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Project Catalyst Entrepreneur Profile #5 – Dino Fitriza

Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle in the next couple weeks. This 2-week intensive workshop will allow them to further hone their business plans, meet prospective investors and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Both of Dino’s projects, Claps and Vertesac, work toward raising awareness of climate change and natural disasters, and encouraging people to modify their behaviors to improve our shared environment. A mobile photo sharing app for pictures and videos of the “real” impact of climate change, Claps aims to document and educate civilians about natural disasters. Meanwhile, Vertesac is a smart shopping bag system designed to track consumer use of reusable bags and offer discounts to users. Vertesac aims to reduce the excessive use of plastic bags through these economic incentives.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

I also write a series of books called Books of Light. I call the  genre of the book “Science Mythology” or “SciMyth.” Simply said, science mythology is a story based on scientific fact about some event or natural phenomenon. Imagine Terminator meets The Lord of the Rings. I also create game boards, and take pictures as photographer. My passions are technology, environment, and art. I like to think about the problems that we have in our society and the opportunities that our technology offer.

Dino Fitriza (3)Q: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

The idea of Vertesac started in October 2011. In my city, Bandung, Indonesia, like other big cities, there are big problems with excessive plastic bag usage. Campaigns that encourage people to stop using plastic bag or to pay for plastics or to use your own bag have risen  all over the world. But, I found out that, when consumers buy some products, they think about their own “economy” first, and “ecology” second. Customers will look for direct benefits or incentives such as a cheaper price, discount, bonus, etc. So, I thought why don’t we create a system where each time users bring reusable shopping bag, they will get direct economic incentives? And so, Vertesac was born.

Q: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program.

I can divide the people who have benefitted from this program into three categories. The first one, of course, are people all around the world who will keep a healthy environment with the reduction of plastic bags in circulation. The second are the customers who get better prices and discounts and the stores also reduce the cost of plastic or paper bags. Lastly, are the people who produce our reusable bags. Through the project, we have also created jobs. Our bags are made in Cimareme Village in Bandung by local women.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

Our main obstacle is that we’re short on cash. Sometimes we run out “Fuel of Cash” so we can’t produce more bags to expand our market and get more store connections at the levels we want. Some stores also want us to pay them to accept Vertesac program. We try to overcome this by bootstrapping, getting investment from family and friends and by winning some competitions for cash.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

We are looking for strategic partners that can help us with fundraising, so we can expand our impact on the market. We are also looking for mentors or investors that can bring Vertesac to the next level as a world class social venture.

We are very excited to have Dino Fitriza here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

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