Startups tackling waste win big at Orion Energy Accelerator pitch event

23 February 2023 at 9:59 am

With $30,000+ in prizes on the line, the Orion Energy Accelerator public pitch saw two clean energy startups take the grand prizes

Two startups with novel ways of converting waste into energy have won big at the second Orion Energy Accelerator pitch night. 

CiRCLR, a matchmaker for commercial green waste and bioenergy producers has taken $15,000  ‘Orion Innovation Award’, and Alimentary Systems, a startup converting wastewater sludge into biofuel, has claimed the $15,000 ‘Orion Impact Award’.

Eight energy-focused startups had 5 minutes to pitch their venture to an audience of 200 people and the five person judging panel, a who’s who of the sector's most discerning veterans. 

Harmaan Madon, co-founder of Alimentary Systems, spoke about the progress he and his co-founder Matthew Jackson had throughout the three month accelerator experience. 

“Being in the Orion Accelerator helped us to hone our message, and clarify our purpose. To be recognised by the judges for a solution intending to clean New Zealand’s waterways, is great validation for us as we begin to raise investment capital. We feel confident in our end goal of building the world’s first plant that converts poo into jet fuel, right here in the South Island. ,“ said Madon.

Aliamentary also took the EY People’s Choice Award. 

“When you’re dealing with an awkward subject like poo, getting the people’s choice award means we are on the right track,” said Madon.

CiRCLR co-founders Chris Saunders and Sara Smeath see the huge gap between those that want biomass, and those who unknowingly make it. The Award supports their goal of connecting all of these organisations throughout New Zealand. 

“Most businesses don’t understand the value of their waste, especially for the bioenergy industry. We’re so happy that CiRCLR has been recognised for driving innovation with our impact led solution,” said Chris Saunders.

Paul Deavoll, Communications and Stakeholder lead at Orion, says that the startups’ success is a testament to the value of innovation when looking to tackle some of the big challenges facing the electricity industry.

“Orion Group is committed to continue helping teams validate ideas on our network. By working together I’m confident we’ll bring some game changing energy solutions to the important communities we serve every day,” said Deavoll.

Marian Johnson, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Awesome says the two supreme winners are a testament to what happens when high quality founders are given the tools to succeed. 

“We have founders that have worked in global industries, and intimately understand the issues facing these industries. When you have founders at this calibre, with a history of innovation and business behind them, magic happens. We’re very excited with the calibre of all of the startups that presented this evening, and I’m personally excited to watch their journeys,” said Johnson. 

Other prizes on the night

  • HTK Group Te Puawai Award - Sunfold, a Christchurch-based startup with a novel solution to help solar installers and developers lower costs and increase efficiency, by rapidly deploying ground mounted solar panels, at any scale.
  • Mott MacDonald Digital Ventures Award - Overlay, an Auckland-based startup transforming how electricity services are delivered, creating community-based solutions with a wide range of benefits.
  • EY People’s Choice Award - Alimentary Systems.

Orion Innovation Award - CiRCLR

Orion Impact Award - Alimentary

Images from the evening (credit: Jonny Knopp, Peanut Productions)

About the Orion Energy Accelerator

Tasked with reducing New Zealand’s carbon emissions, eight fledgling startups have undergone an intensive, three month programme at the Orion Energy Accelerator. The start-ups received hands-on guidance from Orion and the Ministry of Awesome, experts in energy, technology and start-ups.

The Orion Energy Accelerator is New Zealand’s first energy-focused accelerator, and has now concluded its second successful year. It was hosted at Christchurch’s city centre startup hub, Te Ōhaka, and was a partnership between Ara Ake, the Ministry of Awesome and Orion.

Marian Johnson, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Awesome, says that the accelerator provides a blueprint for how industries of all kinds should approach pressing issues.

“More than anything, the success of the Orion Energy Accelerator underlines the significance of involving industry and startups to solve big picture problems facing the world.

“Last year we helped give a leg up to startups like RedPhase which are now VC-backed startups on the road to changing the world, and this contingent of startups is promising to be much the same. Accelerators like these are a template for industry to try and solve some of our most pressing problems,” said Marian Johnson, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Awesome.