October 2021 — Moonshot: Permacolony 2021 was a collaborative unlearning, unlocking and unleashing mindshift with 30 new friends from 13 startups (list and video below). It also marked our 2nd year toward building the first Permacolony by 2025. At the start, articulating our purpose was not easy. After all, we are trying to change an ecosystem that is entrenched in transactional relationships, dominated by fundamentalist capitalism, and cutthroat resource competition. This year we had more confidence in building deep meaningful connections amongst startups and the AUDACITY community, and most importantly, being human – revealing hard unspoken truths about founders’ journeys as they navigate through obstacles.
#unlearning to make way for the magic of serendipity
We could not have seen this year’s Permacolony happen in any other way. There was a magical sense of shared passion, energy and genuine participation from startups, mentors, speakers and the AUDACITY community. This year’s run truly epitomised the magic of community and serendipity, a feeling of group flow that is hard to describe in words. Candidly speaking, even the organisers were empowered to embrace the philosophy of spontaneous invention so as to cater the program to the diverse needs of our startup cohort. From week to week, we tailored the program experience by tweaking and moving around different blocks of content to make it both meaningful and relevant. For us, it was an important #unlearning lesson – ‘being comfortable with the uncomfortable state’.
“It is my first time volunteering for Permacolony. At first, I was so worried about the uncertainty of the outcome… especially because we were not providing any tangible (monetary) benefits. After interviewing every one of the teams who registered, I was surprised by how many startups had genuine intentions to do something meaningful and cared more about the intangible (community support) benefits to build a startup. I observed how the rawness of the programme kept participants engaged, and many transitioned from being passive observers to designing their own Permacolony experience. As an entrepreneur myself, I felt that it was a huge contrast to many other startup events I had been to.”Heetesh, community organiser
#unlocking convention revealed the power of collective values
To tackle existential threats facing humanity, synergy is needed between players innovating in the areas of Food & Agriculture, Human Capital & Wellbeing, AI & Robotics, Alternative Materials & Production, Climate Tech and Living Infrastructure. Embracing synergy also means welcoming and being open to a ‘potluck’ of ideas and beliefs without any judgement. Growing up in a society where competitiveness is favoured to move things forward, we found ourselves continuously encouraging one another towards a culture we aspired to create — one where we collaborate as equals not competitors.
Another convention we wanted to break was the notion of competition amongst startups. Instead of having to choose ‘top performers’ from the program, we were deliberate in removing any sort of ranking or comparison. What resulted was a recognition of the impact that each startup aspired to create, and how each of them could contribute uniquely to the community.
“I am really impressed by the ambition of the startups. These companies are trying to solve some of the most difficult urban challenges due to climate change, deploying deep tech to re-engineer urban infrastructure and improve resource efficiency. It takes a whole village to support them.”Dr. Ho Chaw Sing (Managing Director of NAMIC), mentor
Looking back at this year’s Prototypical or Permacolony, it becomes clearer that the values manifested collectively during multiple community-wide visioning exercises have kept our ‘WHY’ strong. ‘Authenticity’ and ‘genuineness’ being two of the key values that guided the creation of a support network needed to pursue this audacious mission. If not for the trust and support of audacious community members and friends, we might not have been able to #unlock ourselves from the shackles of convention. After all, it is about enjoying the work, and enjoying working together that makes impact meaningful.
“There was so much unlearning and unlocking even for the organising team. We challenged ourselves to steer away from conventional accelerator programs, and asked ourselves what startups really needed and how they could benefit by undergoing the Permacolony program with us. And that was how we arrived at a consensus to focus on two key areas – (1) a culture of ‘startups helping startups’ to uncover possibilities and business synergies while working towards a common goal, and (2) greater emphasis on topics related to founder well-being.”Yang En, organiser
#unleashing a collaborative mindset
In the first week, we found that BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) are easily tamed in order to pursue immediate priorities. For others, they just needed a little more push to grow their BHAG into something more ambitious, as it should be! Instead of simply presenting why a collaborative approach is important, we decided to engineer a ‘startups helping startups’ environment to enable the forging of meaningful synergies and to achieve exponential impact collectively. We were pleasantly surprised at the outcome, as this facilitated more organic and ground-up connections that could never have been engineered.
“In my synergies presentation, I talked about committing, communicating and acting in good faith. Commit in order for your partners to trust in you and to do the same. And I felt that was something the organising community did, and that spirit was found in every single conversation in the room.”Shurui, facilitator
Through the three weeks, we experienced startups evolving and opening up to the idea of the collaborative mindset. Some founders even shared that they found their tribe 🥰. At the closing exhibition, with startups resonating with our vision, it became apparent that our collaborative approach could shape how future ecosystems form.
“It was really heartening to observe how startup founders bonded during the retreat. At the end of it, I was hearing about so many potential collaborations from the startup founders asking other startups to integrate their solutions. I could tell the genuine enthusiasm among founders to work and help each other :’) I sure hope that this energy carries throughout their innovation journeys!”Jayden, community host and one half of the Kimono Kakis
Building a community of the future
Solving gargantuan challenges for future generations can be a lonely journey, let alone a difficult one — especially when it comes to communicating the vision and maintaining synergy in a growing team. Being founders, startups and ecosystem builders ourselves, we recognised the need for a safe space to address the many elephants in the room, and reveal their BHAGs. A successful outcome for us was also knowing that startups were met with constructive feedback during the mentor sessions instead of mere criticisms.
