Bringing technology, interior design and the circular economy together

Written by Mina Nacheva

Bringing technology and nice interior design together is no easy task and doing that with the environment in mind is even more challenging. Hendrik Nagel, co-founder of MANU, knows all about it, which is why he has partnered with Circularise to fulfill the latter part of that mission.

Mesbah (co-founder of Circularise) and Hendrik (co-founder of MANU) discussing MANU’s new product

Mesbah (co-founder of Circularise) and Hendrik (co-founder of MANU) discussing MANU’s new product

The two startups are working together to put information about MANU’s products in the hands of users, bringing company and customers closer together with the help of blockchain.

For Hendrik, the combination of technology and interior design has always been somewhat of a fascination. “I’m a gadget freak,” he laughs. “I love technology but even more I love nice, clean interior design. At MANU, we bring the two together by putting technology in nice clothes.”

For Hendrik and his team, the goal is to solve everyday inconveniences with the help of technology, while still preserving the ambiance of an interior setting. “The first thing that came up as an issue for users was charging their devices. Really, the fear of having your device drained seems to be worse than losing it,” Hendrik says. “And when you do have to plug it in to charge, you have cables lying around messing up your interior.”

There had to be a solution that could solve both problems at once. MANU’s products seem to be it. So far, the startup has developed the MANU Deck – a fruit bowl for charging your phone, but also putting your valuables in, like your wallet and keys. That way you know exactly where things are, your phone’s battery is always full, and the fruit bowl is only adding to your interior design.



Another product is the Kangaroo – a couch organiser originally based on the idea of a newsstand, where you can slip your newspaper or magazine and charge your laptop or an iPad.

Enabling communication with the user – and changing the world along the way

The field that MANU is in, or rather the intersection of two fields – technology and interior design – requires the startup to be clear about what it does, and communicate it to its customers. “Bringing technology and interior design together is still very new to everyone,” Hendrik says. “Tech people see it as an interior design thing, while interior designers see it as a tech thing.”

Clear and timely communication is crucial, and Circularise can help with that. The first contact between the two companies was about 1.5 years ago when Circularise was still in its early startup stages and was looking for pilot partners. Hendrik was interested in being one of them.

What initially caught his attention was the Circularise app (CIRQR available on Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store), which provides end users with all relevant product information, from their digital receipt to their warranty leaflet and instruction manual. It is also a touchpoint between consumer and manufacturer.

“The fact that I could communicate directly with my customers and push information to them was really important to me,” Hendrik says. “That’s a small practical thing, but it has its own benefits.” Printing a warranty leaflet and manual for each individual product is not only time-consuming, but it also comes with a cost, both a financial and an environmental one. By using the Circularise app, however, that cost is gone and so is most of MANU’s environmental footprint.

While the app was what grabbed Hendrik’s initial attention, he soon learned more about the value of the circular economy. “Circularise has made me aware of the circular economy and the fact that we should all be creating a better world,” he says. “It’s good for manufacturers, it’s good for recyclers, and most of all, it’s good for the environment.”

Today, all of MANU’s products have the Circularise label (CIRLABEL), which acts as a reference that people can use to ask questions about the material contents of a product and receive answers by, say, the manufacturer. With the help of blockchain, this information can be communicated among various stakeholders without them having to share any sensitive data about themselves or their position in the value chain.  The use of this technology can become especially important towards the end of a product’s lifecycle when it needs to be recycled and broken down to its building blocks as effectively as possible.

CIRLABEL on a MANU charger

CIRLABEL on a MANU charger

At the end of the day, MANU and Circularise are both startups trying to change the world in their own way and, in part, also together. By learning from each other, they are each drawing benefits for their own business case – and perhaps even personal lives. For Hendrik, in particular, getting to know more about the circular economy has been a key moment.

“The circular economy is such a logical choice,” he says. “Circularise really opened my eyes to the potential of it all.”