“We are all responsible for what’s happening in the marketplace. If we don’t buy stuff, then it won’t be produced. But the system is not transparent. It’s time-consuming to find out how to buy things that are sustainable,” says Markus Linder, founder of the brand new Viennese start-up inoqo. He develops an app that makes it easy for consumers to align their consumption behavior with their values.
This is already Linder’s second start-up. He founded his first one while he was still at university. That resulted in Zoovu, a smart assistant that advises consumers on their purchasing decisions. Zoovu is considered one of the most successful start-ups in Austria – with venture capital of more than 25 million US dollars, headquarters in London and almost 200 employees. Right now, he’s just in the throes of starting his new project inoqo. Linder spoke about it in an interview with Innovation Origins.
Why did you leave Zoovu?
“I got more and more involved in things I didn’t really like doing. That is why I have handed over the management of the company with triple-digit growth to a very successful scale-up CEO. I withdrew from the company operations, but I’m still the largest individual shareholder. What I find really exciting is the early phase of a start-up. Having a vision, putting a team together, finding your first clients, etc.”
Where did the idea for your current project inoqo come from?
“When I left Zoovu, I went on a vacation for a while. I spent three months traveling through northern Europe with my family. We spent a lot of time in the wild and I became aware of the environmental problems facing humankind. At that time I decided as an angel investor and entrepreneur to focus on globally scalable business models that have a positive impact on the climate and biodiversity crisis. Insects pollinate fruit and vegetable plants and feed animals that perform important tasks. If we strip them of their habitat, we put the entire ecosystem and food security at risk.”
How do you hope to achieve these positive effects on the environment?
“We are all responsible for our global consumerism. But it takes time to figure out how you can do that in a sustainable way. On the other hand, it is not that easy for sustainably producing companies to make themselves known to consumers. That’s why we want to set up an international platform that connects sustainably producing companies and environmentally aware consumers. We are doing this by developing an app that helps consumers define their priorities and values. Here they can create a profile and define what is important to them. For example, that they don’t want to buy caged eggs, less meat or only certified palm oil.”
“We are developping a technology that enables our users to track their in-store and online consumer behavior without their intervention. The app provides feedback whenever one of the products does not match the values of the user. Because it contains palm oil, for example. It also analyzes the user’s consumer behavior in order to tell them what has been gained from it. For instance, if they buy many organic products, they preserve the habitat of 30 bees. We also use playful approaches. As an example, the user can take up the challenge of reducing his meat consumption to three times a week. On top of that, we provide access to environmentally relevant content as well.”
What drives you?
“Humankind doesn’t have much time left to contain the climate and biodiversity crisis and avert the worst for us. With our company we want to provide future generations with an environment worth living in. Through my experiences with Zoovu, I now know that it is possible to play a leading role worldwide. Inoqo is also based on a business model that will enable us to grow strongly and scale globally. We want to make this technology scalable on a global level and attract local entrepreneurs in order to do this. I would also like to motivate other successful entrepreneurs not to create the umpteenth dating app but to use their skills to build a business that generates high value for themselves and has a positive effect on the planet.”
Was there an obstacle that you had to overcome?
“The corona crisis has presented us with some very exciting challenges. In early March, we were on the verge of finding the first test users who wanted to make sustainable choices in their purchases. This came to an abrupt end because it was no longer possible to approach the local community. We then moved our activities online and we are on a good path here. In the meantime, I have co-founders in the team whom I have never met in person. It’s great to discover that you can also come out of a crisis stronger than before.”
What will your next goals be?
“We would like to complete the formal groundwork this summer. Then we aim to launch the pilot market in Austria and then roll out the product on the international market.”
“We are currently looking for a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). The corona crisis seems to have sharpened the awareness of many. We can see that in the great interest shown by good candidates. But the application process is still ongoing and we look forward to receiving further applications. See website.
Read more IO articles about start-ups here.
Also of interest: Five trends in consumer behavior that have a shadowy side