Startup Story: Dr Samantha Hall from Rate My Space

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Dr Samantha Hall and Dr Vanessa Rauland are Co-Founders of SimplyCarbon. Sam and Vanessa are sustainability specialists and researchers.

SimplyCarbon focuses on embedding sustainability and reducing carbon in schools and businesses.

Their pilot project at South Fremantle High School led it to become the first certified Carbon Neutral school in Australia and they now have a Low Carbon Schools program running.

Their next project has just launched: Rate My Space. Last year, Rate My Space won a Curtin Commercial Innovation Award and a place at the 2016 Curtin Accelerate program.

I dropped by while the Rate My Space team were brainstorming and later caught up with Sam Hall to talk all things sustainability.

Rate My Space Team

Left to right Tony Nguyen, Dr Sam Hall, Dr Vanessa Rauland, Colin Henley.

//SN: Sam, tell me a little about Rate My Space.

We spend 90% of our days inside, and those physical spaces can really affect our health and wellbeing. Rate My Space is about ensuring workplaces are happy and healthy environments.

It is an evaluation that allows staff to provide feedback about the workspaces they inhabit. At the back-end, we connect that staff feedback to the decision makers. The client can log in to our platform to see how different spaces are performing from a user perspective to better inform their property decisions.

These sorts of evaluations are done at the moment, but on an ad hoc basis. We want to it to be simple and easy.

Our aim is to give property decision makers and stakeholders a full picture of their buildings, which quantifies the human experience. We also combine this feedback with other data, such as sick leave and indoor environment quality readings.

At the same time we are developing benchmarks and comparisons for various building types, and a range of solutions to improve the spaces we rate.

//SN: Sam, where did the idea for this come from?

My PhD looked into the effect buildings have on people and the environment. It’s funny, I actually started the PhD with a pure focus on reducing carbon from buildings. But during my PhD I worked on a project evaluating buildings with a focus on staff, or building occupants.

I was blown away by the science behind healthy workplaces, yet it didn’t seem to actually be happening on the ground. We can do so much better, and so many spaces aren’t designed with human health, wellbeing and productivity in mind.

Our ethos for SimplyCarbon is creating high impact projects for improved sustainability, and Vanessa and I turned this research into Rate My Space. We won an Innovation award in 2015 from Curtin and then completed the Curtin Startup Accelerate program in April.

//SN: What lessons can you share with us in the process to date?

Being open and coachable is so important, and you learn so much when you step back from your idea and look at from a different angle. We’ve changed quite a lot from our original idea.

//SN: What’s your plan for next six months?

The Curtin University Properties team have commissioned a trial of the tool, and the Bentley campus is our first project. We will be evaluating nearly 100 buildings and a few thousand staff. As well as providing the innovation support, Curtin are committed to creating a healthy campus. It’s a big project and we are really excited and now have a small team working with us. I don’t know of any evaluation like this that has covered an entire campus, I think that must be the biggest ever done.

Everyone deserves a healthy building and we want to make that a possibility, this Curtin project is our first step.

//SN: If you had to give one tip to fellow founders, what would it be?

Network, network, network out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to ask for contacts and a coffee with someone you would usually not ask.
And for the ladies in particular, we like to be 95% sure of things before we take the plunge, but sometimes that’s not possible and don’t let that hold you back. Oops, that’s 2 tips.

//SN: Sam, thanks so much for your time and providing our readers with insights into your startup.