Janina Benz

Jennifer Indovina: “It takes more than just a strong personality to deal with the startup environment”

Jennifer Indovina is a cleantech entrepreneur, political energy advisor, and TED Fellow who is currently working to spread energy efficiency initiatives worldwide. Jennifer is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tenrehte Technologies, Inc., a cleantech company that produces wireless consumer electronics products. Tenrehte’s first product is the PICOwattTM Smart Plug, an energy-saving outlet adapter that gives you remote control over the power your devices consume. The PICOwattTM Smart Plug has received international recognition, winning the 2010 Best of CES Green Product Award, as well as being featured in the New York Times, Popular Science Magazine, Treehugger.com, and BusinessWeek. Jen’s latest TED talk, Eliminating Power Poverty, can be viewed online.

Janina Benz: Tell us about your company, Tenrehte.

Jennifer Indovina: Tenrehte is a cleantech electronics company. We make energy monitoring and control products that save buildings energy. We launched the company with our first product, the award winning PICOwatt Smart Plug, at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, and we’ve been moving full steam ahead ever since.

JB: In 2010, you were selected as a finalist in the Best Young Entrepreneur category for the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. In your opinion, what is the most important characteristic to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

JI: Self-awareness. I think the reason why it is so rare for an entrepreneur to be part of the right team, have the right product, and find the right market at the same time, is because the leader is not self-aware. It takes more than just a strong personality to deal with the startup environment: you also have to be passionate, fair, loyal, hardworking, and honest—first and foremost, with yourself.

JB: Do you think that entrepreneurs are born or made?

JI: I think it’s both. My family has the entrepreneurial spirit; my grandfather and father were both self-starters who were a part of their own startup companies. However, I also feel that I have been made into the entrepreneur I am today by my experiences. I have experienced triumph, failure, being powerless, being powerful, and feeling truly grateful for certain customers. Only because of these experiences do I feel worthy enough to call myself an entrepreneur.

JB: When working as Director of Marketing for Vivace Semiconductor, you led international teams based in the US, South Korea, and China. How did working with an international team change your process?

JI: Working with international teams at such a young age taught me how to blend into environments, to respect differences, and how to communicate effectively—the ultimate entrepreneur’s toolbox, if you ask me.

JB: What are your big expectations for CeBIT?

JI: CeBIT is the most incredible mix of international businesses; I expect this show will introduce incredible new opportunities. I am just so excited to spread the PICOwatt love all over the world.

Editor’s Note: We’ll be featuring some of our finalists on the blog in the weeks leading up to CeBIT, but their participation has no bearing on the contest results

Janina Benz

CODE_n13 Jury: Interview with Murat Günak

Murat Günak is one of the most famous automobile designers in Germany. He has previously worked as a top designer for renowned automobile manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes and Peugeot.

Since 2012 Murat Günak belongs to the management team of mia eletcrics. His idea was to develop a completely new electric car which would not be measured against conventional standards but which would set new benchmarks and create fresh awareness for modern mobility. Under his management, the mia evolved from an idea to the finished product.

Murat Günak - CODE_n13 Juror

Murat Günak – CODE_n13 Juror


Janina Benz

CODE_n13 Jury: Interview Antonella Battaglini

Antonella Battaglini - CODE_n13 Juror

Antonella Battaglini – CODE_n13 Juror


Since 2001, CODE_n Juror Antonella Battaglini, a researcher for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), has devoted herself to the area of renewable energy. She introduced her groundbreaking intelligent electricity network concept, called SuperSmart Grid, to the public in 2007. SuperSmart Grids connect transmission networks in order to distribute electricity from wind, bio mass or solar power around the globe – according to demand. Antonella Battaglini is also Programme Director of the Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP) and Co-founder of the climate organisation TheCompensators.

Janina Benz: Europe is theoretically able to fully generate its power from renewable energy resources. What is your ideal vision of an efficient and environmentally friendly power supply?

