57. Balance IT on being Planet Heroes with their co-founder Przemysław Pyziel

Przemek Pyziel

Przemek Pyziel

Planet Heroes

Transcript

Agata Solecka: 

Before we get to Planet Heroes, and where you are today, it's great to know a little bit of your background, a little bit of your professional career, up until this point, so can you tell us where you started and how you got to where you are?

Przemysław Pyziel:

Welcome, everyone. Starting about my career. It's a bit funny. I guess I represent employees of the new economy that we have now in the 21st century, because I made a complete change in my career a couple of times. So it's a good example that you can do that. And I started in the banking sector, in the investment banks, I was a dealer that also traded, and then I worked with the big clients, and so on. And then, during my vacation in Cuba, in one of the clubs in Havana, I met a Polish guy Krzysztof Wojewodzic, who is also an entrepreneur and we started a conversation and before the night was over, we decided that we should do something together. And I came back from vacation, I quit my job and we opened the first company. And I joined IT. I had like zero idea about IT, I just I just thought that you know, to have a software house or to run the software house must be something like much, much more interesting than working in a bank or see have the technology you have to project you have to you know, carry on the people and so on. So, it's just very exciting we opened the Escola Software House. And it was quite tough in the switch from banking to the private business, and especially to the sector that I didn't know, at all it was a bit challenging. And like, you know, year by year, I got experience and the entity goes pretty well. And after that, I opened another company and another company and I got to the point when I decided like with the group of my friends that it's the time to do something meaningful. Something that on the one hand can be fun but on the other hand can be scalable and so we can do something like, with the greater purpose, and we start, we started working on the project, at that time, doesn't have a name. So I wanted to use technology to motivate people for some cleanup actions to organize the group of friends, societies via the internet. This was something that we've been doing at the time. And with this idea and the presentation and some mock ups and so on I went to Nairobi, to the United Nations Environmental Program Forum. It was 2019 and the event wasn't about Planet Heroes, like, we invented the name like the morning before. And I was at one party and we spoke with some people from the United Nations. And they told us, you know, guys next morning, there is historically the first competition for green startups because of green startup initiatives, and there will be competition, and now the list is closed and so on. But, you know, the morning they called us and they said, like, yeah, you can be a part of this competition. So with a little bit of the hangover, we went to the United Nations campus, and there was a huge competition. And yeah, I was a bit surprised because there was like almost 2000 People at the room. We had five minutes to present the project. And like, half an hour right later, it was decided that we won. Yeah, it was something that we didn’t expect. And we came back to Poland. And he said, like, Okay

Agata Solecka

We did well!

Przemysław Pyziel

We did well! Like the project has got some potential. And as it was in the United Nations, at the very top level, we spoke with the CEO, but their CEO of IBM, and the prince of the Netherlands, and so on and everyone said- this is a great product. You have to do that. 

Agata Solecka

We only came up with this idea, like three days ago <laughter>

Przemysław Pyziel

And we came back to partners and guys, okay, so it's now time to start coding, right. The project went super fast, because we finished in six months, and the project was done in six months. And, and then we started and yeah, it was it was it was the story and you know, how the plan here was born.

Agata Solecka

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. But you planned this, obviously, and you knew where to go. And that's, that's crazy, though, because that means that the first edition of this competition organised by the United Nations was only in 2019. Is this an annual competition now going on?

Przemysław Pyziel

It's supposed to be but due to the COVID, the one in 2020 was cancelled. But the funny thing is that, you know, as we as we finished working on the project, they invited us for the integration of the project for the to the United Nations forum that took place in Canberra in Australia so it was also very nice experience because you know, went to the stage with the president of Estonia because they have the presidency at that time in the United Nations. And together we pushed the button saying, yea, the project goes live right now.

Agata Solecka

I'm really glad that you're talking about all of this because it shows how much potential there is in this area right?

Przemysław Pyziel 

On the other hand, you have now always people like when we started Planet Heroes, those voices in the crowd kept saying like, do you have competition? And I would say, not really, not on that scale, not in this particular area, and so on. So maybe markets don't need that? Maybe people don’t need your product? Your solution? And I would say, maybe we were just first you know?. And it was quite hard at the beginning to convince the people, to convince the users to convince the companies and so on. But it works. And the business model works. But it wasn’t easy at first.  

