Costa Rican startup NeutralFlight becomes the first Bridge Fellow, receiving $50K USD

Could we be travelling carbon neutral in the near future? We catch up with first Bridge Fellowship recipient Juan Claudio De Oliva Maya as he tells us how Costa Rican startup NeutralFlight is taking on climate change.

If you haven’t heard, we’ve got some news. As you may know, finding funding can be tough for a business in the early stages. 

That’s why we are proud to announce the very first Bridge Fellowship promoted by the PES Latam Alliance which will offer financial support of 50,000 USD to 11 social entrepreneurs who have gone through one of our programs.

Today, we’d like to introduce to you the very first fellow to be selected: Juan Claudio De Oliva Maya, CEO and founder at startup NeutralFlight, who we first met through our The Leap: Tech with Purpose cohort. 

This Costa Rican startup is tackling one of the most wide-spread, systemic challenges our society faces: climate change. How? Through specialized blockchain technology that allows passengers to compensate the carbon emissions they generate whilst flying. 

Although reducing number of flights themselves is the most impactful thing we can do for the planet, NeutralFlight is an innovative alternative which is helping to compensate the negative effect flying has on climate change.

Founder Juan Claudio says he had “the ambitious objective to approach climate change in this way since the aviation industries makes up 3% of global CO2 emissions. For one single industry that’s a big impact. Also, at high altitudes the effect of these emissions is more significant – actually- it’s double.”

The project is part of the Compensation and Reduction of International Aviation Emissions Scheme (CORSIA) and aims to use reliable methodologies to contribute to high-impact initiatives whilst also allowing users to be rewarded for their environmental contribution with discounts in sustainable businesses under the new concept of ecomiles developed by the startup itself.

Through this initiative, NeutralFlight is looking to help passengers become co-responsible for the compensation actions required for a CO2 neutral flight, contributing to projects that in addition to mitigating climate change generate impact by benefiting low-income communities, and rewarding the actions of the conscious traveler.

Behind the technology

At this point you’re probably curious about how exactly the technology works. As complex as the technology may be, NeutralFlight have managed to keep the process for each passenger pretty simple. Using the NeutralFlight platform, the user enters information about their flight and, using a concise algorithm, the system measures the footprint of that user’s air travel and gives the option to select a project of interest to offset their emissions. 

Once the user selects the project they’d like to contribute to, they make the payment – it’s usually around less than 5 USD to offset a journey’s footprint.

As part of this process, the platform generates a certificate for the offsetting of the passenger’s emissions during air travel, either for business or tourism purposes. And to top it off, the platform also offers the possibility of tracing the offsets and granting the environmental benefit to the airlines that are part of the CORSIA program in exchange for ecomiles.

Meet the founder

Juan Claudio De Oliva Maya, the founder behind NeutralFlight, is no stranger to entrepreneurship scene. Back in 2011, he founded GreenLook® and later GreenCloud®, a web platform that enables an organization to register, measure, monitor, make decisions, and share the quality of its Carbon Neutral strategy more efficiently.

Despite this success, Juan Claudio’s decision to pursue a career in entrepreneurship was not an easy one. Having grown up in Bolivia with his family, all of whom are fifth generation farmers, it took some courage to break away from the tradition. 

However, Juan says that after studying at the EARTH university focused on scientific and technological education, ethical entrepreneurship and strong socio-environmental commitment he knew that he had a different mission to follow.

Now, as a true pioneer of climate change technology, It’s not surprising that he’s won various prizes with the innovative project. At the end of 2014, the GreenCloud® software was recognized as the greatest environmental innovation of Costa Rica in the PROCOMER 2014 BTM Awards and was also awarded with a Merit WITSA for the global reach of the technological solution.

A few years later and the company is now operating in 22 countries. You can learn more about their mission in this CCN in Spanish report.

Deeper into the mission

Juan Claudio knew he wanted to create a project to give technical support to organizations looking to measure their emissions, to take actions to reduce that impact and finally compensate what’s they’re unable to reduce through external projects.

However, Neutral Flight isn’t only big on reducing passenger’s carbon footprints themselves but spreading awareness about individual and collective responsibility when it comes to climate. 

As Juan Claudio says: “we don’t just want to be a tool that measures carbon footprint with blockchain technology, generates a certificate and then that’s it… we actually want to help our users understand the importance of flighting climate change”.

It’s because of this that he says his goal is not just to present a solution, but to build a community aligned around a mission for the reduction of carbon emissions. Creating ecomiles, the reward scheme to link airlines, passengers and local retailers has been a big part of this.

Looking to the Future

Being one of the industries most affected by the Covid-19, the startup’s momentum has been slowed by the pandemic. However, Juan Claudio is optimistic that NeutralFlight has a bright future. 

Having recently been selected as a Bridge fellow, the team say they have a clear plan on how they want to use the money – both to improve the technologies behind NeutralFlight and beginning to promote the business and test the market for ecomiles.

He says the pandemic has helped the company to rethink a new focus, hoping to start by targeting a B2B market. They’re planning to begin opperations in April by creating an API for the software and making user-friendly changes to the platform.

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If you didn’t know, we’re on a mission to democratize access to entrepreneurship education. We support early-stage entrepreneurs in developing the businesses our society needs through innovation and entrepreneurship programs running across over 70 countries.

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