The cardboard revolution of KarTent

KarTent Facts

Founded by: Jan Portheine and Wout Kommer
Launched in: 2015
What is KarTent all about? KarTent has developed a recyclable cardboard festival tent and in addition a design collection of cardboard items.
When did KarTent join the EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator program? KarTent entered the Accelerator program in 2016 and is currently part of our Alumni network.

EIT Climate-KIC Benelux interviewed one of the founders, Jan Portheine:

What is your ‘founders dream’?
For my graduation I was building a cardboard beach hut when Wout (Wout Kommer, co-founder) and I came across a photo of tents left behind at festivals. We were annoyed to see so much waste after a festival. Apparently, every year one in four festival visitors at Dutch festival campsites leaves their tent behind. We were determined to find a sustainable solution and that’s how the idea of the KarTent was born. We developed a disposable festival tent made of cardboard. That means it’s fully recyclable.

Has your ‘founders dream’ / vision changed over the course of time?
Definitely. Our ‘founders dream’ has been further expanded. We no longer only aim to bring down the number of tents left behind at festivals, but also to reduce the production of plastic tents, as they always end up as waste.

Starting a company often involves ups and downs – what went well for you and what could have been better?
We’ve learned a great deal in the last few years. Lots of things could have been better – we weren’t very good at dealing with the media or large customers. We’ve now learned how to do that.

We also developed the product very quickly based on feedback from people around us. After a few tests, our cardboard tent was launched in 2015. Because we started selling the KarTent from the early prototype phase and testing it in the market, we were able to make rapid improvements and keep our R&D costs low.

What is your current situation and what do you still need to do?
We have been working hard to gain name recognition at as many festivals as possible. The good news is that we are now seeing interest in our products from increasing numbers of festival organisations and we featured at more than 60 events in the Netherlands in the past two year. And we expanded internationally. Festivals in other countries, including France, Germany and Belgium, are already offering the KarTent and we even branched out towards Australia. But there is more! In October last year we launched our webshop and we started designing and manufacturing a new cardboard design collection.

With a new office in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost, with large storage space, we started a new product line. We wanted to give our KarTent a second life and instead of only recycle the Tents, we now also use the cardboard for chairs, tables, toys for children, office supplies and so on. Of course, the past few months have been difficult. Festivals have been cancelled due to the Covid19, but luckily, we see some sale increase from our webshop. We currently all work together to design and produce the items for the webshop instead of working at the festivals.

What is your climate impact?
If we really can make the production of plastic tents unnecessary, it could be gigantic. Currently, we are replacing a small proportion of the tents that would normally be purchased for single use only. In addition, the CO2 emissions during the KarTent production are less than for a conventional tent. The cardboard from the KarTent is also reused, in cardboard lights and furniture for example, or boxes in the logistics sector.

Have you already raised funding?
No, we are currently working with a loan from an investor, which seems sufficient for the time being.

Your company started on the Climate-KIC Accelerator programme in 2016 – what benefits has it brought you?
Climate-KIC has given us a lot of support on the entrepreneurial side. It has increased our insight into what is and is not important and where you should focus your time. This has proved extremely valuable in the further development of our company.

Check out the new cardboard collection or read more about KarTent.

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