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In episode #13, Anna Nadeina talks with Katharina, Co-Founder & CEO at eco.mio, helping companies reach their climate targets while realizing significant savings in business travel.

Discovering the Problem and the Solution

Katharina Riederer, the co-founder and CEO of eco.mio, has an intriguing journey that led to the creation of her company. With a stint in the consulting world, Katharina experienced firsthand the disconnect between how people travel for business and for personal reasons.

During a due diligence project, Katharina observed her German colleagues opting to stay in Airbnbs instead of the typical Marriott hotels. The reason? A tax benefit that allowed them to pocket the difference between the Airbnb cost and the hotel rate. This revelation sparked Katharina’s curiosity and made her realize the vast gap between the way business and personal travel are approached.

Digging deeper, Katharina and her team made a crucial discovery – CO2 emissions and costs are correlated in 90% of cases. This insight became the foundation for eco.mio’s mission: to help companies reduce their carbon footprint while also realizing significant savings in business travel.


Challenges of Long Sales Cycles

Introducing a new solution in the business travel industry, however, is no easy feat. Katharina and her team faced the challenge of long sales cycles, with the fastest conversion taking around 3 months and most taking several months or even years.

One of the initial missteps was focusing too heavily on a single potential customer, rather than diversifying their approach. Katharina explains, “We were too close to the customer because we only saw this customer, we didn’t see the rest of the market to diversify it.” This led to a realization that they needed to take a more holistic view of the market and build a scalable solution.

Fortunately, the support of investors and the guidance of experienced advisors helped eco.mio navigate these challenges and transition from a customer-specific concept to a scalable product.


The Importance of Image and Sustainability

As eco.mio engages with potential customers, Katharina has observed that the primary driver for adoption is often the company’s image and the desire to be perceived as environmentally conscious. 

However, Katharina also recognizes that this dynamic is likely to shift as regulations around carbon emissions and sustainability become more stringent. Companies will be increasingly required to measure their carbon footprint and develop transition plans to meet their targets. In this evolving landscape, eco.mio’s solution becomes even more valuable in helping organizations achieve their sustainability goals.


Implementing Green Initiatives in Small Companies

While eco.mio’s initial focus has been on larger companies with over 1,000 employees and 5,000 flights per year, Katharina acknowledges the importance of engaging smaller organizations as well. She believes that in smaller companies, the leadership’s commitment to sustainability and the employees’ activism can have a significant impact.

Katharina suggests that smaller companies can start by implementing strict travel policies, such as prohibiting air travel on routes where a train alternative under 9 hours is available. She emphasizes the importance of leading by example, as employees are more likely to adopt sustainable practices if the leadership team is also committed to them.

Additionally, Katharina highlights the need for education and raising awareness, as many people may not fully understand the impact of their travel choices. By putting things into perspective, such as the significant difference between the carbon footprint of air travel and a vegan diet, eco.mio aims to help companies and their employees make more informed decisions.


Acquiring Customers Through Education

Educating both customers and users is a crucial aspect of eco.mio’s approach. While the sales cycle for larger companies can be lengthy, Katharina emphasizes the importance of staying close to potential customers, understanding their evolving needs, and providing them with the necessary information to make informed decisions.

By integrating educational content and social norms into the booking process, eco.mio aims to shape the perceived reality and influence the choices of business travelers, ultimately driving adoption of more sustainable practices.


The Value of Incubator Programs

Katharina’s experience with incubator programs has been invaluable in her entrepreneurial journey. She emphasizes the importance of peer learning, noting that having the support and guidance of founders who are slightly ahead in their own journeys has been instrumental in overcoming challenges and doubts.

She also highlights the benefits of building a female-focused network, as she has found that in these environments, there is a greater sense of vulnerability and openness to sharing both successes and failures, which facilitates meaningful learning.


Hacks for Greener Travel and Startup Success

Katharina shares some practical tips for those looking to travel more sustainably, such as opting for trains over planes, choosing lower-emission airlines, and considering the impact of seat class. She also emphasizes the importance of listening to one’s “gut feeling” when making decisions, rather than relying solely on rational analysis, especially when it comes to innovation and new ideas.

For startup founders, Katharina’s advice is to embrace the power of peer learning and build a strong support network, particularly with other founders who are slightly ahead in their journeys. She also encourages founders to be open to vulnerability and to share both their successes and failures, as this can lead to valuable insights and growth opportunities.


Head of Growth,