin can't possibly compete with.

Tessa:

You bring up something really interesting, which is the social aspect.

Tessa:

Because when I think about when I throw away food, of course there's that pain and guilt

Tessa:

You mentioned physical pain, I can agree with that there's that feeling of, oh my gosh, I know this is wrong.

Tessa:

I don't know what else to do with it... then there's the quick convenience part where it's

Tessa:

I just have to get rid of it.

Tessa:

Spoiling or it's about to spoil, but there is still a jump that needs to be made, whether it's a logic jump

Tessa:

convenience jump for me to open up an app and connect with someone else.

Tessa:

You're competing with the ease of throwing something in a bin right next to you

Tessa:

That's a big competition.

Tessa:

That's why we spend a lot of our time thinking about behavior change, and also behavioral psychology

Tessa:

You know, our early adopters don't need any persuading to open an app and

Tessa:

to share some food with a neighbor, that's just an obvious and a given for them

Tessa:

but it becomes really challenging as you start sort of

Tessa:

crossing the chasm in the terminology and moving over into a more mainstream audience who do need persuading.

Tessa:

Now, one of the things that we've discovered in our sort of foray into

Tessa:

behavioral psychology is that one of the biggest determinants of behavior change

Tessa:

is when people believe that everyone else is doing something

Tessa:

when something has become normalized.

Tessa:

And so we've worked really hard through our communications, but also through

Tessa:

the product experience to just constantly reinforced to people that actually

Tessa:

is something that millions of people now doing this, this is sort of what you do when you have spare food.

Tessa:

And then the other angle we've sort of taken at it is

Tessa:

if for some people sort of sharing food with a neighbor feels like too big.

Tessa:

Perhaps they can dip their toe in the water with our community in terms of

Tessa:

start sharing non-food items first, because actually that's

Tessa:

already in established behavior.

Tessa:

We share impact data back with people, so it makes them feel good.

Tessa:

And that then turns it from when it comes to sharing food

Tessa:

from a sort of "why would I?" to actually instead : "why wouldn't I ?"

Clément:

I'm curious to go back to the starting of Olio... We see a lot of NGO working for quite some time on food waste

Clément:

What makes you choose profit versus nonprofit organization, why did you make this choice ?

Tessa:

We thought about what do we think is going to be most effective model to solve this problem ?

Tessa:

And once we realized the true extent of the environmental devastation

Tessa:

that is caused by food waste, we realized thatwe had to come up with a model that would enable us to scale extremely quickly.

Tessa:

We were able to see endless examples of startups and businesses that have

Tessa:

scaled globally to have enormous impact in a couple of years.

Tessa:

And yet we were not able to find many or even any charities, for example, that have

Tessa:

scaled to have a massive global impact.

Tessa:

That immediately sort of took us to the sort of business route.

Tessa:

And then also philosophically, I think we feel quite frustrated that we live in

Tessa:

this dichotomy, which says that charities do good and businesses scale really fast,

Tessa:

but have a ton of negative externalities.

Tessa:

And these are our two choices.

Tessa:

We really wanted to be part of demonstrating that there is that third path

Tessa:

which is profit with purpose.

Tessa:

And that actually that should be the new business paradigm.

Laura:

Do you ever feel like you're juggling?

Tessa:

No!

Laura:

Because I feel like that's a question coming up.

Tessa:

I get quite frustrated by that actually, because there's just this inbuilt incorrect assumption

Tessa:

that profit and purpose are diametrically opposed because people are always asking sort of how you juggle that

Tessa:

From our perspective, they're entirely mutually reinforcing.

Laura:

Definitely agree.

Laura:

And I think with the community at spaceship, the challenge is that most

Laura:

of the entrepreneurs we work with are focused on really big systemic problems

Laura:

and are sometimes faced with a lot of questioning around aren't you a nonprofit

Laura:

or shouldn't you be a nonprofit?

Laura:

What does the audience say and think of, of what it is that you're doing?

Tessa:

I think you can do is zone out the naysayers.

Tessa:

Focus on the people who get it, surround yourself by people who get it

Tessa:

and then just really focus on executing and proving your point

Tessa:

rather than talking about your point.

