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Where they are now: An interview with former SNI Hackathon runner-up team ORGO

Background: ORGO was a runner-up team in SNI’s De Ceuvel Hackathon held earlier in February 2022. The ORGO mission, born during the hackathon, is to regenerate the planet by gamifying land stewardship and enabling decentralized governance of community assets. With the ORGO app, volunteers can find community organizations with pending ecological assignments and earn rewards by completing tasks, while beneficiaries can gain insight from the data collected. 

What has the ORGO team been up to since the SNI x De Ceuvel Hackathon earlier this year in February?

Our team has grown so much both professionally and personally since the SNI x De Ceuvel Hackathon. Our mission has stayed the same, but how we're going to scale that mission to the world has adjusted over the last seven months. We have been figuring out how we fit into the broader Web3 DAO ecosystem and ORGO’s identity as a Certified B Corp.

Since February, one of the first things that we pursued to finish our work in the hackathon was to join SNI’s Germinators Program supported by Unique Network. Throughout this program, we continued to refine our concept and get feedback from the SNI team and their partners. At the end of the Geminators Program in May, we launched our first pilot project in Amsterdam at De Ceuvel, a local sustainability park, as part of the SNI’s first public event, the Experimental Zone. Two members of our team, Jolly and Joe, were there to present the working prototype to 1,000+ community members during the event.

Since SNI’s Experimental Zone, we have been busy onboarding additional communities, as well as participating in and winning three other hackathons. Our network of ORGO-affiliated blockchain and Web3 projects has grown exponentially. We also brought on two additional members to our team to focus on product management and user research.

Has ORGO participated in any other hackathons or incubators since February?

To date, we have raised over $20,000 between all of our hackathon winnings, private donations, and team self-funding to grow ORGO. We have been recognized in three additional hackathons since SNI. First, we won second place in April at the ReFI DAO NFT Hackathon for our golem NFT concept, which we also presented at SNI’s Experimental Zone. Then, in June we won second place in the Vattenfall Fossil Free Future Hackathon for the ORGO app’s use case to incentivize KLM Cargo employees to volunteer. Most recently, we won first place at the Tezos Web3 for Arts and Culture Hackathon, where we pitched ORGO for community engagement at cultural institutions. Throughout all of these experiences and triumphs, we have been building the ORGO product and growing as entrepreneurs. 

In August, we graduated from the first cohort of the Faba Advisors pre-seed accelerator. As of today, we are midway through an incubator program with Starter Studio in Orlando, Florida. Participating in these incubator programs has given us additional mentorship opportunities with executive teams to prepare us for approaching future investors for pre-seed funding.

What kind of partnerships and pilot projects have you achieved through these hackathons and accelerator programs?

During SNI’s hackathon, we created meaningful partnerships with SNI’s tech partners, such as SNI itself, Unique Network, and KILT Protocol. KILT Protocol’s blockchain plays a core role in what ORGO is developing, as the technology we are developing uses KILT credentials to verify on-the-ground activity.

In terms of additional pilot projects, we have partnered with IDEO, whom we met through the Vattenfall Fossil Free Future Hackathon. IDEO is currently working on a tree planting project in Brazil and they will deploy ORGO to help with data collection efforts and on-the-ground verification of tasks including: tree installation and ongoing monitoring, soil sampling, installation of capital improvements, and biodiversity tracking and conservation efforts for local leopards and monkeys.

We have also partnered with Little Growers, a local community garden in Melbourne, Florida, to use the ORGO app for soil and groundwater testing of toxic chemicals. Plans are underway to also use the app for the maintenance and installation of a community garden food project in low-income food desert neighborhoods.

A third pilot we have been working on is the Permaculture Association of the Northeast (PAN). We are providing data collection and verification of landscape installations as part of PAN’s Unlawnful campaign to convert lawns into ecological space.

Other early-stage pilot projects include Lala Gardens, Basin DAO, Thrive Lot, a national regenerative design and landscape company, and Regen Network, where we hope to pilot eco-credits on their network with two of their existing communities.

Also, between Avano, dMeter, and the ReFi DAO Measuring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) circle, ORGO belongs to a group that is making big moves. ORGO’s competitive advantage over other MRV technologies is our use of mobile devices to capture and record data and manage volunteers. The groups we are working with deploy IOT sensors, air and climate monitoring sensors, flying and underwater drones, as well as satellites, LIDAR, and other remote sensing technologies. We are one piece of this growing stack of decentralized MRV technologies.

