Interview: Dan Perez, Founder and CEO of Marblar
- 04 June 2013
LONDON: Today, 16% of all waste generated by the global society, 31% of all energy consumed and 10% of all fresh water used, is consumed in and around our homes. The EarthHack, conceived by UK start-up Marblar in partnership with The Climate Group, is an international competition which invites competitors from all disciplines to re-imagine existing technology to address this fact by creating a more sustainable home.
Supported by leading retailers Philips and IKEA, the first prize winner of the EarthHack will take home $15,000, with a shared pot of $25,000.
The Climate Group’s Alana Ryan spoke with Dan Perez about the origins of Marblar, the potential crowdsourcing offers and how the EarthHack can revolutionize energy consumption and waste management within the home.
For those who aren’t familiar with Marblar, could you briefly explain what it is and how it came about?
Marblar crowdsources market applications for emerging and existing technology. We work with universities, research institutes and technology companies to post interesting technology in the form of a challenge, asking people: “what would you do with this technology?” We have a community of creatives from around the world who compete and collaborate towards re-imagining existing technology into new applications.
I am a PhD student in biochemistry, and so I saw first-hand a load of technology that wasn’t being commercialized (like less than 95%) and that seemed like a terrible waste. Moreover, there is latent genius everywhere – so our premise was borne: allowing people from across disciplines and around the world to chew on technology from a variety of angles.
A novel feature of Marblar is the emphasis that it places on crowdsourcing. Do you see crowdsourcing as the future of technological progress?
As science has progressed, we’ve increasingly become specialized – to the point where today’s scientists may not fully appreciate how their discoveries may fit into other disciplines, or how other disciplines can add to their inventions. With Marblar we breakdown science such that non-experts could understand, with the aim of re-establishing perspective.
Obviously a stem-cell biologist isn’t much of a laser physicist, but that biologist might understand enough about the laser to think: “why not point this at stem cells?” Something the physicist may not have even considered. Those are the types of serendipitous interactions we’re looking to spark.
What led you to develop the EarthHack competition, and how specifically can it help tackle climate change?
The EarthHack was very much something that was conceived jointly with Ben Ferrari and Mark Kenber at The Climate Group. Our initial conversations were about our two platforms and how we could leverage challenge-driven innovation to not just realize potential in existing technologies, but to focus that potential towards carbon reducing solutions.
The EarthHack was a result of that incredible collaboration and brainstorming, and we’re absolutely thrilled by its progress and the potential for more EarthHacks.
For a small start-up how important is it to have partners such as IKEA, Philips and The Climate Group for achieving global reach?
As a small start-up it’s not always easy to be taken seriously by large corporates – especially given their portfolio and the many opportunities coming their way from more established companies. For Marblar, what really helped was working with a more established organization, like The Climate Group. While older and well respected, the charity is very nimble and flat, and has the ear of multi-nationals.
I’d encourage start-ups to think about these peripheral avenues to tap into, consider having larger companies, NGOs, universities or wealthy individuals on your advisory board.
Who can actually enter the EarthHack?
Anyone can enter the EarthHack! Ok ok, well, you have to be over 18. But aside from that, the competition is open to anyone from around the world, and we hope to realize concepts and solutions for not just Western homes, but to re-imagine sustainable homes globally.
Do you have any plans for further sustainability orientated competitions?