Agata Solecka

Yea, definitely not saying it's easy to be the first. Definitely not. But yeah, going back to our questions. My second question is about how spontaneous this idea of coming up with the startup was, and you kind of mentioned that already. So I'm just going to go back to the question that popped in my mind while you were speaking. So because there are many initiatives within green tech and sustainability and CSR, why cleaning up? Was there a specific situation in your lives that you chose, cleaning up as the area that you want to go for? Or was this just a choice of like, this will be easy to organize and convenient, like what made you decide to go for that?

Przemysław Pyziel 

This topic has always been especially important for me. I'm very sensitive to pollution like natural resources, or public spaces, and so on. And this is something that makes me constantly crazy when I see the trash in the public areas. And together with Adam, Monica, we often organized local cleanups. And then the thing that we also mention in interviews is that there's four of us and everyone has a different experience. I have been working in the banking sector, I was very fluent in these kinds of regulations, cash flow, and so on AML policy, Know Your Customer regulations, all that stuff, and what you have to do, what kind of regulation you have to meet to be allowed to transfer the money like via countries or between users and so on. Adam had a great experience in building web platforms. Monica's a UX designer and so on. So once we sat down, he said, okay, there's four of us, we all have the skills that, you know, if we make some of them, we can do something great. And it was the idea that, you know, taking together all of our experience and the capacity that we have, maybe we can do the project that you know, we found that can be fun. But it's changing something really great, really going bigger.

Agata Solecka

So all of your co-founders had really complementary skill sets, right? You had someone with the financial knowledge, you had someone with the design, the programming knowledge, the user experience, knowledge, probably marketing as well. So that's really great. That's something that I hear a lot in conversations with founders: without great co founders, you know, you will never have all of the skills needed. yourself. Right? Okay, so I still want to stick to Planet Heroes before we move on to maybe the landscape in Poland, and then maybe some conversations about your future, but I gave people a little bit of information about how the platform works, etc. But maybe you could give us some real life examples of some great projects that you did with Planet heroes, so that people can understand like how this how this works in real life,

Przemysław Pyziel 

So, the idea of the platform from the user's user perspective is quite simple. So, we invented or we built some pattern that you have to follow our new organizing the clean up events, means that you have to make a photo of like polluted places before before the cleanup event or after the cleanup event and then you have to show off that the trash is was disposed in the proper place and so on. And when you have this like photo documentation, you can add some description and the project can be published on the website. When the platform is published on the website. The project can be donated by users and here we go to the like one of the hardest parts that the project can be delayed by the users from all over the world. So currently, we are aiming to facilitate the transfer between users in 140 countries means that the user 100 come to some of the 440 countries can donate these are from from all over the world. And this is like the main idea of the platform. Behind that we have like more of it. So it means that we checked all the information above about the project. So we check the timeline of the pictures, to ensure that you know the picture before or before and after those after and so on, to avoid any scams. And the other important thing is that we collect all the data about the public places, and we use AI. And we use, in this particular case, the Amazon recognition technology to tag the producer and type of the trusses on the pictures. This means that on every single picture that come to us from from the project, we have the information about them when the project was made, about the location, about the type of trusses and if possible, like if the quality of picture was good enough about type of producers on that, that was on the picture. And we collect all the data, we aggregate them, and we try to find some trends and so on. So this is also one of the very, like, important features of the platform that if we get some like, really big scale, can can be very supportive to decide the pollution, especially in places like Africa, South Asia, and so on.

Agata Solecka

Okay, so this is something that's happening in the background that people don't necessarily know about. But the more I guess, projects and actions you have, the more data you have, right, and the more you can sort of feed this AI with information. And that's incredible. So that's something that you're that's happening in the background, you don't probably know yet what will be the outcome of but this is some valuable data that you're that you're assembling right?

Przemysław Pyziel  

Well, we have some quite nice outcomes that we see even now with the number of projects that we have, because currently, in 2021, so far we have over 1000 projects, organized on Publish via the platform. And, you know, considering that we have a COVID that does the OCT and so on. And and like, even though that 90% of this project wouldn't happen, if there were no if the platform wouldn't exist. So from our perspective, it's quite impressive. Yeah, but the real data, I guess, that we have, we have the 1000s of projects, so. So you will see, but as I mentioned, like we have the outcome, for example, we have, like some users in Cameroon, that publish the project on the weekly basis and on the weekly basis and clean up them and the plastic bottles from the river. And, you know, from our perspective, it's some Okay, so we see some trends that aren't at the end of this river, there is a problem with plastic bottles. So this is the kind of nice information for people from recycling facilities or recycling points and so on to consider, like putting them in the plastic being on whatever to support this. And this is kind of the data that hopefully will appear like much often with the higher number of data received via

Agata Solecka

Do you want to tell me about some of the biggest projects that happened on the platform, like biggest cleanups, are there any highlights that you would want to share with us?