Can you talk about the pivot from what you presented in February versus what you offer now? 

For SNI’s hackathon in February, our team participated under the name “Public Land Protocol (PLP).” At the time, our team consisted of both staff members and friends with relevant expertise. We came together to tackle SNI's posed ecological challenges from De Ceuvel with a unique problem-specific solution. After pitching our work, we were announced as a runner-up award-winning team. After we received validation from SNI and other external partners, we committed to continuing the ORGO project beyond the hackathon. After juggling both PLP and ORGO for a few months, we ultimately decided to focus all our effort on building the ORGO app.

Our second pivot was building an app. During SNI’s hackathon, we developed an app concept for community non-profits and their network of volunteers. Since then, we have pivoted towards the donors, sponsors, foundations, and ESG investors who are financing these non-profit projects. Our main customer is no longer the non-profit, but the person(s) who is funding the work of these non-profits. We are focusing on engaging responsible corporations funding regenerative projects and connecting them to non-profits that are making an impact on the ground. The sponsor is now our primary customer. We are delivering end-to-end storytelling using blockchain credentials where sponsors can have an additional layer of trust that their funds are going towards the dedicated cause. Overall, we seek to save time and money to find, fund, and verify non-profit impact and to avoid directing funds towards excessive executive salaries, fundraising, and fraud. 

What challenges are you currently facing and which hurdles have you overcome along ORGO’s journey?

The greatest draw of the Web3 space is the promise of decentralization and collective ownership. However, the flip side of being decentralized and open is the time-old challenge of coordination. Our team has faced several challenges in turning a concept into a company and this has spurred many improvements to our team and business model. For example, we had to find outside developers because the team that we formed for SNI’s hackathon did not have the technical expertise to achieve what we were trying to build. This being said, we have done a wonderful job of navigating these difficulties and now have a resilient team structure for ourselves.

We currently have a number of open positions to join our team. We are organized around core departments that each have a lead and different teams. As of today, we are working toward raising pre-seed funding to grow our team this year and in 2023.

How has the ORGO app itself grown and changed since the hackathon?

ORGO all started with a successful PowerPoint presentation in February. Since then, we have iterated further and built a working prototype. This prototype is now able to take photos and capture field data, as well as list out the tasks and priorities of our partner non-profits.

We’ve also been working on conducting user testing and working to address the identified bugs. As a result of this testing, for example, we now have a new camera integration to make it as easy as possible for users to take photos. We have also added a map where users can find local volunteer opportunities. A submission template creator allowing data collectors and sponsors to define new methodologies for field data collection has also been added.

The app also now has a notification center, where volunteers can see recent available activities, the status of their submissions, and their ranking on a leaderboard. Volunteers can also now export and share their approved credentials on Facebook and LinkedIn.

A white-label product feature for our partner communities has also been developed. Communities can now launch ORGO under their own website and issue their own credentials, defining their own tasks, video uploads, and types of data inputs they can create a methodology around.

Soon, ORGO credentials will be issued on the KILT blockchain. The next item on our roadmap is to launch a sponsorship marketplace, tying real funds to the credentials that are created on the ORGO app. Sustainability-minded individuals and corporations will be able to purchase impact credentials and the funds will go directly to the people on the ground. We are also adding new privacy settings to give control to the users on how their credentials are viewed and shared. 

What are your plans for the SNI x Kenya Wildlife Trust Hackathon?

This October-November, the ORGO team is excited to use our fully functional app to support predator and conservation efforts in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve with a focus on ongoing checkups and online health. So for example, counting the number of lions going out and checking lion injuries. We believe there will be a use for mobile device photo capture and text response for those efforts. What if we could create an NFT for each existing lion that updates dynamically to show if the animal is healthy or in danger? Such examples mark excellent use cases for the ORGO app.

Some of the questions we look forward to exploring during this program are how do these individual moments with data collected, these individual credentials that we create, turn into a single dynamic NFT? How can NFTs incorporate live data? The ORGO team believes there are many opportunities to tackle the outlined challenges and is looking forward to meeting other participating teams working on similar problems who can help our team understand the best ways to apply ORGO’s functionality.


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