When you meet Flavio Souza, the first thing you notice is how passionately he speaks about the goals of his company Fullcircle Innovations – a digital company set up to develop and promote technological innovations in favor of a better sustainable planet.
To do that, Souza, who comes from Brazil, has set up two sites so far– GreenITers.com, EcoAppsFree.com – which are rapidly gaining a lot of attention in the media. On these two sites, Fullcircle brings together global eco-minded professionals and consumers in the digital world, and promotes eco-friendly brands and sustainable products & services to the core green segment.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros catches up with Souza to hear more.
What is your background?
I am from Rio de Janeiro. I came to Japan about 10 years ago for my MBA. I also did a master’s degree in computer science. In 2005, I got a job at market research company, bringing new technology to market research. I was with them until 2009, when I started Fullcircle Innovations.
What was your motivation?
I believe that Japan is a very R&D intensive country but 90% of the information is in Japanese, so people who live outside Japan don’t have access to what’s going on in terms of technology. I wanted to create an English-language hub for green innovations so that eco-minded people all over the world could interact with each other. So I started a green online community, sort of a “green Facebook,” if you like, where people share ideas and innovations with a goal to “green it!” our environment.
How was it at first?
I did it by stealth, so to speak. I started building my business model, then the website. By September 2010, I moved to mobile applications that help the environment. We started letting users take eco-minded apps on a free “test-drive” before buying them. People who sign up at EcoAppsFree.com get the chance to try a different app, each of which will only be available for free during 24 hours.
When I launched these eco-apps for free, it got picked up by local media. I was nominated for a Red Herring Asia award (a coveted accolade given to the top 100 private technology companies based in the region). At that time, Fullcircle Innovations was only eight months old.
What drives you to do this?
People need to act now to protect the environment. We can’t continue destroying what we have left. At the same time, we have to educate next generation and speed up innovation.
We tend to think protection is a government problem; action is for NGOs; education is for companies’ CSR departments to take care of. So with this in mind, I set up a business model that goes “full circle” into the environment challenges: GreenITers for education and innovation, while the action part is Ecoapps, and the protection side will be launching next. We also offer a consulting service to help organizations seeking to integrate and enhance social, environmental and economic performance. I am a believer that companies (especially the tech ones) can do much more for the environment.
How many users are in the GreenITers community?
Currently, we have over 4,300 users in the GreenITers community. I think we’ll be 7,000 by year-end from all over the world. Of those, 34% are located in Asia, mainly Japan, China and India. Other strong areas are U.S. and Europe. Word of mouth brings in more members all the time. We are also strong on Twitter, with about 26,000 followers.
What is your revenue model?
We have two revenue models. One is Ecoapps. We charge developers a fee to put their apps there. The other revenue model is through our consulting work to help companies find partnerships as well as communicate and engage with global eco-minded professionals and consumers in the digital world. We have companies who want access to eco-evangelists. They want them to embrace their social media presence or products, so we charge a fee for that.
Do you charge members a fee?
No. On our sites, the users always get everything for free. By identifying and interacting with eco evangelists, we understand companies want to have access to them, that’s the way we work with companies.
What sort of apps qualify for EcoAppsFree.com?
We get a lot of interest from developers all over the world, but I have said no to a lot. At the beginning, I didn’t make the criteria clear and I was bombarded with apps. Some developers just wanted us to promote their games.
Apps must meet at least one of our three requirements: 1) Do good for the planet or people (that is the obvious one); 2) Save natural resources (eg, an e-book saves paper); and 3) Replace hard goods with something digital (eg, an alarm clock app replaces the need to buy an alarm clock).
What happens after you approve an app?
The developers pay a fee and they get promotion. In the Apple store, there are about 30 million app downloads a day, so the challenge is draw attention to your app. You need a channel. EcoApps puts your apps in the hands of people who actually use it and that generates a lot of benefit for the developers from rank up to word of month.
What other activities are you involved in?
We work with the BRIC countries on the consulting side and to enable them have access to green tech. We promote events related to clean technology or eco-events, and we do online PR.
Did you notice an increase in interest in eco-activities after the March 11 disaster?
What I saw was an increase in Japanese members who wanted to know more, especially about nuclear issues. It was a wake-up call for Japanese society and we now see Japanese looking for solutions outside Japan. Japanese companies are moving slowly but realize they need to rebuild their business model. They know they need to act.
Are you optimistic about the Japanese economy?
I am always optimistic in life, despite the fact that so much hasn’t happened on the political side. Japan rebuilt itself after World War II, and if they can find the right business model, especially in Asia, they can do it again.
Are you eco-friendly in your daily lifestyle?
I try to be green in my lifestyle. My first step was to be much more aware of my daily tasks that interact with the environment; from brushing my teeth in the morning with as little water as possible to avoid as much as possible the use of an air conditioner, for example.
For more information, visit www.fullcircle.co.jp.