In January 2018 the Vienna Textile Lab’s founder and CEO Karin Fleck was pitching in front of political leaders of the United Arabian Emirates in Abu Dhabi.
But what made her travel all the way from Vienna to the Arabian Peninsula? Well, let’s start at the beginning.
In January 2018 the Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX) was launched as a part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. CLIX is a global start-up marketplace and aims to connect global level entrepreneurs and investors. The idea is to source and in the next instance fund climate change solutions and technologies. From January 15th to 18th 2018 the first CLIX event kicked off as part of the Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi. More than 350 teams from more than 65 countries were applying to get the chance to pitch their ideas in front of an audience of international high-level investors. All applications were examined by a committee consisting of international experts from the sustainability and climate change industry. Only 27 teams were shortlisted and got the chance to take part in the event in Abu Dhabi and pitch their innovative ideas. And guess what? The Vienna Textile Lab in its early stage was selected and found itself on the shortlist too! The joy after receiving this message was huge. Therefore, Karin packed her suitcase and flew to Abu Dhabi. And this was not her last time visiting the United Arab Emirates.
One day after arriving, the event already started with a very special opening reception which took place at the freshly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Famous people like CNN anchor Becky Anderson were contributing. Even Stephen Hawking, two months before his death was welcoming the guests via video-stream to this very special event. So special that CNN even fully covered it.
During the whole Sustainability week, the Vienna Textile Lab had the amazing opportunity to present its research and visions at an amazing venue.
“What was so special about CLIX was the international character of the event. The presence of interesting founders and investors from all over the world made me feel like being exactly in the right place. I loved it”, Karin thinks back to the conference.
“I was positively surprised about was the engagement of Emirate politicians throughout the event. For instance, the minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi was attending the conference the whole week and talked to many visitors. I even had a nice chat with him and was telling him more about what we want to achieve within the next few years.”, Karin remembers with a smile.
“Particularly impressive was to experience the appearance of Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui. She is an Emirati politician who is Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the United Arab Emirates. In February 2016 at the age of 20, she became the youngest government minister in the world. Both ministers never got tired of engaging with visitors and exhibitors. I personally thanked Dr Thani al Zeyoudi for this great event. Also, the ministry had their public servants taking care of us, one of the ladies even pitched in Arabic the project of the Vienna Textile Lab to the visitors. So, the people at the CLIX and the Sustainability week were really curious, smart and caring.”
One of those people was Vesela Tanaskovic Gassner. She has won the Austrian Climate Launchpad one year before the Vienna Textile Lab did and was also present at the event. “She has an incredible drive and has been a big role model for me.”, Karin says.
“It was less my pitch in front of the high-level jury but rather the whole experience that stuck with me and the people I met who were first class. Being surrounded by creative minds in an environment full of smart entrepreneurs with great ideas is just amazing. Similar to the Climate Launchpad, I really felt at home and I even considered staying there.”, Karin tells.
Thanks to Maher Ezzeddine and his team at ideanco, CLIX was a perfectly organised event. Besides the amazing people joining the event, the Emirates commitment to tackle climate change and find innovative solutions is one of the most striking takeaways. This is also reflected by the investment in the youth, the competence and drive of state officials, the well-balanced panel discussions with respect to gender and also the common spirit that change in favour of a more sustainable future is inevitable and will happen.
Looking back, the CLIX event in Abu Dhabi was one of the first events where the Vienna Textile Lab had the chance to perform on a large international stage outside Europe. These impressions were crucial for the further development of the start-up.