The Opportunity for Greener, Smarter Cities

Bringing innovation into urban spaces is Katharina Beitz’s mission. She seized the opportunity to study EMDIEL at ESCP Business School to gain a deeper understanding of strategy and sustainable business models. Today, she is the founder of Resilient Resident.

From Philosophy to EMDIEL

Katharina was always interested in digital solutions – she first focused on theories, logic and models from a philosophical point of view. She chose to study again and picked the Executive Master in Digital Innovation & Entrepreneurial Leadership (EMDIEL) at ESCP because of its hand-on and international learning curriculum. During her time at ESCP, she focused on hardware and software hybrid business models and seized the opportunity to internationalise her experience.  Indeed, the programme takes the cohort to 5 different cities: Berlin, Paris, London, Shanghai and San Francisco. Its students thrive in cross-cultural environments. 

EMDIEL encourages the students to think critically and to step out of their comfort zone. The programme was a significant learning experience for Katharina. From pitching for the first time in front of a jury made of Silicon Valley tech experts to a project development phase in Shanghai, “it felt completely different, it was challenging and uncomfortable but that is exactly what I needed”, she says. ESCP Business School allowed Katharina to exercise and train for public speaking. The different seminars and workshops was highly enriching and allowed the cohort to build their network. The fast-pace program enabled an environment where ideas flourished.

An Entrepreneurial Project in the Midst of the Pandemic

After graduating from the EMDIEL programme, Katharina first worked on different entrepreneurial projects. Recently, she launched a new venture. Resilient Resident is a hardware tech startup focused on transforming rooftops and educate citizens on smart cities and their power – into a modular, escalade and adjustable structure to install on rooftops or almost everywhere. In Berlin, there are more than 40 million sqm of unused rooftops. At the same time, urbanisation is moving rapidly. In Katharina’s mind, this represented a significant business opportunity. It is the space that Resilient Resident is targeting for innovation. 

The entrepreneurial adventure began when Katharina met her co-founder Johannes before the first lockdown in March 2020. They immediately shared the same vision of design and tech innovation. Discussing vertical farming ideas led to brainstorming possibilities for smart city projects. Katharina shares that she saw the business opportunity, which was a skill she developed at ESCP, “The program allowed me to be quicker in finding new business models and test out the proof of concepts.” By bringing together different perspectives from the design or business, Katharina and Johannes created the business model of Resilient Resident. For the past six months, the journey has been a huge learning experience for them. When developing a hardware solution, raising funds and increasing public awareness to start the project quickly becomes the priority. 

Tackling Urban Challenges with Sustainability

During the pandemic, we also spend more time at home than ever. The goal of Resilient Resident is to make the cities and urban spaces more liveable. A smart city is not solely about adding more technology into people’s lives but rather about getting technology that makes a difference in one’s life. As Katharina shares: “A smart city is only as good as its smart citizens.” Raising awareness is another challenge, if individuals do not know about the solutions that exist, then the mindsets on sustainability living will not change. More people want to feel reconnected to nature. Yet, living in a city does not have to be a contradiction to this with urban gardens and ‘smart’ spaces. The aim is not to put more technologies into our lives, but rather to get technology to people and showing the sustainability potentials. 

Over the past year, awareness of the food supply chain is growing as well. Where do the products we consume come from? What is their impact? Studies have shown that many consumers want to grow their own vegetables and produce. A consumer study by EIT Food reported that European consumers changed their consumption habits during the COVID-19 crisis and that over a third (35%) said that “buying locally produced food has become more important to them” (EIT Food 2020). This represents a significant shift in consumer perception. Even with a willingness to grow local food production, the team found that the problem remains the lack of space, which Resilient Resilient tackles. 

Creating Industrial and Political Change

The urban challenge ties to an industry-level change. Real estate and wood are two key partners in the project, but they are also traditional and conventional industries. Disrupting such industries requires a lot of convincing work, but Katharina does not have any regrets. “If you want to build something that disrupts a market, there are a lot of people to convince but the response has been overwhelming, there is a lot of interest”, she explains. Moreover, green roofs have gained a lot of attention recently because of their positive ecological impact. The city of Berlin is working towards roof greening measures which can only support the cause of Resilient Resident.

What are the next steps for Resilient Resident as 2021 unfolds? To continue growing and as Katharina mentions during the end: “We don’t go conventional ways. The city needs to change, and so our business idea changed as well. That means, we’re thinking about an OpenSource version of our product. Giving away your idea and product for free seems radical, but it’s also just consequential.” The team aims to get new investments in the next months in funding to develop their offerings bringing together design, tech and business. They communicate to large audiences, to get more individuals, politicians and companies onboard and “get a seat at the table” of urban change. 

Stay a Second

One word to describe Resilient Resident: Accessibility. 

One word to describe your experience as an entrepreneur: Enthusiasm – you have to be energetic to resonate with your audience. Show that your project is something you are passionate about. 

One helpful resource: I am a data-driven person, so using open source data and other platforms where you can learn something but also don’t get overwhelmed. Put your priorities straight! 

One inspirational quote: Find your own content. It’s a life-long learning process, you have to be open to always learn as an entrepreneur. Deliver what you want to do and act upon your thoughts.

One piece of advice: Find the thing(s) that makes you get up in the morning, something that drives you. 

Resilient Resident is developing the next generation of innovative spaces for cities and citizens. Reach out to them on LinkedIn.