Sustainable Brands Innovation Open
An annual business plan competition for the most disruptive mission-driven startups and entrepreneurs
In its 7th year, the Innovation Open provided an opportunity for next generation brands to showcase their innovative solutions to today’s pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges, as well as connect and collaborate with multinational brands, accelerators, and thought leaders in sustainability.
Given the right support and exposure, mission-driven brands are poised to challenge the status quo of business, and Sustainable Brands is here to catalyze their success.
Congratulations to Our Finalists!
11 semi-finalists joined us at SB'18 Vancouver and pitched their businesses in front of our judges and the SB attendees. The judges selected the four Finalists and Overall Winner, and the SB community selected the People's Choice Winner.
Meet the Semi-Finalists!
Last Day to Enter
Deadline to complete your application to enter the SBIO.
Voting Period Begins
A shortlist of entries are presented online. The public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite ideas and help choose the semi-finalists that will pitch in Vancouver.
Voting Period Ends
The top 11 semi-finalists are confirmed to move forward to the finals.
The semi-finalists are interviewed for the Sustainable Brands website and presented to the global News & Views community. Plus, their stories will be shared widely via SB’s official communications channels.
The semi-finalists will pitch their ideas to our esteemed panel of judges in Vancouver. Four finalists will then be selected to move forward, and present on the main conference stage the following day.
The top four finalists will pitch in front of the full SB audience on the main conference stage. A live vote will be held to pick a “People’s Choice Winner” and the judges will determine the overall “SB’18 Innovation Open Winner”. Final presentations will be shared with the global SB community post-event in the digital SB Library.
How to Apply
Applications are Closed
Thank you for your interest, unfortunately we are no longer accepting applications for the Innovation Open at SB’18 Vancouver. Check back in 2019 for next year’s competition.
How to Win
Judges select finalists based on the following criteria:
Innovative Design. Social and environmental impact – specifically coupled with identified impact metrics (for example, “our business innovation helps customers lower their carbon footprint by XX% compared to the product we’re disrupting”, or “our innovation will help customers increase savings by XX% and keep their money local, leading to more stable local economies.”)
Growth and impact potential.
Quality as it relates to a demonstrated track record and understanding of systemic issues of sustainability.
Above & Beyond
Bonus points for disruptive innovation. The idea has approached the issue from a unique perspective and is offering a solution that will truly shift the market as we know it.
How much does it cost to enter?
Thanks to our sponsors, participating in the SB Innovation Open is 100% free! Please note, Sustainable Brands takes no fees or equity from startups.
What do you consider a startup?
The SB Innovation Open identifies and promotes both innovative new consumer brands AND ventures that support existing corporations in achieving their sustainable brand innovation goals. We are looking for companies in their post-launch phase. The venture is operational and has some early operating metrics and/or proven Beta/prototype to share. In investment terms we are considering “Late Stage” and “Series A” funded companies.
Do I have to attend all four days of the conference?
All semi-finalists are given table space at our Activation Hub which runs June 4-7, 2018, so we recommend taking advantage of the four days for the most brand visibility and networking opportunities. We are awarding all semi-finalists an Activation Hub Staff Pass so that you can occupy your space in the Activation Hub with one team member, and have another be your pitch expert who attends the full conference programming. The semi-finals are on day two of the conference and the four finalists selected will pitch again on day three. So it’s possible that the person on your team who will pitch could still compete but only be present for those two days, leaving unattended space in the Activation Hub.
Can I bring my whole team?
SB offers one full conference pass and one Activation Hub Staff Pass to each semi-finalist startup. We can provide at-cost passes to any additional teammates should you wish to bring them.
Will I miss all of the speaker sessions by being at the expo?
No. The Activation Hub is open Monday 6:30-9 pm, Tuesday from 11-7:30 pm, Wednesday from 11-6:30 pm, and Thursday from 11-3 pm. While you are required to be present in your space in the Activation Hub during peak hours (12-1:30 pm lunch, 6-7 pm reception), we encourage you to take advantage of the morning plenary sessions. If you do take advantage of the Activation Hub Staff Pass, then you can leave one team member with the table space while the other explores the afternoon content.
