At only 21 years of age, Rena Kleine has experienced a lot in her life already. She studied digital economics in college and traveled the world – for inspiration, she says. The many different lifestyles and cultures showed her how people can live together. Sustainability is also a topic close to her heart. That’s why Kleine and three colleagues founded ecotrek: a start-up that stands for sustainable business and is planning for its future in Siemensstadt.
Ms. Kleine, what motivated you to found a company that’s so focused on sustainability?
This is a very personal issue for me. I was always deeply gripped by this topic, and I explored the world after graduating from high school. I was in Central America, California, and Asia, where I came to know many different lifestyles and cultures. And I also studied the differences. I’m especially fond of Costa Rica, for example: The way they do business, work, and live together is so much more social and greener. And then I realized, “OK, I want to go back to Germany and attend college there.” I decided on economics, digital economics. And then at some point I realized that if I launched my own project, it should stand for the values of sustainability.
Can you tell us more about the business model of your start-up ecotrek?
We collect sustainability data on companies. For ecotrek, sustainability means more than just emissions: It encompasses all levels, including economic, social, and ecological. We aggregate this data and compile it in the form of sustainability profiles. And then we sell these profiles, which are accessible from our cloud-based Web platform. Our clients are mainly procurement professionals at companies like Siemens: They use this data to engage in sustainable procurement, because they don’t have the necessary sustainability data themselves. Thanks to us, they can make sustainable business decisions.
And so you take a very broad view of sustainability?
Every company needs to concern itself not just with its own sustainability but also that of its suppliers and business partners. It’s a huge issue. This is due in part to laws and regulations, like the Supply Chain Act which has just been passed. And there are other issues too, like the CO2 prices that companies will have to pay in the future. This is known as “total cost of ownership,” meaning that companies will have to pay not only for themselves but also for their entire supply chain and all shareholders. The real issue is in the upstream production chains. For the average German company, 70 to 75 percent of emissions are generated in these supply chains – and that’s precisely why we’re striving to resolve this issue.
We’re now sitting in the A32 Entrepreneurs Forum Berlin Siemensstadt – a co-working space that many founders like to use. Why did you choose this location?
Actually, it was just a coincidence. Shortly before the pandemic, we were looking for a place where we could operate the way we wanted to, where we could withdraw from the world and work somewhere beyond all the tumult. This would help us keep a clear head. And it just so happened that we stumbled into the room where we’re sitting right now. We spent the first few weeks working down here in the co-working space before we moved up to a higher level, where we now have our office and where we can enjoy all the advantages of Siemensstadt.
What are those advantages? How does this location in Siemensstadt serve your purposes?
That’s a very interesting question. I think the main thing that drives start-ups is networking. Who else is here, and are there potential clients here as well? We enjoy a crucial advantage at this location with Siemens. And both sides benefit from each other. If more and more start-ups settle here, I think the only questions will be what restaurants are here on-site, what opportunities do I have here, and what events are being held here? The potential is huge! I’m very excited to see how it develops after the pandemic, when many, many more start-ups will set up shop here. And if this district is also sustainable, many innovative start-ups will be automatically drawn to it.