2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: junee, London Business School


London Business School

Website: junee.co

Industry: Sustainability

Founding Student Name(s): Caroline Williams & Mary Liu

Brief Description of Solution: junee is building a borrow-and-return system of reusable takeaway packaging that employees can use for their workday lunch. Companies pay and partner with junee as a sustainability perk for employees. Employees can borrow junee bowls for free from local restaurant partners and return them in conveniently located return points in their office. junee collects used bowls from offices, cleans them, and delivers them back to restaurants for reuse.

Funding Dollars: Currently fundraising £250k pre-seed

What led you to launch this venture? We’re friends from the same Stream who bonded over sharing sustainable living tips. Over countless lunches we ate on campus, we discovered an interesting phenomenon – we were willing to spend extra on sustainable products like shampoo bars and bamboo kitchen rolls, but we never took advantage of the bring-your-own container discount offered by the LBS canteen. Even on a student budget, we couldn’t be ‘paid’ to be more sustainable.

We saw our friends were increasingly interested in adopting sustainable habits, but finding it difficult to navigate a system that wasn’t designed for anything other than single-use. We thought that Mary’s experience in scaling the food logistics network at Hellofresh and Caroline’s experience in promoting green-behaviour in the office setting was the right fit to solve this challenge.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We’ve launched our pilot in June 2021 in Shoreditch, London with a company partner and a handful of restaurants. You can imagine this was incredibly difficult to set up during a time when COVID created huge uncertainty for everyone. To do this, we had to build & release an iOS/Android app, sign on all parties, procure bowls, and sell into local restaurants all within the span of four months when England was coming in/out of lockdown.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The idea for junee came together through a series of Entrepreneurship Club events and courses. The original idea came from the E-Club Hack-a-thon event, validated through the Entrepreneurship Summer School, and then tested with our fellow students and support of Foodie Club!

Having two years to explore different career options, including for Caroline, internships in Circular Economy startups and for Mary, internships in Product Management, helped to shape our entrepreneurial journey.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? We’re both big fans of the “How I Built This” and “Startup” podcasts. We’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from the early struggles of Gimlet founder Alex Blumberg, especially how his company was built in just the past decade! It’s been motivational to see that eve hyper-successful companies struggle with the same issues like fumbling through a pitch. This keeps us grounded.

Fellow LBS founders have also been motivational. Mary did her internship with LBS ’16 grad Lyz Swanton’s company, Feedr, shortly after their acquisition in March 2020, which took these mythical founder stories and applied it to the context of a real person’s journey from post-MBA to now.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? There have been several classes, including Entrepreneurship Summer School and New Venture Development, which pushed us to conduct our first user interviews, build our first business plan, and assemble our first pitch deck. One course in particular helped us learn about another critical component of starting a company: raising money. Financing the Entrepreneurial Business taught by Professors Alemany and Dushnitsky helped us learn there’s no one “right” way to go about funding our idea. Understanding the benefits and tradeoffs of each type of investor is important, and it certainly helped us enter our first term-sheet negotiation with our eyes open.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Jeff Skinner, who runs the Entrepreneurship Summer School, was an early supporter of the junee idea. He pushed us to look beyond our own frame-of-reference to truly test some critical concepts. Jeff’s coaching helped us abandon some early features of junee, including Click & Collect ordering and requiring restaurants to wash bowls themselves, based on interviews conducted during ESS. Jeff continued to provide support to us throughout our second year through the Launchpad & Booster programmes.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? To create a world where you’ll someday look back and say, “Isn’t it crazy we used to throw things away after just one use?”

We want to change the way the world looks at disposable, one-time-use only items. We know that to do this, we’ll have to make it easy and enjoyable to choose a reusable option. This starts with your workday lunch, but the possibilities are limitless.


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