Antonella Battaglini: Europe has indeed large renewable resources, and it could even use 100% renewable sources to fuel its power sector. However, resources are not evenly distributed, and they are variable. To realize a power sector that is largely based on renewable sources, we need to become real Europeans by overcoming the national approaches to energy and developing a system which is good for the majority and not for a few. In this period of European crises, we need more Europe than ever, for energy security, price predictability, and for addressing the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation. My ideal vision is for us to become better citizens, be aware of our actions and make informed choices. My vision is to stop believing in black-and-white publicity, acknowledge that Earth is the only home we have, and quickly figure out how to share it and preserve it for future generations. Energy is one important piece of the puzzle. My vision is better and coherent policies to tackle the challenges in a coordinated and holistic way. More…

Janina Benz

Markus Schulz and Daniela Schiffer: “Everyone should know what kind of impact we have on our climate”

Markus Schulz and Daniela Schiffer are among the CODE_n13 finalists and founders of Changers, a solar charger and energy marketplace. Markus formerly ran an advertising agency where he worked for renown high tech companies in the field of renewable energy. Daniela has a background in media art and collaborated on several European and international projects before joining Markus at his agency.

Janina Benz: Congratulations on being among the 50 CODE_n finalists! What does Changers do, and what was your motivation to start it?

Markus Schulz & Daniela Schiffer: In order to be successful in our fight against climate change, awareness is indispensable. Everyone should know what kind of impact we have on our climate, how we can protect it, and how we can bring change about. That’s what Changers is about: motivating everybody to produce and use their own energy. And the best way to do this is to make that behavior measurable and reward people for doing so. So we developed a solar charger that can charge a wide range of mobile devices while counting the exact amount of energy produced and CO2 saved. The data is stored automatically and can be uploaded to our social network, Changers.com. There you can compare your achievements with your friends and the rest of the world.  And for each gram of CO2 saved, we reward our users with Changers Credits, which they can redeem for sustainable products and services. More…

Janina Benz

Ridha Azaiz: “Get your idea checked from different angles”

Ridha Azaiz is one of the CODE_n finalists and the founder of Solarbrush. He started studying at RWTH Aachen University and transferred to Technical University Berlin in order to finish his Master’s in mechanical engineering. His research and development activities have led to many awards, such as the  Clean Tech Media Award and the start up award hy! Berlin

Janina Benz: Congratulations on being one of the 50 CODE_n finalists! Could you tell us about Solarbrush?
Ridha Azaiz: Solarbrush is a robotic cleaning system for solar panels. Cleaning is very important, especially in arid regions, as generators lose up to 35% in efficiency in a single month after a sand storm. The robot has a very lean and efficient drive that attaches to the inclined panels, which distinguishes the Solarbrush robot from others. It is also very light weight and can cross the solar panels, costing just a fraction of what competitors charge. We’re pioneers in the field and were first in shifting the focus from the cleaning and maintenance of photovoltaic (PV) cells in Europe to the sunbelt countries. Where there is lots of sun, PV produces the most output but also suffers from deposits. More…

Janina Benz

Oliver Adria: “Make it easy to keep people interested”

Oliver Adria Code_NOliver Adria worked as a sustainability consultant focusing on corporate responsibility and sustainable retail products before launching Nachhaltige Jobs, a platform specifically for sustainable jobs, in 2013. He’s also an active blogger, managing Faktor N, Rethink Presentations and Impact Startups. Adria grew up in Indonesia but moved to Germany after finishing school; he is currently based in Cologne.

Janina Benz: How did you come up with the idea of founding an online platform dedicated to jobs in the field of sustainability?
Oliver Adria: I’ve been working in the area of sustainability for about 7 years now, working on corporate responsibility and creating more sustainable consumer products. Recently, more and more friends have been asking whether I know of any jobs in the sustainability area, and on my sustainable lifestyles blog, I’ve noticed that most of the pageviews were on the jobs pages. So I combined these findings and my passions (programming, sustainability and web/social media) to create a site for sustainable jobs only. I gained some good traction in the first year, so a couple of weeks ago I took the leap, and I’m doing this practically full-time now.

JB: Do you think your platform could have worked 10 years ago? What’s changed?
OA: I think it would’ve taken quite a bit more work to get the same results. Today, more people are informed about sustainability and environmental issues in general. There’s a bigger market, there are more companies focusing on sustainability as well as sustainability departments within large companies. Also, there is so much more web technology available. A platform would have been possible 10 years ago, but it would have been smaller and looked quite different.

