Circular Factory presents six future circular captains of industry

In the transition to a circular economy, scaling up to a demo factory is not a sprint, but a marathon. All the more important to celebrate the milestones during the race. That's exactly what Thursday June 6 was all about: the participants of the second edition of the Circular Factory program celebrated a successful completion of this stage of their journey. Six diverse circular startups with a shared goal: opening a demo factory.

There was no empty chair at the conference table in BlueCity’s Skybox on Thursday, June 6. In addition to all participants and the Circular Factory organizing team, the program’s partners; Renewi, Invest-NL, DOEN Participatie and Gemeente Rotterdam were present. Not only did they support the program financially, but also by sharing their knowledge and expertise, and in some cases even their company locations for a visit.


The Circular Factory program has come to an end for NoPalm ingredients, Cano-ela, Hollands Wol Collectief, PAKT Packaging, Pectcof and Outlander Materials. It was a time for celebration, reflecting on nine months of intensive collaboration, looking ahead to future plans, but above all celebrating what the participants had achieved individually and shared together.

A marathon, not a sprint 

The Circular Factory program supports emerging circular companies in the phase from pilot to demo factory. A difficult, risky and capital-intensive phase. Because often these entrepreneurs are doing what has not been done before. “During the selection process, we therefore chose start-ups that are, in our view, ‘in it for the long run’,” Bart van den Heuvel, Innovation Manager at Tekkoo and part of the Circular Factory team, began his talk. “The process of scaling up to your first demo plant is simply not a matter of months, rather years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” That selection process yielded a group of incredibly passionate circular entrepreneurs. With diverse backgrounds and equally diverse companies, but all with the same goal in mind: towards that demo plant. 


How it works

As an entrepreneur looking to build a demo factory, you need to show financiers that you’re ready for this next step – that means providing evidence on a number of key topics. Throughout the program participants were provided with the targeted, practical information they need to have serious and realistic conversations on six pillars: Customer, Feedstock, Plant Design, Finance, Team and Impact. 


With the roadmap that was created during the Due Diligence days. Each start-up got a baseline measurement to understand: where are you now and where should you be for the next major milestone? The specific needs were translated into an OKR roadmap (Objectives & Key Results), which startups could use during the rest of the program to further develop their company. Based on their own roadmap, they received hands-on support during expert sessions, networking events, site visits and by building an ecosystem with the right partners. It provided a wealth of knowledge, insights and relevant contacts with which each participant could get to work. Because anyone who is familiar with BlueCity’s programs by now knows: it’s not (only) about the talking, but mainly about taking action.


Six participants, one shared goal: towards that demo factory 

We are proud to spotlight these six soon-to-be circular captains of industry. Investors, are you paying attention? Swipe >>




After the program 

The program may be over, but the support for these entrepreneurs is anything but. The power of Circular Factory is in peer-to-peer learning and connecting with those who have walked this road before — for sharing lessons and tips, but also for sharing the challenges and uncertainties that come with circular entrepreneurship. As one participant beautifully put it, “Competitors? We’re doing this for the planet, as far as I’m concerned there can’t be enough of us!” 


Collaboration really is the new competition. All participants therefore move on to the Circular Factory Alumni group and the surrounding network of experts, policy makers and investors. This community is dedicated to supporting start-ups in scaling up to a demo factory and meets periodically, for example at the annual Founder’s Dinner and site-visits at circular factories. 


“This year we have made great strides in the circular founders community. There just aren’t that many founders of circular companies in the Netherlands, so it’s incredibly relevant to connect them so they can pull together in their development as entrepreneurs. For that reason, we are proud to combine networks with other accelerators in this field.” -Guus Meijer


Sounds good right? Registrations for edition 3 starting soon 

A new edition of Circular Factory is already in the starting blocks, because the mission to scale up circular start-ups is far from over. The Netherlands strives for a circular economy in 2050: a waste-free economy that runs – as much as possible – on sustainable and renewable resources, in which products and raw materials are reused. For this, it is crucial to make sure that existing circular businesses not only survive, but can scale up and thrive to build a new manufacturing and processing industry that doesn’t cost the earth.


Are you an entrepreneur and interested in participating? Or would you like to join as a financial partner or content expert? For more information, contact Guus Meijer, venture lead at BlueCity, at g.meijer@bluecity.nl. 


The initiators of Circular Factory are BlueCity and Tekkoo. BlueCity is a hub for circular business activity in Rotterdam that aims to accelerate the transition from the linear to circular economy through entrepreneurship. Tekkoo is an innovation accelerator, transforming societal challenges into business opportunities. Renewi, Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam, Rotterdam municipality, Invest-NL and the DOEN Foundation are affiliated as partners of the second edition of Circular Factory and actively collaborate on the content of the program.


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