In Sønderborg, we know that young people are our future, which is why we prioritise them and their activities. The first ever Tilting-at-the-Ring Festival Youth Lunch was a great success, with 850 children from Sønderborg – both local residents and those from other towns. Watch the video from the 2023 Youth Lunch in Sønderborg here.
WeUse is a startup company that originates from Emil Busch’s time as a student at SDU Sønderborg. The WeUse app allows you to share everything from tools to board games with your colleagues in a closed community. There’s no end to what you can share – whatever you have lying around in your attic, cellar or workshop. Today, the Sønderborg company can see great potential for global expansion.
We are already familiar with the concept of the sharing economy from initiatives such as GoMore and Too Good To Go. WeUse facilitates the lending and renting of personal belongings among colleagues, thus lowering the carbon footprint while helping companies create a more sustainable purpose. Emil Busch, founder of WeUse, explains that it can also help us to help each other and the climate.
“You need a pressure washer, so you go to Jem&Fix and buy the discount version. You know that quality comes at a price and that this is a project you are unlikely to repeat. Meanwhile, your colleague’s Nilfisk pressure washer has been gathering dust in their garage for the last three years. WeUse does away with that use-and-throw-away culture. In Denmark, we are number one when it comes to many great areas and products, but we’re also number one in the world when it comes to the highest excess consumption per capita. WeUse enables us to help each other while doing something positive for the environment,” says Emil Busch.
The WeUse app allows you to set up all those belongings you are willing to let others borrow or rent. The app focuses on closed communities for a reason. In Emil’s own thesis from the Engineering, Innovation and Business programme from SDU Sønderborg, he investigated what makes people want to share. The results showed that 92% of people want to share their belongings with others, yet only 2% actually do so. This is because many people don’t feel comfortable sharing their belongings with someone they don’t know.
WeUse has a solution for that. By sharing through their app, colleagues can meet, hand over the item and with a simple swipe – similar to MobilePay, a contract is set up to document the rental. Through their home contents insurance, the owner now has 30 days of insurance in case the colleague accidentally breaks the borrowed item.
“My Master’s thesis showed that having a basic relationship with others increases willingness to share by 60%. WeUse is the only platform in the world that focuses on closed communities. But it has taken a long time – the app development alone took us two and a half years. In September 2022, we completely changed our focus from housing associations to businesses. Housing associations were difficult to get off the ground. Even though we contacted several large housing organisations, the reality is that people are more focused on being a good colleague than being the best neighbour,” says Emil.
Interest in their project has already attracted attention and WeUse has also been recognised by Innovation Fund Denmark. With an Innofounder, the start-up has a secure and solid foundation for the challenging first years of entrepreneurial life. The Innofounder is an investment in promising new solutions that have the potential to create growth and employment in Denmark, and that also contribute to solving some of society’s challenges.
Born or made
Emil Busch has always been interested in solving life’s challenges, big or small. Today, WeUse is gaining ground as a real benefit to society, but back at HTX in Kolding, Emil put his energy into inventions that improved the balance in our daily lives. Emil has since sold and earned either money or experience from the inventions.
“My parents both come from a conservative industry; my mum is an accountant and my dad has a background in banking. I was a creative child and often played with LEGO. And my favourite character is Gyro Gearloose from Donald Duck. If I thought I had too many toys, I would pull out a table and a chair and set up a stall on the residential road in front of our house. From there I sold my surplus toys. I’ve really just always felt like an entrepreneur,” says Emil.
In 2018, Emil’s friends Mark Yeoman and Tinus Byrgesen organised the entrepreneurial competition ‘Race to the Moon’ at SDU Sønderborg. The competition is a Danfoss-organised parallel to the long-standing ‘Man on the Moon’ competition held internally within the company. That year, the focal point at SDU was sustainable startup ideas. Mark and Tinus knew that Emil had lots of ideas and asked him to join in. As fate would have it, Emil had the first inklings of the green company WeUse, which is now facing an exciting future ahead.
For Emil and WeUse, it has always been important to ensure that making sustainable decisions is not difficult.
“I have always been interested in finding ways to minimise our consumption without it becoming a chore or compromising our comfort. Nobody wants to take shorter and colder baths. Nor should we drop air travel altogether, for example. The idea of actually being able to help each other, save some money and do something good, well people think that’s pretty cool. The idea also works well for introverts because WeUse turns the situation around – instead of asking for a loan, the platform already offers all kinds of items that you can use,” says Emil.
A development that has gathered pace
Today, the WeUse team work from their office in Alsion in Sønderborg. From here they future-proof the app, support customers and launch new promotional activities. A software developer and a multimedia designer, both graduates from Business Academy Southwest (EASV) in Sønderborg, have joined the project. Gideon Harpantides, Emil’s fellow student and friend from SDU, also quickly joined and is now a partner and COO of the company. With some solid advice from an Advisory Board, they are working on a cause that is considered so important – especially for young people – that WeUse receives help several times a week from student volunteers from SDU Sønderborg.
For WeUse, Sønderborg is not necessarily an optimal location. The company is experiencing greater interest from businesses in cities such as Copenhagen and Aarhus. However, Emil Busch has made it his mission to prove that the project can run from anywhere – and that a clear sustainable profile is crucial for companies when recruiting new employees.
“Our concept fits like a glove with Sønderborg’s vision – with ProjectZero and CO2 neutrality by 2029. WeUse offers a solution to the behavioural change that we all need to embark on if we are to reach that target. The larger cities have a head start in understanding that the change should be considered an employee benefit when recruiting new employees. These companies know that they need to offer ‘something extra’. That’s why the gratitude is particularly strong from Sønderborg companies such as BITZER Electronics, who are already on board. As we are an online-based company, the attitude is that we must be able to succeed outside of e.g. Copenhagen, where you pay five times the rent,” says Emil.
The location in Sønderborg has several benefits. It’s in the surrounding countryside where he gets his best ideas and the most energy. For Emil, daily life would be impossible without the support of his fiancée, Alicja Depka. When he talks of startups and entrepreneurship, he always emphasises that having a world-class partner and the best team around you is crucial. Today, half of his team is made up of German employees, and Emil believes there are good synergies to be gained with the German market.
“Companies in Germany, Norway and Sweden have shown an interest in WeUse, but the app needs to be customised first. The focus may be primarily on Denmark, but the outlook is clearly international in nature. We want to help support the culture of Sønderborg as a sustainable town. In the long term, we want to be one of those important companies that can also attract people to the city. Just like Universal Robots has been for Odense,” Emil explains.
Today, WeUse has around 800 active users in closed communities and the company is keen to bring many more on board. The team operates with a scalable online setup, making the distance to the rest of Denmark even shorter. Over time, Emil Busch hopes that WeUse can become the platform that can really change the non-profit green transition.