Can NGOs and non-profit organizations apply?
No, not for the SB Innovation Open. We’re looking for businesses that can successfully balance people, planet, and profit. However, we encourage you to find out more about non-profit organizations participating in the Activation Hub.
Does SB cover travel and accommodation expenses?
Not at this time. We are convinced that the networking, introductions, leading-edge speakers, and publicity generated by taking part make any expense a worthwhile investment. We will however offer any discounts when/if available to us. SB has partnerships for airline ticket discounts with both Delta Air Lines and WestJet. See the SB’18 Vancouver FAQs for more details.
Please Note: Booking your hotel room early for SB’18 Vancouver is especially important this year. We expect rooms in our hotel block to sell out and room prices outside the block are nearly double our discounted rate. As soon as you know your travel plans, be sure to reserve your room to guarantee affordable housing during your stay in Vancouver!
What about my intellectual property?
You, the applicant, are solely responsible for your intellectual property rights, trademarks, copyrights, etc. If you think you have intellectual property rights, we recommend you consult an attorney before you apply for the competition. Applicants are expected to submit a compelling presentation without disclosing critical intellectual property. By submitting an application, you acknowledge that applying for the SBIO could result in disclosure of your intellectual property if such information is included in your application.
SB wants you to know that there are always certain risks involved in competitions of this nature. SB is not in a position to protect or advise you on your intellectual property rights, SB cannot and does not take any responsibility for doing so. Please be aware that SB does not require non-disclosure agreements or other confidentiality obligations from anyone involved in the SB Innovation Open.
Which organizations won the Innovation Open in the past?
The previous Innovation Open winners are:
2017: Detroit Ento
2016: Grubbly Farms
2015: Lanza Tech
2011: One World Play Project
SB’18 Innovation Open Winner
- One Golden SB ticket to grant access to all SB conferences in the next three years
- If appropriate for the venture, an invitation to participate in the next RISN Incubator cohort
- One year premium subscription to Makersite and, if applicable, a consultation on circular economy with a Makersite expert
- Visibility onsite and post-event to SB community
“People’s Choice” Winner
- One Leadership pass to SB’19 Detroit
- Visibility onsite and post-event to SB community
- A comprehensive business plan review by RISN Incubator entrepreneurship experts and up to two hours of direct consultation
- The opportunity to present on the plenary mainstage in front of entire SB’18 Vancouver attending community
- Pitches are broadcast around the world via Livestream and archived in the SB Library to extend its reach and longevity
- One unlimited access Leadership pass and one Activation Hub staff pass to SB’18 Vancouver
- Table space for four days in the Activation Hub
- The opportunity to pitch to SB’18 Vancouver conference attendees and the Activation Hub audience, filled with influential brand representatives and thought leaders
- Brand promotion leading up to the conference
- One-on-one feedback time with our expert panel of judges
- Four days worth of networking opportunities
- Company description published in conference event guide
This year’s expert panel of judges includes:
Alaina Johnson, Corporate Responsibility Lead, Target Corporation
Alaina Johnson is a Corporate Responsibility Lead at Target Corporation and plays a key role in helping the organization identify opportunities to drive both business and social impact through partnerships with NGOs, industry organizations, and members of the vendor and supplier community. Specifically leading Target’s efforts behind how they invest in innovation to help them reach their corporate responsibility goals, Alaina is passionate about how thought-partnership between the start-up community and large corporations can unlock potential and momentum to drive real change for our society and our world.
Before her current role in Corporate Responsibility at Target, Alaina was in Target’s merchandising division and has a major passion for product development and assortment strategy. On top of this, Alaina was also a member of the small team that stood-up Target’s first-ever internal accelerator, Target Takeoff, that is focused on supporting emerging brands that are solving key problems in the retail industry.