JB: Congratulations on winning the Science Slam “Brain” prize! Could you tell us a little more about it?
OA: Science Slam is a presentation format where scientists and researchers explain their research in a way that it’s fun and understandable to the interested public. Afterwards, the presentations get voted on… by the audience! Science Slams are hosted throughout Germany, and there are several nationwide contests. In 2012, the topic was sustainability (officially “Project Earth – Our Future”). After a regional round, I went on to win the “Science Slam in the Science Year 2012” prize in Berlin. Thrilling experience!

JB: Who typically participates in these slams?
OA: They’re mostly students who are near the end of their undergraduate studies or are doing their Master’s Degrees. But we also have people doing their PhDs, and occasionally some professors. It’s a mixed bunch, though it’s mostly males. We’re trying to get more female scientists and researchers to present their work at a Science Slam, but they’re still very underrepresented at the moment.

JB: As you mentioned on Faktor N, you recently slammed for a group of 6th graders. How did that go? Were the student well-informed about sustainability?
OA: That was part of a EU project to have “Environmental Days” in different German schools. I practically didn’t change anything for the younger audience—and yes, most of the students understood it! (And in case you were wondering, I spoke about Advanced Adiabatic Compressed Air Energy Storage, which makes it possible to safely store renewable energy by temporarily compressing big amounts of air into empty underground caves.) Some of them asked really good questions and were very curious about the technology I presented. I think that’s great to see: curiosity, asking questions, wanting to dig deeper. Unfortunately, when you grow up, many lose that sense of curiosity.

JB: Do you have any recommendations for our CODE_n finalists about how to prepare for their big showcase at CeBIT?
OA: Make it easy to follow-up on the project and team, and make it easy to keep people interested—refer to your blog or to your newsletter, and if you don’t have one, start. Get people’s business cards and send a nice follow-up email a week later. CeBIT might be the place for first contact, but make sure it’s not the last contact.

JB: What do you think is the best way to get media attention during CeBIT?
OA: Write some articles to the run-up to CeBIT and announce on your website (and promotional material) that you will be at CeBIT. Encourage people who visit your website to also visit you at CeBIT. Make many connections—even if journalists don’t write about you now, they’re good to know for the next time you launch a feature or product.

Janina Benz

Brian Moffat: “It’s possible to transform the world we know”

Brian Moffat is one of the CODE_n13 finalists and the founder of Spindrift Energy, a device that produces energy from the motion of waves. Brian has been joined by a team of professionals who share his conviction that the Spindrift Energy device will deliver truly affordable renewable power to the world. Before founding Spindrift, Brian Moffat worked for Disney Imagineering and Google; Google is currently patenting one of Brian’s inventions. He received three undergraduate degrees from the University of California at Irvine, in the fields of computer science, chemistry and biology.

JB: What was the idea behind Spindrift Energy?

BM: After studying existing alternative energy technologies, I realized that many were quite limited in one way or another. The most popular—wind and solar—are intermittent and somewhat unpredictable. And very few are cheap enough to compete with fossil-fuel alternatives without generous government subsidies. The energy in the waves traveling across the deepest parts of the sea seemed to be the optimal target for energy extraction for several reasons. Being far from shore, such deep-sea wave-energy devices would not conflict with the recreational, commercial and aesthetic needs of coastal communities. So I set out to invent a cheap and simple renewable energy technology that could operate in the deep sea for 20 or 30 years with little, if any, maintenance. More…

Janina Benz

Priti Ambani: “Sustainability is a life-long process”

Priti Ambani is a thought leader and prominent writer on social and environmental enterprises, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses. She is the Managing Editor of Ecopreneurist, a notable business blog. Specializing in her ability to work with impact organizations from the ground up, Priti has developed successful business and communications strategies for fledgling start-ups, social and environmental enterprises. She also serves as a sustainability consultant at GreenDen Consultancy and advises on corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom line. Priti is a Professional Engineer and holds a Master’s degree in Biological Resources Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Janina Benz: What’s changed most about sustainable business within the last five years?

Priti Ambani: The last five years have been quite transformational. The recession made many people re-think sustainability in extreme ways. Some business owners distanced themselves from their “good business” goals as a cost-saving measure, while others doubled down on environmental and social responsibility as a way to increase the bottom line. The conversation has moved on from “what can I do to help our environment?” to “what can I do to sustain my business?” and the answer has involved being more efficient with resources and minimizing waste. Some new trends have emerged that replacing traditional business models. More…