Tessa:

And eventually the laggards will get with the program and they will figure it out

Tessa:

But you just kind of stay focused on the positive vibes

Tessa:

and surround yourself by people who are gonna support that.

Tessa:

And don't get distracted from executing.

Tessa:

English expression, which is the proof is in the pudding.

Tessa:

And I think this is one of those great examples.

Laura:

Oh, definitely.

Laura:

So, on that point, how do you deal with negative feedback?

Laura:

I mean, has it ever made you consider either giving up on the idea or

Laura:

giving up on the business model or

Laura:

switching things up?

Tessa:

There's always some interesting data coming at you from any negative feedback.

Tessa:

So you should never dismiss it.

Tessa:

You should always listen to it and try and identify "what can I learn from it?"

Tessa:

But as soon as you've taken the learning, you just need to

Tessa:

switch off from it and move on.

Tessa:

I read, Geoffrey Moore's books of crossing the chasm, and I've got that sort

Tessa:

of mental visual of that bell-shaped curve starting kind of with the early adopters

Tessa:

then going through the early mainstream, the late mainstream and the laggards.

Tessa:

And I found that visual really helpful because when I'm speaking to someone

Tessa:

and if I feel like I'm sort of banging my head against a brick wall

Tessa:

It's just very clear to me that actually they're in the laggards category

Tessa:

I'm never going to persuade them to change their mind right now.

Tessa:

Better didn't change their mind when the rest of society has hit a tipping point.

Tessa:

So I just need to focus on the early adopters, the people who get it, get them to a tipping point

Laura:

Yeah, I can see how, especially recently, thankfully

Laura:

I think that group is growing

Tessa:

With people stop debating when the climate crisis is or isn't real,

Tessa:

like in the past kind of two years, there's been a really, really tangible shift

Tessa:

and broadly now everybody gets that the house on fire, we've got to solve it.

Tessa:

And I, so I do think that conversations are getting easier and they will continue

Tessa:

to get exponentially easier for all of us because the world is finally waking up

Tessa:

to what those of us in the impact space have known for years, maybe even decades.

Tessa:

But the most important thing, I guess, is you don't have a sort of, I told you so attitude

Tessa:

but you welcome every new person into the fold

Tessa:

when they sort of finally get what's going on and then really figure out

Tessa:

how you can sort of harness what they can do to help drive your business forward.

Laura:

That's a really good point, making sure nobody feels guilty about

Laura:

not having been part of the movement before.

Tessa:

Yeah, exactly.

Laura:

It is an issue.

Laura:

As you mentioned at the beginning of this conversation

Laura:

it is a really complicated, widespread issue and it actually leads to death in a lot of countries

Tessa:

Yeah.

Laura:

There's such a thing as poverty porn or this idea that you're using

Laura:

these statistics to market your business is not necessarily ethical.

Laura:

And that line sometimes it's really difficult to see in the sand.

Laura:

And how do you navigate or how do you make sure at all times that you're, you're not

Laura:

playing that violin, you're not making people feel extremely guilty

Laura:

but you're showing them a path of positivity.

Tessa:

Yes.

Tessa:

So I think that that's a really interesting topic.

Tessa:

So first of all, my kind of my pet peeve is when people talk about the climate crise in the future tense

Tessa:

I think you're even seeing that comes from an enormous place of privilege.

Tessa:

And I'm always sort of at pains to stress to people that the climate crisis is here

Tessa:

wreaking havoc on millions of people's lives already

Tessa:

and have been for quite some time.

Tessa:

And I think it's really important that we're all quite united in reminding everybody

Tessa:

in particulary in the Western sections of the society, that that is the case.

Tessa:

I always start off when I'm talking about Olio, talking about the problem that we're solving

Tessa:

and I do unashamedly share the terrifying statistics and

Tessa:

the reason for that being that I've experimented with this over the years

Tessa:

of not starting off with the problem and just leaping straight into kind of

Tessa:

talking about Olio and how we work and I've realized it just doesn't

Tessa:

people need to go on that sort of emotional journey to get them really bought in.

Tessa:

And it's really important that you tell the truth and you

Tessa:

just share the statistics.

Tessa:

You're able to source those statistics and you just paint that

Tessa:

picture of our current reality.

Tessa:

And it does get people feeling frightened.

