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We sit down with Mahin Shirazi, Women in Climate and Energy Fellowship alumna, and Founder of myimpact

Mahin Shirazi is a network engineer, landscape architect, and university sessional tutor. She has worked on large-scale engineering projects for the Department of Education South Australia as well as award-winning public realm projects across the public and private sectors. She’s passionate about pragmatic data-driven and human-centred solutions. Mahin’s main area of interest is smart cities, bringing engineering and design worlds together.

On her own journey towards zero waste, Mahin has managed to reduce her waste to only one red bin and 4 recycling bins per year. She is now on a mission to make the journey simple for everyone to reduce their waste and become a conscious consumer.

She spends most of her free time in the gym practising Yoga and Brazilian Jiujitsu. For her, Yoga and Jiujitsu are a way of life. Her motto: “stay focused and show up every day, eventually you get better”

Tell us a bit more about yourself, who is Mahin Shirazi?

I’m a single mum of a nine-year-old boy, on a mission to make the world a better place for my son and his generation.

I was born and grew up in Tehran (Iran) and completed my Bachelor of Software Engineering in Iran. At the age of 23, I left Iran and came to Australia for my first Master’s Degree in Network Engineering.

The main driver of my life has always been impact. I’ve worked as an engineer, a landscape architect and volunteered for not-for-profit and charity organisations helping teenage girls in orphanages and asylum seekers.

In 2012 I left the engineering world to work as a landscape architect. One of the main reasons I left engineering was that I wanted to see the direct impact of my work on people’s lives. With my startup, myimpact, I’m back in the Engineering world, but with a creative twist and a lot more impact! I get to use technology as a solution for social change and climate adaption.

Tell us more about, myimpact. What problem are you seeking to solve and how does it work?

My start-up, myimpact, is shifting the paradigm of waste and looking at our waste as a resource. Using IoT sensors, we can track households' landfills, organics, and recycling and measure their CO2 emissions.. Individuals can set targets to reduce their waste and CO2 emissions and we will help them achieve their goals with the aid of machine learning technologies. The technology can also help local governments to provide targeted and tailored educational material to their communities. Using technology as a service, we can reduce waste, increase the quality of recycled material, create more efficient communication channels between councils and their communities and enhance environmental stewardship.

The importance of capturing accurate data to respond to the impacts of climate change is becoming more and more evident. When it comes to waste management we have very little data and we can’t change what we don’t measure! We have seen the impacts of data tracking in behaviour changes, using step trackers, weight trackers, sleep trackers, etc. Now with myimpact, we have an impact tracker!

Why did you decide to take part in the Women in Climate and Energy Fellowship?

I came up with the idea for myimpact out of frustration of seeing my neighbours’ bins always full but didn’t know where to go from there. I had a lot of unanswered questions: How do you even know your idea is a good idea? Do you need to test it? and how? And then what happens? How do you make it an actual product…..when it requires advanced technology?

In my search to find answers, I stumbled across an EnergyLab LinkedIn post for a female founder fellowship. Considering I’m a single mum, a program that was targeted to female founders was very appealing. I didn’t think I would get into the program but decided to put in my application anyway. I was lucky and got in! Probably the best lockdown news I could’ve got!

What have been the biggest takeaways from the WICEF program? How has it helped you?

The WICEF program helped me refine my idea, narrow it down, and be very clear on the problem I’m trying to solve. The most important part was teaching me how to articulate my idea in 1 minute. My idea is huge and has many arms and legs. Being able to pinpoint the main points to capture my audience’s attention was very important.

One night I decided to test the elevator pitch I prepared as part of our weekly task. I pitched it at Silicon Beach (An Australian network of startup communities) pitch night and I won one of the three prizes and got a scholarship for the Founder Institute Pre-seed Accelerator Course. That was a great way for me to test my learnings and how successful the WICEF program was.

I also learned how many amazing women are out there trying to make the world a better place, which helped a lot with my climate change anxiety! Tuesday nights (WICEF workshop nights) were by far the best nights of my week during the fellowship. It was a weekly re-energiser - being inspired by the speakers, mentors, and the cohort.

What are you currently focused on with your startup? And where can we find out more?

I’m currently building my MVP (minimum viable product) and searching for industry partners that can manufacture the IoT sensors. I’m also in communications with a council and a couple of consultancies to apply for an innovation grant and trial my solution.

In terms of the product, I’m currently looking for IoT sensor manufacturers to prototype sensors and I’m also looking for a technical advisor who can help me build the technical team, so please reach out if you can help with this.

If you’d like to find out more you can follow my LinkedIn as I will be putting more info in the coming weeks. A website will be coming soon!

What’s your advice for women who are starting their journey as an entrepreneur?

The world of entrepreneurship, especially in the tech industry, is dominated by men. Instead of feeling like an outsider, change the narrative and see yourself as the unicorn in that space!

Reach out to as many people as you can. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you and either take you one step forward or connect you with someone who can help.

At the very start, it feels daunting to put yourself out there, but in my experience, I had an overwhelming number of yes’s and positive responses from total strangers willing to meet with me and help.

Starting a startup is not easy, especially when juggling full-time work and motherhood. What keeps you going?

People who know my busy life ask me if I’m crazy. How do I run a startup as a side hustle, on top of my day job and University tutoring? My answer is my son. My son and his generation deserve a better future. They’ve done the least damage and will feel the most impact.

We only have 8 years before we start witnessing the domino effect of our inactions. We are at a time where every little effort counts. I want to show my son that we can be the change, no matter how small!

If you are interested in joining EnergyLab's Women in Climate and Energy Fellowship, be sure to fill out an expression of interest form. If you have any questions, email Milly.

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