Alicia Marseille, Director, RISN Incubator ASU Walton
Alicia Marseille joins Arizona State University as the director of the newly established RISN Incubator, an innovation and enterprise startup accelerator within the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network, or RISN. Alicia has five years of direct experience in economic development, and prior to that she founded and operated Ka Bel LLC, an international small business working with a cooperative group of farmers in Haiti to export/import raw green coffee and distributed to wholesalers across the U.S.
Prior to ASU, Alicia was the director of Arizona Women’s Education and Employment, a new U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center, to build, develop and manage that program. She was also a business analyst at the Arizona Small Business Development Center where she established strategic partnerships with government, community organizations and banks to create economic impact. Alicia currently is on the Metro Phoenix Export Alliance Advisory Board and Arizona State University’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Management Advisory Board.
She is a highly skilled business analyst and consultant with 10 years of experience nationally and internationally in: public/private partnerships; identifying opportunities, trends, and plans for implementation; logistic solutions; import/export; emerging markets; growth strategies; financial modeling, research and proposal development for ventures seeking debt and equity based funding and from international finance organizations such as the International Development Bank (IDB), International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Alicia has a BA of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies (Western College Program) from Miami University of Ohio with focus areas of study in International Development, Sustainable Development, and Urban Planning. Alicia has Master’s in Business Administration from Grand Canyon University.
Anthony Hatinger, CEO & Co-founder, Detroit Ento
Anthony has a background in Horticulture and Religious Studies from Michigan State, where he utilized his talents working with Central Detroit Christian CDC as their Garden Production and Aquaponics manager, helping to establish Detroit’s first indoor fish farm in a rehabbed convenience store. He serves as Detroit Ento’s CEO/Co-Founder. Anthony Hatinger began his life and work in Detroit in May of 2013. Being a student of Religion and Horticulture, he decided to bring his passion and knowledge for food justice organizing and creation care theology with him to Detroit. Anthony is also is a Herbal Extract Specialist, landscaper, and has previously served on the Voices for Earth Justice Board of Directors. He is also Co-Founder of Detroit Ento, a prototyping farm in the city, focusing on the rearing of alternative insect protein for food, feed and pharma.
Ashlee Adams, Head of Open Innovation, Nestlé USA
Ashlee leads Open Innovation for Nestlé USA, focusing on partnering with leading food and food technology startups. Her team is driving growth in emerging categories and platforms that align with Nestlé’s mission to improve people’s nutrition, health, and wellness.
Most recently, Ashlee led strategic partnerships for Rock Health, the first venture fund for digital health. Her past work also includes creating The Food Business School’s Mentor Network, an online platform to connect entrepreneurs with accomplished food business leaders; and leading Business Development at Better, a digital health startup developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic.
Ashlee is committed to building communities and creating environments that foster inclusive leadership and entrepreneurship. She is also the Co-Founder of Hygge Health, an organization supporting women leaders in health and wellness. She holds an MBA from the UC Berkley Haas School of Business and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern California.
Christina Nicholson, Director, Sustainable Innovation Gap
Christina Nicholson is the Director of Sustainable Innovation at Gap Inc. and plays a key role in driving the organizations long range environmental sustainability strategy. She leads a global team responsible for delivering the organization’s 2020 environmental impact reduction goals including those for water, chemicals, GHG emissions and waste.
Before joining Gap Inc., Christina was the Director of Member Value at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). The SAC is a non-profit membership organization working with major global companies to improve their social and environmental supply chain performance. Prior to the SAC, Christina launched and led the sustainability department at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. as their Director of Sustainable Development.
Christoph Wilfert, Co-founder and CEO, Makersite
Before starting Makersite with Neil D`Souza, Christoph was CEO of thinkstep. He was previously involved with other start-ups and held executive positions with Education First, Microsoft, and Siemens.