Tessa:

It does get people feeling sick, but then you take them onto, and

Tessa:

this is the solution and this is the progress we're making.

Tessa:

And you finish on that kind of really uplifting, positive high.

Tessa:

In my experience that is a really effective emotional journey to take any

Tessa:

audience on whether it be a journalist or an investor or a new team member.

LauraYeah::

Because of what I feel, or at least as someone who's in that audience, but also

LauraYeah::

part of the impact space and kind of sitting in between is that I sometimes

LauraYeah::

feel like we don't paint a bright enough picture of a future that is possible.

LauraYeah::

So sometimes it's really easy to get stuck in that first part of that pitch.

Tessa:

It is:

Tessa:

And, you're actually right.

Tessa:

So in our experience on Olio we found, so we're constantly sort of

Tessa:

testing, measuring and learning.

Tessa:

And we found that on social media, when we share what might be called, the more sort of

Tessa:

negative material, which is talking about our reality and the facts and the

Tessa:

figures and where we are today, that gets far less engagement than when we share

Tessa:

something that's positive and uplifting showing sort of people or communities

Tessa:

standing up starting to make a difference and starting to win and triumph.

Tessa:

And that's what gets the engagement.

Tessa:

So maybe you spend somewhere between 10 and 25% of your

Tessa:

energies on the negativity.

Tessa:

And the rest is on the positivity, but you can't be 100% about positivity.

Tessa:

Cause it just wouldn't land without that sort of stick better at the beginning.

Tessa:

I don't think.

Laura:

Yeah, I think it was Buckminster Fuller who said

Laura:

something about, if you are driving down a road and you keep staring at

Laura:

the thing that you're trying to avoid, you're inevitably going to be hitting it.

Laura:

So you have to make sure you're looking at the rest of the road to pass safely.

Laura:

I always think about that analogy and making sure we're still painting

Laura:

the rest of the road, which it seems like you are which is great.

Tessa:

Yeah, for sure.

Tessa:

And I also think that either don't want to deal with the facts of where we are today

Tessa:

or they try and point to sort of all the positives that exist in the world today

Tessa:

of which obviously there are many.

Tessa:

But what I think we need to be doing is saying, but we can do better than that.

Tessa:

You know, we can lift more people out of poverty.

Tessa:

We can reduce our waste, we can live in more equal society.

Tessa:

We can have better health care for everybody.

Tessa:

Um, and so I think we can kind of paint a really, really

Tessa:

exciting vision of the future.

Tessa:

And that is what gets people engaged.

Tessa:

That's what people want to sign up for and be part of,

Clément:

seeing all your numbers, like the huge amount of food waste

Clément:

that has been shared through your app.

Clément:

I was wondering, do you already see or measure a reduce in purchasing

Clément:

like people does your customers.

Clément:

or user purchased less at the supermarket and in general food

Tessa:

Yes they do.

Tessa:

Yes, yes they do.

Tessa:

so we have millions of pounds worth of free food pound Sterling, by the way

Tessa:

of free food being given away on the earlier platform every month.

Tessa:

And so that is money that people are not spending, buying brand new produce in a supermarket.

Tessa:

That is definitely having a really significant impact.

Tessa:

And, you know, we, we sort of find it slightly crazy that we're sat here as

Tessa:

humanity sort of scratching our heads, puzzling over how on earth we're going

Tessa:

to feed a world of 10 billion people and keep it within 1.5 degrees of warming

Tessa:

whilst we're busy, kind of throwing away a third of all the food we produce

Tessa:

With the massive environmental cost of that.

Tessa:

and so if we can start sharing rather than throwing away food, then that has

Tessa:

a really big, positive knock-on effect.

Tessa:

All the way up through the supply chain and we'll play a really important role

Tessa:

in helping ensure that we can avert the climate crisis and feed

Tessa:

a population has got another 2.2 billion people joining us by 2050.

Clément:

And how long do you think is the cycle of when this will really impact the

Clément:

agriculture maybe or so it has already started to impact the supply chain.

Tessa:

Yeah, I mean, we've, we've just got to get to a lot

Tessa:

more scale than we are, so.

Tessa:

Yeah, it's amazing that we've had 13 million portions of food shared.

