#FoundersFridays: Meet Stefanie Behrendt
Meet Stefanie Behrendt, co-founder of wegozero, a company that intends to make zero waste easy for everyone – businesses as well as individuals. Stefanie & her team help businesses incorporate circularity into their strategies by incorporating zero-waste practices and providing a community platform.
Founders Fridays is a StartupAmsterdam initiative showcasing local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem's most inspirational stories and role models. We hope we'll all learn and grow together by providing startup founders a space to share their insights and experience.
This week we spoke to Stefanie Behrendt, co-founder of wegozero. Wegozero was created to make an impact on future generations and to assist both individuals and organisations in taking a step forward to a waste-free life. Recently, the company launched its mobile application, which provides a map of existing zero-waste infrastructures in European cities.
How did your career journey lead you to found wegozero?
During my studies in real estate management, I specialised in organic architecture and repurposing unused property. After implementing a change management model for an NPO, I left my job as a project manager in 2016, sold my car, let go of my apartment and travelled to Asia for three months. This paved the way for a significant personal transformation.
Instead of taking a loan and starting my business as a property developer in Salzburg, I decided to continue travelling.
A sleepless night and a €25 flight brought me to Athens, where I got inspired. I combined what I knew – real estate – with what I love the most: nature. And this is how I set up a zero-waste apartment for short-term rent that proved the feasibility of living zero-waste in a European metropolis.
My ideas developed further, and that is how wegozero started. Today, I am co-founder at wegozero, based in Amsterdam, living and endorsing a zero-waste lifestyle. I want to leverage future-orientated solutions for everyone while automating new habits, increasing value and helping people get closer to a zero-waste lifestyle. Let’s build a bright future ahead – together.
What makes Amsterdam a great city and ecosystem for a startup founder?
Amsterdam has been supporting us from the very beginning. Since it is part of the EU and an international hub, it has been easy to find talented minds from all over the world.
The city supports startups through accelerator programmes, pitching and networking events, and funding programmes. For example, we have gained a place in the ACE programme and been selected by the Academic Angel Fund. Also, particularly for us, Amsterdam is a zero-waste paradise, and hence, it's been the perfect place to start mapping out European cities. Amsterdam had over 500 locations with zero-waste potential (e.g., plastic-free goods, second-hand shops, composting centres, community gardens, local family businesses and waste- or cruelty-free restaurants).
To sum it up: we love this city and it’s the perfect base for us to grow wegozero.
What are the goals and needs of wegozero for the upcoming months?
After the map launch, we aim to increase our market value through a marketing strategy and getting more businesses involved. To keep the app free for the user, we are setting up a subscription system for featuring businesses for extra benefits besides being on the map.
Also, our goal is to expand to new cities, such as London, Lisbon, Barcelona and Vienna.
What has been a recent win for your business?
We launched our mobile application on the App Store and Google Play Store in September! This has been a journey of one year to get from the first mapped store in July 2021 to having the app ready with over 1500 stores in September 2022. We have been working with a desktop version for over a year, but we always knew people wanted their map to be in their pockets to be able to find places on the go. Now, this is a reality: it is out there, accessible to anyone, for free. Giving back to the community around us feels great since the accessibility of zero-waste living should not be an obstacle anymore.
What has been a recent "challenge" for your business, and what have you learned from it?
Funding is always a rollercoaster, and prioritising investing is always a trial-and-fail risk. But so far we have always received support when needed, so we can't complain! Currently, our challenge is how to go from an MVP to a subscription model that ensures a stable flow of capital for us from now on.