OceanHero is an organization that funds ocean-bound plastic recovery, recycling infrastructure development, and the technology to transform waste products into new goods — all by the simple use of a search engine.
OceanHero founder Marvin Burman, from Germany, describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” who has eight years of experience building digital products. He co-founded a software testing company which he sold to the global leader in digital testing and built a robust European market presence.
The idea for OceanHero came to Burman when he realized that sustainability will be the biggest challenge of the 2020s. After his eight years of working in a standard tech company, he wanted to focus on something that has a long-lasting positive impact on humanity and the environment.
Greek Reporter spoke to OceanHero on Thursday to get the story behind how this amazing effort got off the ground.
OceanHero now benefitting from 4.5 million searches per month
Burman says, “In my previous job I worked a lot with search engines. Google was actually one of our customers. When I saw that companies offered to plant a tree when you buy a T-shirt or jacket, it clicked for me.” The entrepreneur financed OceanHero with his personal savings.
Pawel Wszola, the CTO of OceanHero, is a software developer who also has eight years of experience providing expertise to start-ups. He spent much of his career building products for healthcare, including a telemedicine solution that’s helping thousands of doctors provide care for patients. When Burman told him about Ocean Hero, Wszola didn’t think twice about quitting his three other projects to bring OceanHero to life.
OceanHero explains that advertisers pay the organization whenever viewers click on their ads, allowing them to help pay for the collection of ocean-borne plastics around the world.
The new search engine is what really drives the effort, however; and it works just like any other search engine, the organization says. However, unlike other search engines, OceanHero searches benefit the planet. In the last seven months, OceanHero users have helped prevent 21 million plastic bottles from entering the ocean.
For every five searches users perform on Ocean Hero, they help recover one plastic bottle from the world’s oceans and seas. In addition, through partnerships with Plastic Bank, Waste Free Oceans, and Trash Waste Solutions, the plastic recovery process provides life-sustaining jobs for people who otherwise would be living in extreme poverty.
The company also recently signed a partnership with Microsoft which allows it to show search results powered by Microsoft’s own search engine, “Bing.” The agreement also allows Microsoft advertisers to show their ads on OceanHero.
Entrepreneurs Burman and Wszola founded the organization in 2019. In addition to raising money to recover ocean-bound plastic, they are committed to raising awareness about the problems driving the ocean plastic crisis. There are now five team members at OceanHero.
Since the search engine was launched in early 2020, the number of searches has grown to an incredible 4.5 million per month.
Total of 21 million plastic bottles saved from world’s seas
So far, they have financed the recovery of 21 million plastic bottles, OceanHero tells Greek Reporter.
Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, the organization now makes its search engine available on six platforms: Google Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox, Android, and iOS.
Asked by Greek Reporter how much of every online search is donated to ocean cleanups, officials state “So far, 100% of the profits (and even some of the founders’ private funds) have gone to the cleanup efforts.
“So far the search engine has raised more than $90,000. Most cleanups have taken place in India, Indonesia, Dominican Republic and Philippines.
“There have also been cleanups in Portugal, Italy, Netherlands and Germany and they do hope to work in Greece eventually,” the organization notes.
In a very important development, plastic collected during OceanHero-funded projects in Manado and Siladen, Indonesia is now being used for bricks that can be used in building construction.
“OceanHero used open-source plastic engineering plans and expanded on them with a stronger engine and other improvements,” in order to manufacture the revolutionary bricks,” Burman explains to Greek Reporter.
He then adds “the machine consists of three parts: one part shreds, one melts, and one forms the melted plastic.”
Regarding competing with the search engine Google, Burman states “New search engines face extreme difficulties in entering the market. Competing head-on with a giant like Google is extremely difficult, especially when competing against its core product.
“Google controls most of the world’s search access. Google’s partnership with Apple makes it the default search engine on iOS devices. Plus, Google results are the default on Android mobile devices and Chrome desktop browsers.
Burman notes “On Chrome it is possible, but quite inconvenient, to change the default search engine. On Android and iOS, it is completely impossible to change the default system-wide search engine.”
However, Ocean Hero’s fortunes took a turn for the better recently after a new ruling from the European Union.
“Only recently, the EU passed a directive that requires Google to let users change their default search engine,” Burman notes, adding “This requires competitors to pay Google by bidding for a spot on the list presented to the user.”
This painless way of finding what you are looking for online will go a long way in helping Burman and Wszola’s tireless efforts to rid the oceans and seas of plastics.