This week in our Startup Spotlight blog series is our 2020 XTC Sustainable Smart Cities Winner – SPRK!
Six Questions for Alexander Piutti – CEO and Founder SPRK.global of Germany
Alexander Piutti is an impact-oriented serial founder, angel investor and innovation coach. He has helped build several technology and impact companies, including Global Venture Partners, Overture (sold to Yahoo! for $1.6 billion), GameGenetics and most recently SPRK.global.
He studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf (BA), International Studies at the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania (MA) and completed his MBA at the Wharton School of Business, focusing on “Entrepreneurship”.
Alex has been committed to solving the world’s unsolved problem of food waste in the supply chain with SPRK.global. His goal: to make the food supply chain more efficient through technology and thus protect resources and the climate at the same time.
1. What problem is SPRK.global solving and how?
Worldwide, food waste amounts to 2.5 billion tonnes per year (and rising). However, the majority of this waste does not occur at the consumer’s end but rather at the beginning and in the middle of the supply chain. One reason for this is the lack of transparency and a lack of digitalisation in the supply chain. SPRK.global eliminates food waste in the supply chain and significantly reduces the corresponding climate damage.
2. What is your background that led you to founding SPRK?
I am a passionate tech enthusiast and I love solving problems. Before I founded SPRK.global in March 2020, I helped build several technology and impact companies, including Global Venture Partners, Overture (sold to Yahoo! for $1.6 billion), GameGenetics, SirPlus or Rehago. Some years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer (which later gladly turned out to be a misdiagnosis). At the same time, my first daughter was born. Both events changed how I looked at my professional career and my life. I questioned myself and wondered: Shouldn’t I rather use my competencies to solve an urgent problem and help to build a planet that is living for the next generations? SPRK.global is the result of this. SPRK.global has the potential to change the supply chain in the food supply chain and to protect the climate enormously.
3. What is unique about SPRK’s technology and what is its validation status?
SPRK reduces food waste along the supply chain through an AI-based B2B distribution platform like Amazon or Airbnb. In partnership with supply chain actors, SPRK collects all necessary information on the platform: Where does food oversupply occur and what goods are available? Which stakeholder in the supply chain needs the goods and could use the oversupply?
The platform will increasingly enable rapid and demand-driven redistribution or processing of surplus food that is perfectly edible with systematic consideration of processing companies and public welfare organizations (NGOs) as buyers and demand partners.
The exact ‘match-making’ of supply and demand aims to increase the efficiency of the food supply chain significantly and to drastically reduce and avoid food overproduction in the long run. This conserves valuable resources and reduces corresponding CO2 emissions to a large extent.
10 percent of greenhouse gases are caused by the problem of food waste alone: 2.5 billion tons of food are wasted worldwide every year, 12-20 million tons of which are in Germany alone. 60 percent of food surplus already occurs at the beginning and middle of the supply chain, the focus of SPRK as a B2B platform.
Together with its partner, Lufthansa Industry solutions, SPRK is working on the development of our AI-driven distribution platform. SPRK will use the financial resources of the funding to improve the platform step by step.
4. What are your Go-To-Market ideas and traction received so far?
The main target group of SPRK-global are B2B-partners. Stakeholders along the supply chain, such as farmers, producers, wholesalers and suppliers of the food as well as food processing companies, caterers, restaurants or even NGOs as recipients of the food. Until now, we have around 80 partners on our side, such as mirontell fein & frisch AG and Eurest Deutschland. One of our key products is a fruit salad, consisting up to 40 percent of fruits from our supply chain partners. We engage our stakeholders with pilots, for example 25Hours hotels: They are offering the fruit salad to their hotel guests in Berlin. Aftwards, we plan the roll-out to different hotels and locations. This is a win-win for everybody: Our partners can reduce food waste, protect resources and the climate and lastly improve their own sustainability strategies.
Possibly our biggest traction and validation was recently closing the first €6-million of our series-A round in December 2022.
5. What’s next?
We appreciate the support of all our investors, our Board and their trust that SPRK.global will have a big impact on how we distribute and use food in the future. Every ton of food redistributed pays off one-to-one in terms of climate protection. We are among the pioneers in the impact sector and we are pleased to have attracted private as well as institutional investors for this financing round. We have the backing of the shareholders to even expand the December round and raise additional seven-digit amounts in a second closing in the near future. New investors are invited to approach us and accelerate the impact together. We will mainly use the funds to expand our AI-powered trading platform and to grow as a team. We are also planning to launch in the USA in 2025! Together, we work on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations such as SDG 12 (circular economy), SDG 13 (Climate protection), SDG 2 (no hunger), SDG 17 (partnerships).
6. Tell us about your experience with XTC and what were the benefits/takeaways?
Looking back, XTC was a very positive game-changer for us. Right from the start, XTC was a very appreciated and valuable partner. Being a finalist in the largest “Tech for Good” competition against over 2,000 other applicants and being the Winner of the Sustainable Smart Cities category in 2020 helped to give the SPRK concept immense visibility early in the game and was a real booster for our success. Young Sohn as a XTC co-founder and jury member has and still is a very valuable partner for us, given that he became an early investor after our XTC win. We appreciate his support and advice and are looking forward to our future relationship.
Interviewed and edited by John Martin
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