Dimitar Vlahov, Director, Content Development, Sustainable Brands
Dimitar is the Director of Content Development at Sustainable Brands. He joined the Sustainable Brands team after earning a Master’s degree in Management Science & Engineering – focused on sustainable business – from Stanford University. Before Stanford, Dimitar worked in international development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and also in economic consulting at Charles River Associates and NERA.
Born and raised in Bulgaria, Dimitar left his home country for the first time about a decade ago to go to college in the U.S. He has since turned into something of an international man of mystery, thriving on global friendships, global food and global thoughts.
Doug Munk, Director of New Business Ventures, Nestle
Doug leads Nestle USA’s New Business Ventures group. His role is to drive growth in emerging platforms outside existing core businesses through partnerships, incubation, investment, and acquisition. His experience includes leading the Nestlé USA Innovation Center of Excellence, driving platform-based food & beverage innovation, and marketing of several core brands in the beverage division including Dolce Gusto, Nescafe, Coffee-mate, & Nesquik. He currently lives in Falls Church, VA with his wife & two sons.
Lewis Perkins, President, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute
A passionate advocate for “doing the right thing,” Lewis Perkins has served as president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute since 2015. Perkins previously led the Institute’s Fashion Positive initiative, which engages fashion designers, manufacturers, brands and influencers in creating Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM materials and products with the circular economy in mind. Prior to joining the Institute, Perkins consulted with corporations and organizations on the social and environmental program development. He also served as Director of Sustainable Strategies for The Mohawk Group, a leading carpet manufacturer and the commercial division of Mohawk Industries.
Perkins’ passion for sustainability and non-profit work has included strategic roles with organizations such as The Clean Air Campaign, 360i and USWeb/CKS. He is an Ashoka and C&A Foundation Strategy Thought Partner for social entrepreneurs, a 2016 and 2017 member of the H&M Global Change Award Expert Panel, a Design Mentor for the Council of Fashion Designers of America Lexus Design Initiative – Eco Design Challenge Accelerator.
A featured speaker at the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Consumption, Perkins has been a featured speaker at the 2009 Forbes Magazine Green Visionary Series, Sustainable Brands, LOHAS Forum, the White House Council for Environmental Quality GreenGov Symposium and the 53rd and 54th annual Grammy Awards Green Summit panels.
Perkins holds a Master of Business Administration in marketing and strategy with a focus on social responsibility from Emory University and a Bachelor of Arts from Washington & Lee University.
Nadya Zhexembayeva, Chief Reinvention Officer, WE EXIST Reinvention Agency
Called ‘The Reinvention Guru’ (In Ventures magazine) and ‘The Queen of Reinvention’ (TEDx Navasink), Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva is a business owner, educator, speaker and author — specializing in reinvention.
Nadya is the creator of Chief Reinvention Officer method – and now this approach to transformation and renewal can work for you.
As a business owner, Nadya oversees a group of companies active in real estate, investment, and consulting. As a consultant, Nadya has helped such organizations as The Coca-Cola Company, ENRC PLC, IBM, CISCO, Erste Bank, Henkel, Knauf Insulation, Vienna Insurance Group and many others to reinvent their products, processes, and leadership practices.
Nadya also appreciated an opportunity for corporate experience when a long-term client, a 75,000-employee mining and metals company, ENRC PLC, invited her to join the executive suite to curate business transformation efforts. From 2013 to 2016, Nadya oversaw all aspects of the transformation as the company went from public to private and from a financial to a hands-on operational holding under the new brand, ERG. She continues to support the Group in an advisory role.
As an educator, Nadya personally contributed to the development of nearly 5,000 executives from over 60 countries and 20 industries via small group executive education sessions, custom-made seminars, and long-term corporate reinvention projects.
She served as the Coca-Cola Chaired Professor of Sustainable Development at IEDC- Bled School of Management, an executive education center based in the Slovene Alps, where she continues to teach courses in leadership, strategy, change management, design thinking, and sustainability. In addition to IEDC, Nadya has taught in other business schools, including CEDEP (France) and IPADE Business School (Mexico).
