Q&A with Hayley Rolfe & Narendran Subramaniam, co-founders of Ardea Waste

Written by Liz Pollock on the 3rd of October, 2019

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Hayley Rolfe and Narendran Subramaniam are co-founders of Ardea Waste, an online waste management platform for commercial wastes. With almost four decades combined experience in waste management and engineering, Hayley and Narendran are passionate about protecting the environment and preserving Mother Nature’s natural resources. 


What is your source of inspiration for Ardea Waste?

Hayley: I grew up in small towns in the north of Western Australia and the Northern Territory where the “outside” was never far away. I always wanted to work with plants and animals, which led me to environmental science and natural resource management as a career. I’m happiest when I’m out in the bush somewhere; I find our landscape endlessly fascinating and a source of great inspiration (and solace).

Narendran: When I was a child, I spent a lot of time at my father’s nuclear research centre. He would talk to me about the challenges of working with radioactive elements and how damaging it could be to a person or the environment if they weren’t properly disposed of. Since then, I have wanted to work on solutions that protect the environment and preserve our precious resources. Getting up every morning and knowing that what I am working on is going to help my kids (and millions of others) experience our earth as it was when I was growing up – that is my inspiration.

Tell us about the moment you and Hayley decided to pursue Ardea Waste together as co-founders, Narendran.

During my career as a mining engineer, I travelled a lot to Africa and South America. The locals I worked with would show me shocking dumpyards of waste that came from developed countries. This made me question just how transparent and compliant waste management systems were in developed countries, and got me thinking about how to create a business around this problem and help everyone do the right thing. In June 2018, I attended a start-up hackathon weekend on social impact. Hayley was there too and pitched the idea about Ardea Waste, and I was drawn to the problem she was solving and how aligned it was to my own vision.

 Before you joined SheStarts, did you ever imagine you would be a tech startup founder, Hayley?

No, never! I don’t come from an entrepreneurial background. I don’t even know many people with their own businesses. I always assumed that if I wanted to work on environmental problems I would need to work for the government or an NGO.

“I’m not a natural risk-taker, so being a tech founder means I am equally frightened and exhilarated most of the time.”

But it’s also a good feeling to work on something you know will make a difference; that is enormously satisfying.

Looking ahead 5 years, how do you hope to have impacted the world?

We want to see businesses engaged in industrial ecologies where wastes are traded as resources. And, we want Ardea Waste to be the go-to platform for commercial waste, encouraging businesses to choose sustainable waste outcomes for their waste and generating the right data to demonstrate compliance and progress towards government waste strategy targets. If we can facilitate circular systems for SMEs in Australia, we will have had an enormous impact.

What is your advice to women who have a bold idea for a startup?

Hayley: Talk to people about your idea. Once you start articulating it, it will begin to take shape and turn into something real.

“And don’t worry about people stealing your idea. A lot of people worry about that until they realise how much work is involved!”

Only a crazy person would try to achieve your vision unless they are as passionate about the problem as you.

Narendran: There is never a “right time” for starting a business, so get out and validate your idea! We need everyone working towards solving the enormous challenges we face in our world.

Read more: Meet the Aussie twins who are connecting the world’s small farms to big markets