Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!
Relevo: Relevo is a company that offers reusable to-go containers, a simple and digital end-to-end solution for sustainable takeout for the food service industry and consumers. We offer a digital reusable solution with an app that is a rental system without deposits. Partners can incorporate it into their current processes as a pay-per-use system without needing to make any modifications, so consumers can easily live more sustainably at no extra charge. We are Gregor (34, physicist and mathematician), Aaron (33, sales specialist) and Matthias (31, economist) and a team of 30 highly motivated people who want to save the world. It was the idea and shared vision to get rid of single-use packaging that brought the three of us together as founders.
1 million single-use containers are thrown away every hour
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Relevo: More than 9 billion single-use containers are thrown away every year in Germany alone. That’s roughly 1 million an hour. We think that’s rubbish. Because in addition to polluting the environment and the unnecessary consumption of resources, a huge amount of climate-damaging carbon CO2 equivalents are generated. And the corona pandemic has seen the to-go and takeaway industry explode even further, as the overflowing trash cans on our streets sadly reveal. With Relevo, we’re making environmentally unfriendly and climate damaging single-use packaging superfluous.
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Relevo: Reusable systems have been around for a long time, since the 1970s to be more precise, and introduced deposits as a promising solution in a broad range of applications. But over the years, unfortunately, deposit systems failed to bring the salvation that was hoped for. And that’s because on the one hand, deposit systems require the food service industry to integrate them (deposit handling and reserves), and on the other, paying a deposit is always inconvenient for end consumers: too high when paying it, too low when getting it back. With Relevo and our smart reusable system, we can solve all of these problems and make a climate-friendly contribution that can actually be measured. The food service industry won’t have to make any modifications to their processes, nor will they have to finance the reusable containers in advance and end consumers can do something good for free without having to “take out a loan to pay the deposit.” And as a full service company, we can proactively deliver additional containers and remind end consumers to return them quickly, which enables us to sustainably close the loop.
Forced to pivot by lockdown
Munich Startup: Was there a point when you nearly failed?
Relevo: We wanted to get going with Relevo on the 16th of March 2020, had prepared everything for our go-live and were obviously really excited about it. That was until the first corona lockdown was announced on Friday, the 13th (March) and everything was put on hold. The following weeks were so drawn out and full of uncertainty, more than they would have been anyway. So we already had to go through our worst case scenario – when else has the entire food industry ever shut down? But that “calm phase” forced us to make a pivot, which allowed us to detox our business model. We were then able to start full throttle in early June 2020 and now have a team of more than 30 employees in just 12 months.
Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?
Relevo: In recent months, we’ve been able to grow quickly and have kept several hundreds of thousands of single-use containers from being wasted. And that has only gotten us more motivated and ambitious. We see ourselves as the definite number 1 for reusable systems in Europe. And with our new food service partner Duni Group, we have a great network to tap into. On top of that, our digital solution also means we’ll be able to offer our users an array of added-value services in the future to make urban, sustainable living even easier.
A competitive market in Munich for reusable systems
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Relevo: Munich is a great city for us! On the one hand, you have so many talented people for us as a company. On the other hand, there’s also an existing ecosystem of other startups who both inspire and enrich one another. Munich was also the perfect place for a reusable system. And that’s because no other city in Germany was as competitive as Munich in the reusable system market. That meant we had to give our all from the very beginning and motivated us to perform at our best. And we can now proudly say that we are the market leader in the food-to-go field in Munich.
Munich Startup: Quick exit or staying power?
Relevo: We are very much aware of the challenges presented by the climate crisis and pollution and see a huge mountain of work (and trash) ahead of us. To-go consumption is still increasing, as is the use of environmentally harmful single-use containers, but that also makes our aspirations grow. And that means our staying power is just as strong and we’re excited about the years to come.