Featuring Green Tech: OLIO’s Story

One of the aims of our “Featuring Green Tech” initiative is it to increase the awareness of local “disruptive” green technology businesses.

We’d like to promote and showcase ecologically conscious businesses in the South West, those with a sustainable and eco-friendly mindset. They may be developing products and services that will make a positive impact and/or be developing and using digital technologies to help sustain, preserve and improve our natural environment.

As part of this, please meet Tessa Clarke, Co-Founder and CEO at OLIO. Tessa is passionate about the sharing economy and green technology as a solution for a sustainable world. Prior to founding OLIO, Tessa spent 10 years as a Digital Managing Director in the media, retail and financial services sectors, and gained her MBA from Stanford.

ADLIB: For some background information, who are OLIO and what makes your business offering unique and ‘green’?

Tessa Clarke: OLIO is a free app tackling the problem of food waste by connecting neighbours with each other, and volunteers with local businesses, so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. As the world’s only neighbour-to-neighbour food sharing app, we’re tackling one of the biggest environmental problems of our time, which is food waste.

Since launching in 2016, 850,000 people have joined OLIO and together shared over 1.2 million portions of food. OLIO also publishes ZeroWasteWeekly.com, a website and newsletter that aggregates all the best zero waste news from around the world.

Globally, one-third of all the food we produce gets thrown away, which is worth $1 trillion p.a, and if food waste were to be a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gases, after the USA and China! But what very few people realise is that well over half of all food waste in countries such as the UK takes place in the home. This means that if we want to stand any chance whatsoever of mitigating the worst effects of climate change, we absolutely have to solve the problem of food waste.

Also, as we look forward to 2050, we have another 2.2 billion people joining the planet, and in order to feed us all we need to increase global food production by 50%, and today we quite simply have no idea how we will achieve this. We would suggest that a great starting point would be to stop throwing away the food we currently produce!

To date the food sharing that has taken place via OLIO has had the environmental impact of taking over 3 million car miles off the road – and we’ve only just started!

ADLIB: Can you share a little bit about the green technology aspect of your product? What’s the actual tech/languages behind it?

Tessa Clarke: OLIO is first and foremost a mobile app, and we also have a web app which is in beta. As we’ve been a very small technical team of 4 developers, we built a hybrid javascript app and used Ionic v1 as our native wrapper. Over the past 6 months, however, using the learnings from our React-based web app beta, we’ve been working hard to replace Ionic with React Native and we’ve now released this version! Our API is written using Ruby on Rails with our infrastructure being hosted by AWS.

ADLIB: Who are the people behind the tech?

Tessa Clarke: Our fabulous team is lead by Lloyd Watkin, who is the principal engineer, and he is ably supported by 2 front end developers and 1 backend developer.

ADLIB: What are their career backgrounds, their career journeys and how have they developed the technology?

Tessa Clarke: Lloyd has spent many years working for a range of successful startups as well as spending some time with Amazon. With a small team, the software/infrastructure has been designed such that any single part failing would not cause issues elsewhere and all data updates are self-healing. The team are fully remote, reducing the environmental impact caused by commuting. There is a big emphasis on testing within the team, as well as being supportive, trusting and willing to help at all times.

ADLIB: What does OLIO aim to achieve in terms of sustainability?

Tessa Clarke: Looking forward to the next 10 years, the ambition for OLIO is an unashamedly bold one – it’s of growing from just under a million users to 1 billion users who are all sharing our most precious resource – food – instead of binning it! Essentially we want to create a real-time hyper-local sharing network so that we can all live in a truly circular economy.

ADLIB: Is there one piece of wisdom that you could pass on to those who are also looking to contribute to the Green Tech industry?

Tessa Clarke: To make sure that you really put your mission front and centre in the recruitment process, and ensure that you find people who are not just mission-aligned, but mission obsessed! This will enable you to build a truly world class team.

ADLIB: And finally, what’s in the pipeline for OLIO? What’s on the horizon?

Tessa Clarke: Now we’ve completed the React Native release, we will be focusing our attention on acquiring our next million users, as well as continuing to support our 3,000+ amazing Food Waste Heroes (who are volunteers who collect unsold food from local businesses and redistribute it to the local community via the app) and 30,000+ Ambassadors (who are volunteers spreading the word about OLIO in their local community).

Thanks so much for sharing!

Written by

Head Of Tech (Permanent)

CTO/Leads, Developers, GreenTech

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Mike Harley