Todor is the CTO of Goodbag, an impact startup from the first cohort of Maze X.
Can you tell us who you are and a little bit about your background?
I’m Todor, CTO at Goodbag. My background is in computer science, usability engineering and entrepreneurship and innovation. Our company, Goodbag, is based in Vienna, Austria. Goodbag is a smart reusable shopping bag that rewards people for protecting the environment. Every time you go shopping, you bring your own Goodbag to the store, you can scan it into the Goodbag app, and then you can receive discounts, or you can support social projects, such as planting trees, or fishing plastic out of the ocean.
How did you meet Chris, your co-founder?
It’s a funny story. Chris and I met on Facebook about four years ago. He asked, randomly, in one of the startup groups, for someone with experience in online cash registers. My startup back then offered to digital menus for restaurants, so I was already programming cash registers. Chris approached me, and we got to talk about this idea of rewarding people for bringing their own bag to the store. We then came up with a really cool concept, where we have an NFC chip integrated into each bag, and you can go and scan the chip with your phone.
How did Chris come up with the idea? In this case, he already had the idea, and then you joined, right?
Yes, he already had the concept figured out, and he just needed the technical solution to the problem. There was a platform called ‘be good’ that rewarded people just for doing sustainable things. This would be micro-actions, such as: bringing your own bag to the store; filling out your bottle of water every day, instead of buying a new one; using public transportation or your bike instead of using your car, etc. People would get some coins, which they could use to either donate to social projects or get goodies for that. The curious thing about this is that people actually liked the task of bringing their own bag to the store. Back then, there were a lot of plastic bags, especially in Austria. You could still buy or get plastic bags in the shops. This was a major issue. And it still is in a lot of countries. We saw that people were willing to do something against it by changing their behaviour. So, we decided to gamify that whole experience in a way that once you bring your bag, you can actually interact with it. Now, It’s a tangible interface. It’s a device that you can use, you can hold it in your hand, and you can scan it with your bag. It creates a more adventurous experience for the people that go shopping.
Why does Goodbag matter?
Goodbag matters because it supports people and influences them in making better decisions, not just in everyday life but regarding sustainability, and shopping.
The major part about Goodbag is that each Goodbag plants a tree. So, just by buying the Goodbag, you get to plant a tree in Zambia, and you get to support social projects in Zambia, with the local population. Planting trees is the most efficient way of combating climate change and trying to absorb CO₂ from our planet Earth. On the other hand, we also wanted to create a network of more sustainable shops that is very sustainable, and we want to make a positive impact on our environment and Earth. In a way, we’re creating a community with people that are very likeminded and want to do something good, not just for the environment, but also for our society.
Do you think humans buy rationally?
That is a great question. My co-founder, Chris, who’s actually a behavioural economist, is very interested in the way people make decisions, especially when shopping or when trying to make decisions that would somehow influence their experience. What we want to do with Goodbag is to create a more positive experience. I tend to think that, in a way, people can be very rational when it comes to shopping decisions or to buying stuff. But the good thing about humans for better or worse is that we are emotional. And we are full of emotions. I think that on a deeper level, we need to think about not only how our brains work, but how our hearts can make better decisions. We want to influence people to do that as well.
Why did you apply to Maze X?
It was a very crucial decision. Chris, and I had already met one of the team members from Maze X, António, last year. We were amazed by the progress that Portugal, especially Lisbon, had achieved in terms of the startup ecosystem and in terms of sustainability. These areas are not as developed in other countries, as they are here in Portugal. It was very obvious that Lisbon is going to be the prominent hub, in Europe, for this type of ventures. It was an easy decision for us because Maze X unlocks a lot of potential and a lot of possibilities. Not just to seek social impact ventures or funds or expertise, but also because it surrounds you with other people that are very likeminded. We ended up having an acceleration experience where people just have the same goal. It is very inspiring. On top of that, Lisbon is a great city to live and people are very friendly.
What were the three challenges you wanted to tackle throughout Maze X?
There are always challenges when you’re trying to figure things out as a startup. We already have a product-market fit, so, for us, the biggest challenge is to scale our product up. We are already very prominent in Austria, in the Austrian market, and we want to see if we can expand to other cities throughout Europe. Lisbon was just the perfect opportunity for that.
Another challenge that we faced was creating a better remote working culture. Since we’re travelling a lot, and we’re not based in one area, we need to be able to coordinate and have very good asynchronous communication. I think this was a challenge at first, but it turned out to be a really good learning and an excellent experience.
Another challenge was publishing the Goodbag app and acquiring new customers here in Lisbon. There are a few market differences, they are subtle, but we can now see that scaling the project will not be as universal as we thought it would be initially. There are a lot of regional aspects that we will need to consider. I believe that this is one of the great challenges to have in a growing startup.
Which startup surprised you the most in the last year?
Something that really inspired me as a startup founder, not necessarily the last year, but for a while already, is Rimac Automobili. It all started with a guy who built an electric car in his garage. Today it is a large company producing electric supercars. I’m just amazed every time I hear about it. How a guy just tweaking something in his garage could create this really cool startup that innovates even further.
Another thing that really inspires me are the startups here at Maze X. Specifically, in terms of the traction that they’re getting and the way, they’re inspiring other people. It is a really good circle to be in. One where you, in a way, get to be a part of their success as well. This inspires you to, also, do your stuff.
Where do you find wisdom?
I’m not going to tell you that I meditate every day, or that I do yoga and stuff like that. I usually just like to read a lot. Sometimes I just like to be my introverted self and just read a lot and reflect on what has happened in the past months. I try to self-reflect a lot. I think that wisdom is not something you can seek. I think it is something that you can gain over the years or with a lot of experience. Something that helps me is when we must solve a really big problem. In these cases, you not only reflect on what you have experienced before and what kind of challenges you faced back then, but it also makes you stronger and more experienced. I guess this is how wisdom is conquered. Ask me again in 10 years. I might be able to answer you more precisely. Or I will probably still be seeking it.
Maze X was conceived and initiated by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations and MAZE, with the law firm PLMJ joining as a founding corporate member and BNP Paribas, Hospital da Luz Learning Health, Casa do Impacto as partners.