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Unilever Foundry, Indiegogo Partner to Crowdfund Sustainability Solutions

A mock-up of BwareIT’s water indicator on a shower head. BwareIT’s water indicator is the first idea to be selected to move from Unilever’s crowdsourcing ideas platform into a crowdfunding campaign. Click here to view full image. | Image Credit: BwareIT

Social entrepreneurs have a new opportunity to launch and scale their sustainability solutions - through a new partnership between crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and the Unilever Foundry, the ‘entry-point’ for startups seeking to connect with Unilever and its venture capital arm, Unilever Ventures.

The partnership builds on the Foundry’s ideas platform, launched in June 2015 to crowdsource ideas and co-create sustainability solutions. Unilever says that with Indiegogo on board, the platform will grow into “an end-to-end innovation funnel for social entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurs may submit their solutions to sustainability challenges, such as changing consumer behavior, natural preservation of food, better packaging, and others put forward put forward by Unilever brands. The community will be invited to collaborate and build on ideas, and the most popular solutions will be evaluated by Unilever experts. Those selected will be given the opportunity to launch campaigns through Indiegogo for funding, and will receive mentorship and additional support from Unilever to help them scale.

“This new partnership with Indiegogo will allow us to apply our learnings from the Foundry’s Pitch-Pilot-Partner approach, which dramatically cuts the time it takes to get a new initiative to market, to the wider business while putting consumers at the heart of decision making,” said Aline Santos, Unilever’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing. The company claims that its Pitch-Pilot-Partner approach brings the average project from brief to pilot in just 9 months.

Unilever expects the partnership to help the company “validate and create consumer-championed products.” Community involvement and crowdfunding will gather “honest, timely feedback,” decrease risk, speed up development, and “ultimately, [will only produce] consumer-worthy and desirable innovations.”

“By enabling consumers and the global community of early adopters on Indiegogo to vote with their dollars, Enterprise Crowdfunding provides an exciting opportunity for companies like Unilever to build more meaningful relationships with their consumers while making smarter product and sustainability investment decisions,” said Jerry Needel, Indiegogo’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships.

Santos added, “The platform also supports [Unilever's] ambition to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact. By redefining business models and identifying new growth opportunities, we have the ability to change the way we do business at Unilever and reach our goal of making sustainable living commonplace.”

The first idea to move from Unilever’s crowdsourcing ideas platform into a crowdfunding campaign will be BwareIT. BwareIT have developed a smart device that attaches to taps and showers to display water consumption and temperature in real time. The device helps people save on their water bills by better understanding their water habits and adopting more sustainable practices. BwareIT's crowdfunding campaign is expected to launch in April 2016.

Through a separate initiative, the Unilever Foundry is seeking 50 marketing technology startups to pitch to industry leaders at Lions Innovation in Cannes in June.

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