Business idea: Making returns more sustainable, customer-friendly and efficient

Industry: e-commerce

Year founded: 2023

The startup toern continuously establishes new e-commerce experiences that are equally focussed on simplicity for customers and sustainability.


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toern: A lighthouse project in the world of e-commerce

The company toern, a spin-off from Wedel University of Applied Sciences, has undergone a remarkable development. It was founded with the vision of making returns fit for the future and thus making e-commerce more sustainable, customer-friendly and efficient. With this vision, toern quickly gained recognition in the industry and beyond. The support of the university’s own Startup Bridge and the Startup Port network has contributed significantly to this success.

Jonas Zeuner and Alena Schneck have founded toern

The founding story of toern begins with the vision of making the returns market fit for the future. A central part of the solution is not to send suitable returns back to the original sender. Instead, they are forwarded directly and efficiently to potential new buyers, which not only saves resources but also leads to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

The beginnings

Alena Schneck and Jonas Zeuner founded toern in October 2022 when they combined their passion and expertise to develop a sustainable returns management solution. As Co-Founder & CEO, Alena Schneck is responsible in particular for Sales & Finance and uses her knowledge of human nature to publicise the start-up and define strategic goals. Jonas Zeuner, Co-Founder & CTO, is responsible for the technical implementation of the toern solution and ensures that customer requirements are efficiently translated into technical solutions.

Vision and realisation

Their goal is clear: they want to make the returns market fit for the future. toern relies on innovative technologies and intelligent processes to forward returns directly to new prospective buyers instead of sending them back to the shop. This direct forwarding significantly reduces returns costs, conserves resources, reduces CO2 emissions and increases efficiency in e-commerce. The simple integration via API interfaces enables online shops to digitally record returns, check the quality at the point of return and integrate them into the inventory in real time, which also increases product availability and enables targeted personnel planning and process optimisation in fulfilment thanks to early status detection.

Support and recognition

“We would like to thank the Startup Bridge and the Startup Port network for our foundation, which supported us with a start-up consultant, among other things, and promoted us with the network and informative events on offer. I value these ecosystem meetings, where you can always exchange ideas with other founders and also support each other – we are happy to be there. Especially in the beginning, this gave us orientation and valuable impetus,” emphasises Jonas.
With the help of the start-up consultancy, the start-up received the Schleswig-Holstein start-up grant for one year from September 2022 and was able to secure follow-up funding with the InnoFounder. This has enabled the startup to develop its first software solution without external capital, acquire its first customers and establish strong partnerships such as with Hamburg University of Technology.

The recognition of their innovative solution with an award in the “Start-up Competition – Digital Innovations” organised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection in November 2023 underlines the importance of toern’s approach to the digital and sustainable transformation of e-commerce.

Future-orientated and sustainable

The recent adoption of the EU Ecodesign Directive, which creates a framework for improving the recyclability and environmental sustainability of certain product groups, particularly clothing, plays into toern’s hands: the platform can now make an even stronger commitment to sustainable returns management in e-commerce and help to reduce overproduction and the waste of resources. In addition to the direct forwarding of A-goods returns, the start-up will also be able to offer a route into the right cycle for defective and unwanted items that would otherwise end up in the bin. toern is therefore positioning itself not only as a solution provider, but also as an important factor in the fight against wasting resources.


toern’s journey is an example of how innovation, sustainability and a clear vision can revolutionise e-commerce. The support from institutions such as Startup Port and Startup Bridge shows how important a strong network and expert advice are for young companies. The success story of toern is far from over and the future promises to be as sustainable as it is digital.