Przemysław Pyziel  

There are a few types of cleanups that make me super happy. Like, starting from the beginning, one of my favorite ones, the project that took place in Zanzibar.We invited local schools in Zanzibar in the city of Jambiani. And together with like 800 to 1000 kids around the island we organized the huge cleanup of the whole Jambiani village. And, and it was, it was very special for a few reasons. Like, one of them is that I was there and I helped him to organize a class about pollution at the school. So it was something completely for the kids, nobody told them that you are not allowed to throw away the trash, and so on, it was something very new for them. And then we organized a huge cleanup. At the end, the children were invited to the local hotel, because the world in Zanzibar is kind of divided. So local children don't have access to the hotels that are in Zanzibar. And so most of the hotels in the village joined the clean up. So they allowed the kids to be invited to use the facilities, and they offered lunch for the kids. And it was something very new for the kids. And after that we have a football match on the beach. And at the end, we published the project and on the platform, and they collected two and a half 1000 euros, and we were able to buy the first computers, the schools. So I like everything and that very well. And this, this product shows how many stakeholders do you have this project at the very, very beginning and the most important, so you have the kids that were educated, you have the holders that benefits from this event because you know, locals change their attitude, they clean up the city, they starting to take care of the city where tourists come over. And the empty you have the school that received the computers. And they were financed by them mainly by the companies and users from Poland. So this is one of my favorite projects. And at the very, very end, we have the projects from Poland that I enjoy very well with for example, we have the ruler housewife clubs, you know, the divide this in the age of 60s. And they organize the cleanup events on a weekly or monthly basis. And you know, they publish on the platform and they receive the money to finance the local activities. And yeah, I like this kind of project very well, because it shows that you know, everyone can use the platform so dedicated to teenagers or like young PRP. So the 30s 40s. But even when you're 60 you can show. So social project to the society and everyone can benefit from.

Agata Solecka  

So the funds can be spent on whatever you want? 

Przemysław Pyziel  

Pretty much yes.The other thing about the donation is that, you know, donations normally goes to the owner of the product, there is like you to the regulations and the AML, anti money laundering policy and so on. There's always, there must always be one designated person that will receive a donation or, or institution or person, but there's always an owner of the project, and the money goes to the owner of the projects. But if you write, don't want to receive the donation from us, or anything that you're not 20 years old, don't change your life, and you really don't need it and you made the cleanup just to show your results to the other. You can tell us about it. Or we will donate to the NGOs chosen by yourself directly through the platform so we can do it. On your behalf.

Agata Solecka  

That's amazing. So what I'm hearing here is actually so many good things happening alongside this project is not just the cleaning part, but it's the community building. Right? Which is huge from what you're saying in these projects. Because you get all of these stakeholders involved in doing one thing together, but actually, the side effect of this action is building a sense of belonging and a sense of community and a sense of having an influence over you know our local area over our local whole ecosystem? And that's, that's, that's a beautiful thing, I think. 

Przemysław Pyziel

Yeah, I mean, the very first idea about Planet Heroes was to integrate the communities and to learn about the communities, you know,or to take care of the public spaces in the local areas. Because this is kind of a universal thing, this is not just a Polish thing, or that we don't treat the public spaces as ours, right? So it means that it belongs to everyone. So it means that it belongs to no one, right? And the very, like, first idea about the power of Heroes was how to use technology, how to motivate the people to start to think about public areas, but in a different way to change the attitude to the natural resources and so on. And, we found that one of the best ideas for that would be, of course, education, but on the other hand, to use the technology to build the local communities, because everyone needs a community to be part of the community. So you know, centuries ago, there was church. Now we have the group of friends we have like friends, on social media, and so on. But every one of us needs to belong to some group,

Agata Solecka

So from what I understood, the startup has been going on for about two years now. More or less, yes? So what are some of your conclusions from this time at Planet Heroes? Are you going to continue the way that Planet Heroes is now? Are you going to pivot into a specific direction? We've talked about a little bit of that before, like we started recording so I'm really interested in the future of planet heroes and what are your ideas for it next? 

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Przemek Pyziel

Przemek Pyziel

Planet Heroes

Before becoming a green tech entrepreneur, Przemek spent many years in the banking sector as a trader and AML specialist. He then moved on to the IT sector opening up a few companies, amongst others software house ESCOLA S.A. Currently the co-founder of Planet Heroes, the first global green co-funding platform.

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