Tessa:

That's had an environmental impact equivalent to taking 40

Tessa:

million car miles off the road.

Tessa:

We've saved 2 billion liters of water.

Tessa:

These rules are mind boggling numbers, but what we have to keep reminding ourselves

Tessa:

is that we're currently doing less than naught 0.1% of our full potential.

Tessa:

So we've got to grow exponentially to have the impact that we're capable of.

Tessa:

And once we're at scale, then...

Tessa:

Absolutely, it will be having an enormous impact on agriculture.

Tessa:

For example, as you've just said, you know, a land mass larger than China is

Tessa:

used every year to grow food, that's never eaten a quarter of humanity's

Tessa:

fresh water is used to grow food that has never eaten uh, and with half of food

Tessa:

waste taking place in the home, then if we can solve that problem with scale,

Tessa:

we can have a really big sort of ripple effect up through the supply chain.

Laura:

That's a system that is prime to be disrupted . From so many different facets too.

Laura:

what you, what Olio is doing is interesting.

Laura:

Um, I don't want to say simple but simplifying the really complex problem and

Laura:

bringing it to the micro it's bringing it to the home, which is what I'm finding is

Laura:

the best way to get people on board and understanding these problems begin with.

Tessa:

I like to say that it was billions of small actions

Tessa:

that caused the climate crisis.

Tessa:

And so surely by the same logic, billions of small actions can help solve it.

Tessa:

We certainly just on a very personal level, feel very frustrated at

Tessa:

the lack of action we're seeing from businesses, from government.

Tessa:

And actually the whole point of value is saying we haven't got time to wait

Tessa:

for them to do what needs to be done.

Tessa:

Let's empower the everyday person and see if we can kind

Tessa:

of kick off that ripple effect.

Tessa:

Because the potential for impact is enormous.

Tessa:

If we empower literally every person on the planet.

Clément:

Yeah. And speaking about small step, I mean, 1% is already enormous, but to reach

Clément:

that 1%, do you wish you would have done something differently when you started?

Tessa:

That's a good question.

Tessa:

To be honest, we don't spend too much time beating ourselves up about the past, cause

Tessa:

there's nothing we can do about that.

Tessa:

And it's in our DNA to be constantly testing, measuring learning.

Tessa:

We've got hundreds of experiments happening every single month across

Tessa:

every single part of the business.

Tessa:

So we were always learning, doing a lot of things wrong but quickly iterating

Tessa:

our way to find out what works.

Tessa:

I think, arguably for audio, we too early, I think, um, society was kind of

Tessa:

not yet ready for what we were doing.

Tessa:

So we spent quite a lot of, you know, several years really I

Tessa:

guess, yelling into the void about the problem of food waste.

Tessa:

But now our collective consciousness about the extent of not just the

Tessa:

climate crisis, but the ecological crisis, the resource depletion crisis.

Tessa:

We're all of collectively waking up to that.

Tessa:

Plus in parallel, a COVID has really helped to alight in

Tessa:

so many of us, this desire to connect with your local community.

Tessa:

That also has played very squarely into what earlier is doing.

Tessa:

And so we, we experienced sort of finally that hockey stick effet

Tessa:

through last year.

Tessa:

And as I say, I think we were just kind of maybe too early to market prior to that

Tessa:

but you know, on the plus side, We are in a great position to now be able to

Tessa:

move really, really quickly now that we've got the momentum of the market behind us.

Clément:

You then kind of hold for a long, like waiting

Clément:

for the market to open what would be an advice to an entrepreneur that

Clément:

realized that he's a bit too early.

Clément:

What would be your advice to him?

Tessa:

My number one piece of advice would be that your time is your friend.

Tessa:

So the more time that elapses, the more opportunity you have for luck

Tessa:

and for the market to change and the single most important thing to give

Tessa:

you more time is to have more capital.

Tessa:

So what you really need to do is be extremely cost conscious and manage

Tessa:

every single pound or dollar or whatever your currency might be through your business.

Tessa:

So we've always been incredibly lean and frugal at Olio that has enabled us

Tessa:

to stay alive so that we are in a great position to be able to

Tessa:

really capitalize upon this momentum that's now, now hitting the market.

