“The truth is: there is a lot of work”


With the young ClimateTech Planted, founded in 2021, companies can become climate savers. In an interview, Planted founder Cindy Schüller talks about subscription models, Cologne’s start-up hub and wind.

The Cologne startup sown , which was founded in 2021 by Jan Borchert, Heinrich Rauh, Cindy Schüller and Wilhelm Hammes, wants to “give its customers the opportunity to actively do something about global warming.” To this end, the company plants mixed forests and thus offsets CO2 emissions. Neoteq ventures, Smart Infrastructure Ventures, Rivus Capital and angel investors such as Julius Göllner, Jochen Berger and Friedrich Neumann recently invested 1 million euros in the new company.

In an interview with deutsche-startups.de, Planted founder Cindy Schüller talks about subscription models, the new company’s pivot and wind.

How would you explain Planted to your grandmother?
We enable companies to become active climate saviors quickly and easily. With the help of our transparent subscription model, the entire workforce can contribute to a planet fit for grandchildren. To do this, we calculate the average CO2 footprint of employees based on their travel emissions. We then offset the emissions produced through global climate protection projects. Under the guidance of in-house climate ranger and co-founder Jan Borchert, we also plant climate-resilient trees for each team member. This is how new company forests are created all over Germany!

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome so far?
Our axis! In December we decided to shift our focus from individuals to companies – this is where we see the most leverage. Our mission remains to fight the climate crisis and this is only possible if everyone, individuals and companies, come together. We see that companies are willing to actively take responsibility and get involved. This gives us hope for a green future.

Where is Planted currently, what numbers, facts and facts can you share with us?
Still at the beginning – and yet already in the fast lane: Within a year, Planted has won the trust of more than 1,000 climate-positive employees from more than 100 major companies such as Gerry Weber, XtraFit, Vivawest, MegaBad or Electronic Sports League. We were able to plant over 100,000 climate-resilient trees across Germany and implement seven global climate protection projects. Briefly for classification: With this we were able to offset the CO emissions of more than 60,000 flights between Cologne and Barcelona. We are now a team of 10 and working steadily on the next step: our own carbonization software. This makes climate protection even more accessible for companies and even more playful for their employees. Through individual challenges, can they actively produce CO? to reduce. Goal: net zero emissions! The fact that we recently received the Founder’s Award 2022 in May gives us all extra motivation and is very encouraging.

You just managed to collect 1 million euros. How did you get in touch with your investors?
To be honest, it’s always easy to imagine from the outside. Especially now that green tech startups are very popular. The truth is, it takes a lot of work. What definitely helped was winning the Climate Founder Accelerator (2021) and participating in the SpinLab HHL Accelerator program in Leipzig. As a result, we became better known and were able to make good contacts in the VC scene. The private network that each of us has diligently maintained for years is also always important.

What general advice would you give other founders?
Concentrate! It’s tempting to take chances here and there, but never lose sight of the end goal. Anything that distracts you and takes up too much time should be cut out.

Where will Planted be in a year?
Our decarbonisation software should be built in the summer of 2023. Here we want to provide real added value for ‘business environmental protection’ – including through local climate protection measures such as reforestation of climate-stable mixed forests in Germany. Every employee must play an active role and take responsibility for a sustainable tomorrow. Our software will also support companies in addressing ESG (“Environment, Social, Governance”). Companies must improve their ESG activities and report transparently. With us by their side, they will be able to do this even more easily and more visibly.

Let’s talk about the location of Cologne. When it comes to startups in Germany, the focus is immediately on Berlin. What about Cologne as a launch location?
Good question. Berlin often sees itself as the center of the startup world, which is certainly justified in many ways – a lot of very good talent is based in Berlin. Startups are very present and, above all, more in the focus of VCs, who are also represented there more. Pros of Cologne: Here you can fly under the radar for a certain amount of time. You develop ideas, take enough time to process, and you don’t have to break something fast to be first to market. That way you can eliminate early mistakes without getting too winded about them.

What is easier in Cologne than in the rest of the republic?
Honestly, I can’t think of much off the top of my head. Except that whoever does it in Cologne has definitely done everything right. Cologne doesn’t exactly see itself as a budding metropolis, which is a shame and scalable given the potential and potential. But Cologne’s way of dealing freely and openly with each other will certainly help us.

At the end you have three wishes: What would you like for Cologne as a start-up location?
First: Our startup scene should continue to grow and thrive. I wish a lively exchange between the startups! The second wish goes to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia: faster and easier funding for founders! We are the lucky ones who were able to look forward to the seed grant. The scholarship is one of the few ways to receive grants. However, it took more than a year after applying for the grant. Too long, especially in the startup phase. In East Germany, for example, there are much more attractive subsidies. My third wish is of a personal nature: I recently went to events in Berlin organized by or for female founders. I have met so many fascinating and inspiring women. For many women, networking is often counterintuitive and I had to learn that too. We need to reach out to each other even more, support each other and pull each other up. I wish we had more networking events like this in Cologne. To actively empower women and make them visible.

Start in Cologne – #Koelnbusiness

In our focus on Cologne, we take a look at the startup ecosystem in the Rhine metropolis. What are the conditions for founders there, what about investments and which startups are making a name for themselves? More than 550 start-ups have now made Cologne their base. With many potential investors, co-working spaces, trade shows and networking events, Cologne offers an exciting environment for new companies. This section is supported by the economic development KölnBusiness. #Koelnbusiness on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Cologne business

Photo (above): Planted

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