The fourth annual [Re]Verse Pitch Competition wrapped up on Tuesday night with the two $10,000 innovation prizes going to social entrepreneurs Anjali Sridharan and Mike Strong. Sridharan’s winning pitch was to repurpose polycarbonate plastic dye-cut sheets from HID Global to make affordable eyewear with a new company, POLYMart. Strong’s team, re:3D, will be adding to their 3D printer business to launch “Design by re:3D” using the same plastic waste to make specialty furniture, art and other unique items.
The [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is a one-of-a-kind social innovation program to turn valuable raw materials that are currently leaving local businesses, nonprofits and institutions as waste into the foundation of new social enterprises.
On April 30, four finalists pitched their repurposing business ideas to recycle or reuse byproduct materials from five participating Austin businesses and non-profits: the Austin Winery, HID Global, JOSCO Products, Texas Oncology and Travis County. Entrepreneurs were inspired to look at these business’ waste streams as potential profitable ventures—creating jobs and revenue for the Austin economy while reducing waste and helping the environment.
The POLYMart team plans to use the winnings to seed their new social enterprise, beginning with purchasing equipment, expanding their R&D and setting up an e-commerce platform to start making and selling their first all-plastic eyewear designs. The company hopes to expand into lens manufacturing by 2022. POLYMart’s pitch was also the audience’s favorite, overwhelmingly winning the People’s Choice Award honorable mention by audience vote.
“When I saw the material pitched by HID Global, I knew this was an opportunity to disrupt the eyewear market and make glasses significantly more affordable,” said founder Anjali Sridharan. “POLYMart will be able to both upcycle waste and help more Texans get access to the glasses they need,” she said.
The other $10,000 prize was awarded to existing business re:3D. The company plans to install one of their own Gigabot X printers in Austin, purchase a grinder, and begin producing designer 3D printed items, such as tables and vases, using the would-be-landfilled plastic waste with the printer.
“With this win, we’re excited to move from feasibility testing into implementation for our ‘Design by re:3D’ line of upcycled 3D printed home goods,” said Mike Strong, Chief of Staff of re:3D.
Judging was based on business viability, sustainability impact, economic impact and social impact, along with effectiveness of pitch delivery.
The [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is a collaboration between the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, and UT Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, Growth and Renewal with additional support from a wide variety of community partners. Learn more at ReversePitch.org.
About the Circular Economy Program.
Two City of Austin departments, Austin Resource Recovery and the Economic Development Department, have teamed up to launch the Circular Economy Program. The program’s mission attract, retain, and grow businesses, non-profits, and entrepreneurs in the zero waste industry in order to create well-paying local jobs, attract investment, and support the necessary infrastructure for a resilient circular economy in Central Texas.
About Austin Resource Recovery
Austin Resource Recovery provides a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean. Services include curbside collection of recycling, trash, yard trimmings and large brush and bulk items; street sweeping; dead animal collection; household hazardous waste disposal and recycling; and outreach and education. Austin Resource Recovery offers free, voluntary and confidential consulting services to help Austin businesses reduce waste and comply with the City’s recycling ordinances. In December 2011, the Austin City Council approved the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, which is the City’s road map to Zero Waste. The City of Austin is committed to reducing the amount of waste sent to area landfills by 90 percent by 2040. Learn more at austinrecycles.com.
About the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce
The Austin Young Chamber promotes the general economic interests of the Central Texas business community through initiatives and efforts designed to build and strengthen our young professional workforce. Connect with the Austin Young Chamber on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, or check out upcoming programs at austinyc.org.