Laura:

Yeah, that's great advice. Those entrepreneurs who are listening

Laura:

Or just waiting or doing this as a side gig or they're, you know, they're doing

Laura:

this as well as a full-time job and wondering, you know, when's the right

Laura:

time to count you sometimes waiting and working on this with the money that

Laura:

you have and the resources that you have really does pay off in the end.

Tessa:

Yeah. I totally say to people to cut that umbilical cord or a reliable source of

Tessa:

cash a few day job at the last possible moment, because once it's gone, it's gone.

Tessa:

And it's amazing actually how much you can achieve with something sort of on the side

Laura:

As a closing question, you've debunked so many things already, but

Laura:

what's one misconception about your industry that you would love to shout

Laura:

from all the rooftops in the entire world?

Tessa:

I think the biggest myth that I would like to debunk or

Tessa:

thing that I'd like to see sort of tipped on its end is consumption.

Tessa:

And how we consume.

Tessa:

So we've all been sort of indoctrinated since birth

Tessa:

to think of ourselves as consumers.

Tessa:

And we have this really linear extractive model of consumption, where

Tessa:

we take resources from the planet .We use them for 5% of their life.

Tessa:

We toss them into landfill and we have to rinse, wash, repeat on that.

Tessa:

We're living as if we have 1.7, five planets.

Tessa:

And we don't.

Tessa:

What we're trying to do at Olio is really replaced that model of

Tessa:

consumption with another one and more sustainable one, a circular one where

Tessa:

we take resource from the planet.

Tessa:

We utilize them for 95% of their life, and they're circling around, around, around our local communities.

Tessa:

And then only a tiny amount actually eventually sort of ends up as waste.

Tessa:

And in order to do that, we've actually got to completely reinvent our economies.

Tessa:

We've got to move away from this obsession with GDP and with endless growth in

Tessa:

a finite resource constrained world.

Tessa:

It makes no sense whatsoever.

Tessa:

We've always kind of got to go back to the future sort of thing.

Tessa:

I we've got to borrow from the models of the past and

Tessa:

then apply them in the future.

Tessa:

And so for us consumption in the future is hyper-local

Tessa:

it is personal and it's all about reuse.

Laura:

I love that. I just had a realization, Tessa, you know, when people talk about the

Laura:

circular economy and in a nutshell, it's that waste equals food.

Laura:

I just realized that in Olio's case it's actually waste equals food

Tessa:

literally, yes

Laura:

This is the first time you can take this completely literally.

Tessa:

Yeah, you're absolutely right.

Clément:

That was Tessa Clarke co-founder and CEO of Olio.

Clément:

This episode is part of The Spaceship master class, a program designed

Clément:

for anyone interested in building, creating and launching businesses,

Clément:

focused on making a positive impact.

Clément:

We are Laura and Clément co-founders, masterclass instructors, and your cohost.

Laura:

That was super interesting to hear from Tessa from Olio .It's interesting

Laura:

for me specifically, because I have rarely seen a startup that has been able to

Laura:

tackle such a prevalent systemic issue through the lens of business in this way.

Laura:

I mean, it's a social media platform as much as it is a sharing platform.

Laura:

And I think by combining those two, there's a real viral aspect

Laura:

to that because as you mentioned.

Laura:

So much about behavior.

Laura:

What do you think Clément?

Clément:

I found that it really highlighted the importance of finding

Clément:

the right problem to solve.

Clément:

And she mentioned at the beginning how complex it could be for people

Clément:

when they try to just optimize or make it slightly better.

Clément:

I also really like her vision about social entrepreneurship and really combining

Clément:

the business side with the purpose.

Clément:

That's actually benefit both of them.

Clément:

It's so far away from the spectrum that we sometimes think it is or are taught

Clément:

that it is where impact is on one side and profitability is on the other side.

Clément:

And we have to figure out which one we want.

Clément:

I love the way she illustrated the fact that it doesn't have to be.

Clément:

And moreover, it's better business, better for business to

Clément:

look at the lens that has both.

Clément:

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Spaceship podcast.

Clément:

If you are curious about all things, sustainability, social

Clément:

impact, and entrepreneurship.

Clément:

Be sure to check out our program at www.thespaceship.org.

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