Anthony Collias and Jacob Wedderburn-Day are launching a new venture that rewards both companies and individuals for reducing their carbon footprint.
Anthony grew up in Istanbul and then studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University from 2012 to 2015. He had planned to study maths but changed direction at the last minute, deciding economics would be more useful. It was an advantageous move; as a result, he met Jacob, who went on from there to complete an MSc in Economics at UCL.
Before starting Stasher, Anthony also did an internship with a small bank. He says that a position like that sounded full of glamour and mystique, but the reality was very different for him. What he had expected to be intelligent, interesting work was anything but. There was also a notable gap between value and the work you do, he tells me.
Anthony admits that he finds it a struggle to have a boss, adding that the culture of power trip bosses was a disaster for him. The downside of entrepreneurship is always the risk factor, but he could see that it was still a good time in his life to take that risk, being used to living on low outgoings.
He also felt that entrepreneurship held a better chance of reaching success, whatever that might look like. For example, attaining a CEO position in a bank within a few years would never happen; whereas in a high-growth entrepreneurial business, the chances were possible. He experimented with setting up a few websites but hadn’t found a big idea that inspired him.
Anthony was living near Kings Cross and noticed how many friends asked to use his flat as a storage stop for their bags for a day or so between going to different places. If they were staying somewhere, they tended to be kicked out by 11 and didn’t want to lug their luggage around, all the more so if they were going to an event of some sort. Alternatively, they might be in transit and just spending one night somewhere and not wanting to take all their belongings with them on the journey.
Anthony thought there was a business opportunity there.
Stasher, which started as City Stasher Ltd., was founded that summer to provide people with short-term, pre-bookable storage. They began through UCL’s Innovation and Enterprise scheme and obtained free office space via Base KX, UCL’s enterprise hub. Stasher’s first investor was James Gibson of Big Yellow Storage. They won Expedia’s Hotel Jumpstart competition, gained a place on Plug and Play’s travel accelerator as well as Pitch@Palace.
By March the following year, they raised $2.5m in their first funding round with various angels, including Johann Svanstrom, former president of Expedia, owed OTA giant Hotels.com. They used the investment to expand their storage network into North America, Australia, and Asia. They became one of London’s fastest-growing start-ups, and they were both named on the Forbes under 30 list for Europe. It seemed as if nothing could stop them.
In 2020, like most companies with a link to travel, Stasher was brought to a virtual standstill by the pandemic. Business went almost immediately to zero.
Weighing up their options, they felt the five-year outlook was still good, and they had to be non-participatory to get government support. Initially, during the summer months, that didn’t seem too bad.
Then, slowly, a minor amount of Stasher business had revived, but it was clear it would not be an immediate full-on restoration, and there were no pivoting options open to them. For their mental health alone by the end of the summer, Jacob and Anthony had decided they needed a new project.
They sat down and discussed various ideas, feeling confident that this time around, with more experience, they could tackle solving a problem that they cared about and that would have more impact. They also had more experience in identifying ideas that were suitable to scale. One idea that stood out was to help people reduce their carbon footprint within the growing recognition of the climate crisis.
Amidst all the uncertainty, they realized that one constant was the growing concern about climate change and recognition that everyone needs to reduce their carbon footprint. They saw a niche in the market that wasn’t being serviced.
There were platforms for the full-on eco-warriors to become involved with climate change, but nothing for the average person who wanted to reduce their carbon footprint but had no idea where to start. There were also still insufficient ways for businesses to introduce a carbon footprint offsetting initiative.
As a result, the pair started a second company, Treepoints.
Treepoints rewards for reducing your carbon footprint
Treepoints is the world’s first platform to offer rewards for offsetting your carbon footprint. They offer a monthly subscription to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint.
Getting started is straightforward with a questionnaire including questions on how often you fly or eat meat, where you live, and then you chose a subscription tier to suit you. You have a calculator to record, track and understand your carbon footprint and a plan to help you offset with UN-certified projects.
From that moment on, you start getting rewarded for fighting climate change. This takes the form of points that you earn for offsetting and for referring friends and family to the platform. These points can be spent with Eco-friendly brands such as Chillys, Lush, Patagonia, and Toms.
A key aim for Treepoints was to make it simple for people to start. They found many people wanted to do something to help the climate emergency, and had a basic understanding of carbon footprints, but had simply no idea of what to do or where to start. Jacob and Anthony decided to offer people attractive incentives to sign up and get involved with positive climate action.
And it is not just individuals that can get involved but businesses can also get involved and reduce their carbon footprints.. Users can see on a leader-board how they are performing against others all over the world. Helping businesses towards a greener future is very much part of Treepoint’s goals. Their current target is to reach an impressive £1 billion by 2030 to support carbon footprint offsetting projects.
It is a huge target, but Anthony feels that it is essential to reach these figures to avoid the tipping points that science is warning us of – a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius increase on pre-industrial temperature levels by 2050. Equally, he works on the principle that while it might seem crazy to have an ambitious goal, you won’t reach it if you don’t aim high. Anthony feels sure that Amazon’s growth in the last year would have looked pretty crazy on paper. Growth, he points out, is always proportional and compound.
I asked Anthony how they selected the diverse projects they support. He says the critical criteria is the price per ton of certified offsets. The company only works with offsetting carbon footprint projects that have been verified by an independent standard, for example Gold Standard or the Verified Carbon Standard. In addition, for Treepoints to work with a project, the project development plan must show that it meets at least three of the UN’s sustainable development goals, and they tend to prefer certain areas to others.
For example, while they do support some re-forestation initiatives, they worry it is too slow. However with renewable energy, which most people don’t realize can account for 50-60% of their carbon footprint, the impact of change is immediate.
What Treepoints achieves is transparent to everyone who signs up, with all donations published on their public Impact Ledger and members receiving regular updates about the projects they support.
They have spent the last few months evolving, building their network so that their offset model can aggregate demand. Treepoints is a bootstrapped start-up, with help initially from some friends and family funding. They have worked hard to do their own early PR and publicity.
Having the commercial side has proved an additional help in getting the word out. Collaboration with partner brands has been beneficial, but most of their focus has been on getting the website and set upright. Initially, they built the pilot website from what Anthony describes as a mish-mash of tools, including Notebook and some coding of their own. They have since invested in a professional website for launching formally later in April.
Anthony and Jake also host a podcast, The Morality of Everyday Things, which, Anthony tells me, they do mainly for fun. They have had, Anthony says, a lot of spare time in lockdown.
Having already taken on so much, I asked Anthony if they had plans for further businesses. He thinks two are a manageable number between them both as things will get considerably busier. They can keep a foot in each and grow them with strong management teams.
For Stasher, they foresee some increase in 2021 as urban travel makes some recovery but is hopefully back to meaningful growth by 2022. They are currently considering a funding round for Treepoints but have not decided yet if that is the right route this time.
Other founders passionate to help save the planet and reduce carbon footprints or help in other ways, that I have interviewed include Ron Macdonald of Zinc8, Carl Ludwig of Fibre for Good, Cathy Earl of Eorth, Slava Kozlovskii of Evee