Christoph Fahle
February 1, 2012

Rising to the Challenge: Great Challenges Berlin (January 16-18, 2012)

How can we curb the rampant waste of food and consumer goods in the developed world? How can we ensure equal and open access to digital and mobile networks throughout the world, as these take on an increasingly central role in people’s lives? How can a small group of individuals, through simple collaboration, find solutions to problems previously deemed unsolvable by many?

How can we facilitate access to sustainable sources of energy for individual consumers? How can we curb the rampant waste of food and consumer goods in the developed world? How can we ensure equal and open access to digital and mobile networks throughout the world, as these take on an increasingly central role in people’s lives? How can a small group of individuals, through simple collaboration, find solutions to problems previously deemed unsolvable by many?

These are some of the greatest challenges faced not only by businesses of all sizes, but by individuals and by society as a whole, in the present day. On January 16, the Stockholm University subsidiary SU Innovation brought a group of students, academics, and entrepreneurs to betahaus for Great Challenges Berlin, where the group spent three days exploring these different challenges, as well as the ways in which they could be faced. During these three days, participants were invited to present their own ideas and strategies while getting to know the many examples of individuals, startups, and advocacy organisations facing these challenges in the city of Berlin.

The conference began with a series of presentations by entrepreneurs and thinkers from Berlin and from around Sweden, each one presenting their own solutions to different challenges. Speakers, from companies such as Jovoto, Doonited, and SecondMuse, among others, discussed the many ways in which even small-scale initiatives, when carried out as a collaborative effort, can have a significant impact on the world.

Several more startups, many of them from across Sweden, then discussed their own innovative strategies for addressing the challenges of sustainable living and resource management. These strategies involved either directly providing sustainable products or services to consumers, or providing incentives for consumers and companies alike to make conscious choices. Participants learned about how goods and services; such as portable solar-powered chargers, regional grocery-delivery services that make use of as many locally-sourced products as possible, or a service that collects and donates leftover bread from bakeries to soup kitchens, can help overcome these challenges on a local or individual level. Meanwhile, companies such as Gadimu, Cryptango, and Pamoja Cleantech, presented similar strategies with a more global reach; such as information-security for industrial waste-management systems, or inexpensive, environmentally-friendly technology for rural communities in developing countries.

On the second day of the conference, participants were taken on a tour of Berlin, focusing on the city’s many different examples of innovative strategies for dealing with the challenges of today’s world. The tour began with a visit to nearby Impakt Social Labs, and continued on to various other projects and places in the city, ending with a light-hearted drink at the café and coworking space, St. Oberholz. Throughout the day, participants learned how Berlin came to be a European centre for culture and innovation, and continues to maintain that status today. The day concluded with a dinner at betahaus, held by Sandbox, an organisation which seeks to foster young talent across the world. The Sandbox dinner provided a relaxed environment, in which guests were encouraged to network and meet others by discussing their main fields of work or other topics that interested them.

The third day offered participants the chance to either experience the coworking environment of the betahaus, or to visit one of Berlin’s most successful green startups, Coffee Circle, which works to provide high-quality organic, direct-trade coffee from Ethiopia to customers in Germany and across Europe, and 6wunderkinder; another young, Berlin-based startup providing mobile apps with practical, everyday uses. The final official event of Great Challenges Berlin took the participants to the Swedish Embassy, where they were then able to participate in a round-table discussion on the role of impact investment in the future.Great Challenges Berlin provided both SU Innovation and betahaus Berlin with the opportunity to collaboratively discuss and explore the great challenges faced by all in the 21st century, as well as the new and innovative solutions that many companies and individuals continue to develop each day.

More upcoming events and announcements you can find in our beta calendar!

Cost is a big one here. In regards to total transportation costs, the last mile comprises up to 53% of those - making it the least efficient part of the supply chain. Expectations of free shipping and next day deliveries add up to this.

Due to increasing digitalization and convenience services in every area of people's lives, the smooth and flawless process of getting the delivery to one's doorstep is exceedingly becoming what customers care most about. On top of that, for companies that package being delivered is an extension of their brand. The consumer is basically coming face-to-face with the brand, which makes it the biggest opportunity to heighten customer satisfaction.


If you live in a city and have even slightly observed your urban surroundings you’ve probably witnessed it first hand - urban congestion and crowded cities make it pretty tough to satisfy the growing demand and rising expectations of super quick deliveries. Add unpredictability in transit (like weather conditions), an incorrect address or remote locations, just to name a few, and you can see where this is going.

The worst part is, all those delivery trucks and vans that also produce a fair bit of emissions, are often only half full when they roll out for deliveries. This is mostly due to low drop sizes and stops along the route that are far and few between.

It’s not all hopeless though - Where there is a problem, there are solutions.


Same old, same old - isn’t always all that bad. Sometimes, all that’s needed are some new perspectives! The city of Utrecht, for‌ ‌example, implemented a zero-emissions electric barge nicknamed the “Beer Boat”. 

Since 2010 it’s carrying beer and food to the city’s downtown restaurants by using waterways. Other electric barges in Amsterdam not only deliver but even collect organic waste, which is then turned into biofuel in processing plants! Isn’t that cool?

It becomes clear that cities, logistics, as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌urban‌ ‌planners, are equally part of solving the inefficiency of the last-mile. Tackling this mountain of issues calls for teamwork!


A centralized platform, hub or network for similar companies, could do the trick to fill up the delivery vans & trucks that are barely loaded. Parcels could be distributed more efficiently between different companies and their delivery vehicles.

Like a big pool of parcels from different companies with every single parcel going into that one van with the same route!


Delivery Driver Experience and Smart Delivery Vehicles are also areas with huge potential for improvement and innovation.


Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company. 

Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.


Next to that on-demand experiences have become firmly embedded into people’s everyday lives - be it a mobile app to book a ride, send flowers to your loved ones or order lunch to your office. It’s all possible and has made premium features like real-time tracking a standard.  The online consumer expects nothing less and certainly doesn’t like to wait.


Making that quick and instant gratification happen is another story though. Groundbreaking ideas and innovations are needed to tackle all these factors. Does your startup have one? 

Then head over to our Future Logistics Challenge! Applications are still open until September 23rd.

Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.

Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.

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