The Numi. founding team: Andrea Schneller and Mario Schneller.
Photo: Numi

Numi. Makes It Simple and Profitable To Take Back Products

The growing shift in thinking towards sustainability in many companies is slowly but surely creating a new category of supply chains: the circular supply chain. Actual solutions in the area, however, are few and far between. The Munich startup Numi. recognized the opportunity and is working on a circular take-back solution. We spoke with the founders.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving?

Numi.: Numi. makes it possible to offer a digital and customer-friendly take-back process for products. We’re active in the area of circular economy, and with our digital white label solution, we support companies that would like to take full responsibility for the lifecycle of their products. Numi. makes it easy to manage and track take-back streams and automates central functions, such as the generation of shipping labels, the digital preliminary sorting of products based on their condition and dynamic customer payments. We offer an intelligent, user-friendly and digital process that can be linked to companies’ existing infrastructure (such as shop systems like Shopify) through API and ERP integration.

What problem are we solving? We live in a linear take-make-waste economy in which just 8.6 percent of global resources are reused. To close loops, circular approaches are needed. They are growing tremendously in relevance due to the increasing scarcity of resources as well as EU regulations (Circular Economy Action Plan), which means the majority of all manufacturing companies will have to focus on circular models in the next five to ten years. At the moment, it’s a major challenge for companies to recover products and resources after use. For most of them, it’s because they lack access to customers and there aren’t any established digital processes for it.

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Numi.: Digital solutions obviously exist for returns, but only very few exist for circular take-back programs. Yet this category is of growing relevance, especially for consumer good brands, such as electronics and fashion, not least due to more stringent regulations on an EU level. A whole new category of supply chains is emerging – circular supply chains.

Numi.: “Our vision is based on a simple insight”

Munich Startup: What is your founding story?

Numi.: Our mission at Numi. is based on a simple insight that we already had a few years ago: The unbelievable level of consumption and the throw-away society that comes along with it are destroying our planet. Every one of us owns an unbelievable number of things, and when something breaks (it’s often just a minor part of a product), there usually isn’t a way to repair it, not to mention a good option for returning the product that guarantees it will be recycled in a meaningful way. This fact in combination with our growing knowledge about circular approaches and business models is what convinced us that it’s necessary to expand the existing production chains to make them circular.

In discussions with many companies, we found out that many of them have a will and desire to implement circular processes. What became evident to us during this phase was that there are hardly any solutions that come in after the (initial) use of products. This gave rise to our mission at Numi.: To make it both simple and profitable for companies to take back products.

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Numi.: The issue our startup focuses on means we’re active in a very dynamic field that is developing at the same time we are. There are some pioneers who are already building closed loops for products, but it will still take a few more years until it becomes a mainstream topic. That’s why right now, finding the right partners for development is definitely a challenge, as is the adaptation of our sales pitch in order to reach as many potential customers as possible, even if they haven’t heard about the concept of a circular economy yet. In addition to building our startup, we’re also simultaneously working as pioneers by spreading information about the approach.

“In five years, we’ll be the leading partner for circular take-back solutions”

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?

Numi.: In one year, we would like to have completed our pilot phase and to launch our product in 2023. In five years, we’ll be the leading partner for circular take-back solutions and will be accompanying hundreds of sustainability and future-oriented companies on their journey to more circularity.

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far?

Numi.: We’ve experienced Munich as an extremely dynamic startup location with almost limitless opportunities. We now have an excellent network and regularly communicate with other founders. It’s not only fun, but also encourages us and helps us deal with all of the big and little challenges that come along with being founders.

Munich Startup: Outsource or DIY?

Numi.: We’re more in the “DIY” group, especially in the early startup stage. We try out quite a lot and learn an incredible amount every day. We do, however, absolutely believe in the power of a good network and regularly bring in targeted input and expertise and also have sparring partners challenge us on our journey.