“What you guys have at Moonshot: Permacolony is a very sought after support system for entrepreneurs because there is a sense of belonging and opportunity to build deep connections. Even just by sharing with somebody who understands, can be so helpful for our overall well being.”Nektarios and Vladi (Co-founders of Future Farm), facilitators
The beauty of being in a community and the notion that ‘we are in this together’ enabled more authentic sharing from seasoned entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other ecosystem builders. The workshop on founder’s wellbeing destigmatized conversations about mental wellness between founders. Intimate chats about startup building broached difficult decisions in prioritising between babies (startup and human) revealed a more human side of the startup ecosystem. Discussions with VCs and other ecosystem builders revealed hard truths that investors have to deal with when it comes to reviewing startups.
“We were really mesmerised by the ecosystem and culture that AUDACITY has built, and it was very heartwarming to be in such a warm space that allowed innovation to thrive without any boundaries.”Min Ray (Amplefresh), participating startup
So far, it seems like we are headed on the right track. After two years of community building, the realisation of an urgent need for radical change in the way we go about making an impact seems to be catching on. We are thankful for the friends in the AUDACITY network who readily said yes when asked to contribute their time.
the 13 startups of Moonshot: Permacolony 2021
Amplefresh is redesigning urban landscapes with high-rise vertical farms – especially where large scale horizontal land is scarce. Their vertical conveyor farming system captures carbon and cools buildings down while also supplying vegetables to those living in the vicinity.
Cuprina is harnessing the power of nature to bridge gaps in the medical, agriculture and aquaculture industries – starting with the humble blowfly. Following the success of treating chronic wounds with maggots, they are now designing a specialised pollination process using UV LEDs to herd insects on flowers in a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).
EOT Technologies is paving the future for self-directed preventive healthcare ecosystems. Currently, their community-driven booths empower individuals to take charge of their health through personal health coaching, monitoring, and management.
Impacfat is enticing a larger demand for sustainable food choices. They have created cell-based fish fat that is nutrition-customisable. This means tastier, wholesome plant-based and cultivated meats. As the founders say it best: “Fat that you want to gain!” Contact Shigeki Sugii or Angela Lwin to find out more.
Inplex is unlocking possibilities for custom designed buildings to be deployed easily where needed – including outer space! By automating the design and construction process via cloud computing and a modular build system, the process for custom designed buildings is easier, faster and more affordable.
Scratchbac is passionate about creating a ‘Socially Inclusive World’ by design. Through sharing resources and collaborating, they have brought communities closer by enabling people in proximity to create meaningful interactions.
SGP Foods is solving climate change by taking a whole-of-world approach. Through the development of an end-to-end carbon ecosystem, communities in Singapore and Mexico are generating carbon credits and cultivating sustainable food products at scale. This incentivises individuals to adopt environmentally sustainable activities together.
Starter Culture is powering up a sustainable society with microbes. Think salvaging food waste and capturing renewable energy. Utilising molecular farming and precision fermentation, they design bespoke bio manufacturing processes for startups, and create ingredients for the F&B industry including alternative-protein manufacturers.
Swastek is creating a digital health platform for proactive healthcare monitoring. Starting with an in-ear monitoring device that combines health tech and safety tech, they are able to provide critical alerts based on biofeedback data, enabling individuals and teams to look out for one another’s well being. Contact Vidurra Nedumaran to find out more.
Synectifyis creating a circular economy for renewable energy transition. They do this by capturing waste energy (i.e. surplus and stranded power) from renewable sources and transferring it where it is needed (i.e. the grid and data centres).
Urban Hydrologics is building climate resilience tools for future cities. Starting with the next chapter of Singapore’s water story, they are developing an urban hydrologic virtual twin to optimize decisions and accelerate blue-green-ecological investments for inland and coastal infrastructure. Contact PJ Santa to find out more.
Whizz Mobility is revolutionising the future of last-mile delivery where customers and businesses can play a part in reducing carbon emissions. Starting with a community of FoodBots, they are also laying the cornerstone of human-robot collaboration by providing riders assistance during peak hours and bad weather.
Xinterra is protecting the planet for future generations. With machine learning, they are accelerating the creation and application of new climate-friendly materials. Think radically reducing emissions with carbon sequestering surfaces and zero greenhouse gas manufacturing.
As we continue to advocate for a more collaborative culture between founders, startups and other communities, we look forward to welcoming more impact makers to create Permacolonies in the near future.
“Competitive to boldly collaborative — to make the world a better place. We have been trained to think that competitiveness is the only way to win the battle or be wealthy and happy. It is perhaps true under the unlimited economic growth of the industrial era. But now, we are entering the era of sustainability where a collaborative mindset is crucial to solving the mission impossible. While we are pursuing independently, whatever we believe is good for the next generations, it is also important to form communities with like-minded people. This way we can encourage and learn from one another (and sometimes help each other). It is the basis of innovation because simply because one single startup or solution could not move the needle. But altogether, it does.”ATsushi (Managing Director at Mistletoe), mentor
Permacolony 2025 is a manifestation of the larger AUDACITY movement where collaboration takes precedence over competition. We envision communities that are not only empowered to be 100% self-sustainable in food, energy, water and production, but also designed to radically advance human capital and well-being. Read more about the mission here.
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This article is collaboratively written and contributed by the AUDACITY Community.