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In our first blog about BlueCity, we shared the story of the iconic Rotterdam-based building which has evolved from a swimming pool and recreation centre to a circular startup hub. This article is part of We Share’s interview with Diana Van Ewijk who is the Head of Team Storytelling at BlueCity. In this interview, she shared with us the ambitions of BlueCity, the challenges they face on the way and how they are setting a circular economy agenda in Rotterdam, and beyond.
Blue Economy Pioneers
The main source of inspiration for BlueCity creation was the Blue Economy Book by Gunter Pauli. This sowed the seeds for the unique BlueCity Concept — creating a new closed-loop ecosystem where startups and their waste streams are interconnected. And… it works! The building counts numerous examples of such a productive circular collaboration. For instance, the waste stream of brewer Vet&Lazy is used to produce bioplastics by Outlander Materials. Meanwhile, the mushrooms of RotterZwam have been infused into a special ale by Vet&Lazy. Certainly, sometimes it is not easy to find the links and connections between the Blue Citizens’ waste streams since it requires a certain degree of creativity.
Apart from the circularity of the tenants, the circularity of the building itself is also of high priority. The intention to reuse the former swimming-pool space adapting it to the current tenants’ needs and making it a modern and comfortable place to work and spend time in is also paramount. In 2017, the building of the office space was completed which ended up being 98% circular: most of the construction materials for 100 new workspaces for entrepreneurs — wooden planks for tables, glass, were re-used.
Setting the Circular Agenda in Rotterdam
Another one of BlueCity’s ambitions is to become more than a Blue Economy workspace — they aspire to be a hub for Circular Economy, first in Rotterdam and then further beyond. The idea is to create a meeting point where locals, corporates and circular entrepreneurs exchange experiences, knowledge and inspiration accelerating the transition to Circular Economy. For this purpose, numerous events are organized at Maasboulevard. Here are a few of them:
The Circular Challenge is a competition that anyone can participate in — from young professionals to established businesses — to tackle the problem of waste streams. For six weeks, participants work together in teams of creative thinkers with the aim to build a circular product from an existing waste stream of a participating organization. The Challenge starts in September and ends in October culminating in a Grand Finale (open for public!) where the winner is announced. To learn more how to apply to this challenge and about the previous winners, follow this link (in Dutch).
Together with Awesome Foundation Rotterdam, BlueCity organizes Pitching Sessions. Every Pitching Session has a particular topic. The contestants get the chance to pitch their idea and the winner gets € 1000, and a room at citizenM Rotterdam to work out all the incredible plans. These events are held regularly and are free to attend.
BlueCity in partnership with Impact Express, Designplatform Rotterdam, EVERiSE, Spaces & Jonge Honden holds this outstanding event whose main topic is entrepreneurs’ failures! You don’t need to search too much to hear success-stories in which everything goes without a hitch — sales skyrocket, revenues shoot up and teams grow rapidly…. but what about failures? What about errors, learning curves, wrong decisions and painful consequences? It is often said the one learns more from failures than successes — at FuckUp Nights, speakers freely share their stories full of these occasions. To attend this event, one has to purchase a ticket (preferably, in advance since the number of attendees is limited).
These are only three out of numerous other events organized by BlueCity to foster community creation, experience exchange and in the long term, the boosting of Circular Economies. You can explore more on their website or Facebook Page.
We Share would like to thank Diana and the entire BlueCity Team for the information they shared with us and for the inspiration they provide. Like BlueCity, We Share is also working towards the transition to the Circular Economy. We support Impact Startups connecting them with a wide range of Funding Members and experts. Moreover, we offer them patient capital: i.e. long-term loans with low-interest rates. More information about us and how to become our Funding Member can be found here.