As a speaker, Nadya has shared her insights with audiences worldwide through keynotes, panel presentations, and workshops. She has delivered three TEDx talks in Austria, Slovenia and the US. Over 100,000+ professionals saw Nadya speak publicly.
Nadya is a member of the Resourcefulness Advisory Board at OMV, an oil and gas company, as well as a member of the Advisory Board of Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. She also serves on the Board of Challenge:Future, a global student think-DO-tank and innovation competition that unites 35,000 members from 242 countries and territories.
As an author, Nadya has written two books (“Embedded Sustainability: The Next Big Competitive Advantage” in 2011 and “Overfished Ocean Strategy: Powering Up Innovation for a Resource-Deprived World” in 2014) and contributed to five others. In an effort to reinvent corporate approaches to sustainability strategy, Nadya and her co-author Chris Laszlo coined the concept ‘embedded sustainability’, which was virtually non-existent when they started in 2009. Today, it produces 25+ million Google search results and has become a staple for corporate sustainability efforts.
Nadya received her BA in management and BA in psychology from Hartwick College and her PhD in Organizational Behavior from Case Western Reserve University.
A daughter of Kazakhstan, Nadya and her family split their life between the US and Eurasia.
Nkolo Lebongo, Business Development and Partnerships Coordinator, Sustainable Brands
Nkolo is the Business Development and Partnerships Coordinator at Sustainable Brands, managing growth projects, coordinating strategic partnerships, and connecting value to vision.
She has a BA in Criminal Justice from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, with a minor in Sociology, and concentration on Ethics and Economics. She also holds certifications in Social Enterprise Management, Impact Investing, and Campaign Organizing from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.
Before joining Sustainable Brands, Nkolo served on the operations and programs side in both the private and nonprofit sectors, applying her cross-cultural communications expertise to diversified causes, including grant procurement and program evaluation to address homelessness at a health center in San Francisco, teaching Human Centered Design for the SMASH academy at Stanford, and an AmeriCorps Fellowship at an esteemed environmental non-profit in Hawaii.
Nkolo is fascinated by how mindfulness and inclusion, in technology and design, can elevate everything— from products, to systems, to workplaces, communities, and societies. She’s passionate about learning and creating these outcomes.
Sandy Skees, Regional Director, BSI
Sandy Skees is Regional Director at BSI She leads the sustainability practice as well as managing the growth of BSI’s Northern California region, delivering a range of consulting services and program implementation ranging from sustainability and corporate social responsibility, worker safety, business continuity planning, and EHS services. Prior to BSI, Sandy served as Managing Director for Fenton Communications West Coast, accelerating progress through social change communications. Her work with corporations, nonprofits, and NGOs was focused in consumer products, recycling and waste, renewable energy, supply chain and LGBT issues, She brings over 25 years’ experience in leading professional service firms, corporate and communications strategy.
Skees previously ran her own firm Communications4Good, where she served early stage and Fortune 500 companies. While a partner at Porter Novelli, she managed the global HP account team in 20 cities/10 countries around the world and created programs, processes and predictive integration points as a framework for ensuring global implementation of cutting edge communications techniques. She sits on numerous boards including 100 Women Who Care, Sustainable Brands, Mini Mermaid Running Club, was appointed to a four year team on the Santa Cruz County’s Human Services Commission, and is a seasoned speaker on brand, messaging and sustainability strategy.
Shilpa Prasad, Director of Partnerships, YouNoodle
An entrepreneur by nature, Shilpa brings her passion for creating change through entrepreneurship to YouNoodle everyday, where she oversees all things related to Partnerships and Growth.
Over the past two years, Shilpa has worked with industry leaders including Cisco, PwC, Salesforce, Amazon, Booking.com to execute innovation programs that support entrepreneurs tackling tomorrow’s biggest environmental and social challenges.