“We wanted to find alternatives for monetising forests and quite soon realized that it’s not just Estonian forests that need saving — it’s all forests,” CEO and co-founder Merit Valdsalu describes the founding story of Single.Earth, one of Estonia’s most notable up-and-coming startups.
Nature is currently monetised as raw material, but that seems to be in the process of changing. Single.Earth offers landowners a new business model: to earn money from living trees. Valdsalu says that this is a resource we’ve been taking for granted — and it’s time to pay up. But how do we settle the bill?
“The key to protecting nature is financing,” Valdsalu says. With Single.Earth, this financing comes in the form of a MERIT token, which works as any other cryptocurrency. Using satellite imagery and data, Single.Earth looks at nature in real time and sees how much of any area of the world absorbs CO2 and retains biodiversity, which is then tokenised for ecological value. “For every 100 kg of CO2 sequestered in nature, we can create one token,” says Valdsalu.
Tokens can be used for trading and spending as any other currency, or as a way to finance nature protection. The amount of MERIT in circulation is always limited to how much nature can sustain at that point of time. That’s how this new financial system aims to cap our consumption and emissions with how much nature can sustain.
“We wanted to create an incentive for landowners to protect their land. Single.Earth continually monitors these areas via satellite, and as long as the land remains intact, landowners will continue to receive MERIT tokens,” explains Valdsalu.
Unicorn launchpad Estonia
The idea for Single.Earth was developed and nurtured in Estonia’s close-knit startup community, known globally as a unicorn breeding ground. This high concentration of unicorn startups can be attributed to the fact that Estonia’s startup ecosystem is built around wanting to give back, which is key to helping new generations of startups. “People have helped me and I want to help others as well. It’s a very strong community culture to have,” says Valdsalu. “We are also very lucky to live in a small country where it’s possible to have close relationships between big unicorn founders and starting founders.”
Unicorn59, where Valdsalu’s Single.Earth was chosen as one of the country’s potential next unicorn companies, highlights startups with the kind of lasting power that creates billion-dollar companies. But, perhaps not surprisingly, success is not all about valuation for Single.Earth. For Valdsalu, her company will have reached its goal when MERIT truly takes off as a currency and businesses accept it. “It’s then that we can define ourselves as a unicorn,” says Valsalu. “Because that’s where the beauty of the system comes to life. And that’s also where we will begin to scale like crazy.”
Nature as the base of the economy
As more and more consumers and businesses start using Single.Earth, Valdsalu believes the impact will be big: “We will actually start saving nature with every transaction — nature becomes the base of an economy, not just a source of raw material.”
Valdsalu’s vision for Single.Earth is to be the first cryptocurrency businesses start accepting because of the impact it’s creating. “We don’t want to have just any cryptocurrency, but something that can potentially change the world.” She knows that this will not happen overnight — but it’s not a bad goal to keep working towards.
Are you ready to help build Estonia’s next unicorn? If you believe in nature-backed economies and want to invest in Single.Earth or another Estonian startup, get in touch with us via e-Consulting. We’ll schedule you an appointment with one of our investment advisors, who are happy to help you on your journey to building a unicorn.