Creators of Rosie the Robot for commercial cleaning
Maidbot plans to disrupt the hospitality industry with Rosie the Robot, a device that can be used for commercial cleaning. The robotics company, which is still in stealth mode, is run by business and engineering students and alumni from Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and Georgia Tech universities. The team created Rosie to help reduce costs, inefficiencies, and injury rates in commercial--and eventually residential--cleaning. The robot also gathers useful data to improve management productivity in scheduling and logistics. In the future, additional features like laundry-folding and bed-making will be added. Maidbot is receiving preorders for the robot, which is scheduled to be released in September.
Maidbot is establishing pilot programs in the hotel industry with companies including Marriott, Hilton, and Wyndham. The robotics startup has raised $500,000 in funding from angel investors and is currently trying to secure a $4 million round. It is part of the Ithaca-based REV Accelerator Program, and last summer completed the Life Changing Lab incubator program for Cornell students and alumni. Maidbot expects to have revenue by the third quarter of 2016.
Cold-pressed juices made from odd-looking produce to combat food waste
MISFIT Juicery aims to fight food waste by using tasteful but aesthetically unappealing fruits and vegetables in its juice products. The Georgetown University student startup makes its cold-pressed juices with oddly shaped, sized, or colored produce that would otherwise end up in the trash bin. Unlike cleanse-focused juice companies, MISFIT Juicery is branding its product as an everyday drink. Its goal is to expand the concept to other food products and consumer goods while changing the way people engage with food.
One year after launch, MISFIT Juicery sells its product in 44 locations in Washington, D.C. It has partnered with fast-casual restaurant Chaia, which is piloting the startup’s juice kegs. MISFIT posted $73,000 in revenue for 2015, received $35,000 in seed funding earlier this year, and is hoping to raise an additional $215,000. The startup won first place in Georgetown University’s Hoya Pitch Challenge and Social Innovation Competition, and received $20,000 from a Georgetown MBA class. MISFIT has a number of advisers, including Jordan Figueiredo, an anti-food-waste activist. It also secured a partnership with Baldor, the largest produce distributor in the Northeast, to incorporate discarded produce in MISFIT juices.
Philly-based bakery and maker of cookie sandwich NOMwich
NOMsense Bakery sells a type of cookie sandwich that it has dubbed the “NOMwich.” The bakery was founded by two University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students, who transformed their dessert-making hobby into a business. NOMwiches come in four varieties -- all with a filling, a topping, and a drizzle -- such as the Nut Job, made with coconut cookies, crunchy peanut butter filling, lime sugar drizzle, and a toasted coconut topping. The bakery has become an official vendor at Penn and secured wholesale contracts with Philadelphia coffee shops, including Hubbub Coffee and Pétrus Ky Café. The NOMsense founders aim to provide a new dessert experience through innovative design and a community-centered brand. They plan to eventually open their own brick-and-mortar store in Philly’s University City neighborhood.
NOMwiches retail from $2.50 to $2.75 per cookie and the startup made $3,500 in revenue for 2015. NOMsense Bakery was part of the Wharton Venture Initiation Program and won first place in the 2015 Wharton Women Shark Tank Competition. In January, NOMsense received $5,000 as the Northeastern Regional winner of the Global Student Entrepreneur Award, and last year raised $4,000 through a three-month Kickstarter campaign.
Online marketplace that partners with skilled Latin American artisans to make shoes
PATOS Shoes is an online marketplace that partners with Latin American artisans to create hand-crafted shoes. Founder Fernando Rojo, a University of Pennsylvania student, was inspired by a visit to an artisan fair in Buenos Aires to manufacture the first PATOS shoe line, the Rafael Collection. The startup aims to empower artisans across Latin America through its network, allowing them to work under fair conditions and maintain their centuries-old handcrafting techniques while creating a platform for their products to enter the international markets.
The startup has grown its number of artisan partnerships from one to 20 since its launch, working with shoemakers in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Its monthly production capability has also tripled to more than 12,000 pairs of shoes in the same period. PATOS has two retail partnerships with socially-conscious boutiques in Michigan but is focused on e-commerce growth for scalability. PATOS now makes 11 different shoes in 45 different textile designs, with each pair retailing from $50 to $75. The startup plans to launch a free mobile Android app this month for its artisans in Argentina and Peru.
Social voice platform that connects like-minded people
Pundit is a mobile application that connects you to like-minded people through one-minute voice conversations about your latest obsessions.The student founders want to create a social platform that encourages conversation and replaces the more impersonal interactions of social media. With a tap of the “talk” button, the app allows you to share your thoughts about Star War theories or fantasy lineups, bringing online communities to mobile using voice technology. The startup’s advertising model will allow companies to partner directly with content creators for on-air sponsored mentions, much like the model used for podcast and online radio ads. Pundit launched a private beta version of the app in early March for mentors, investors, and partners at Disney; the full launch is expected to take place in May.
Pundit was selected to be part of the Techstars Disney Accelerator, receiving $300,000 in seed funding in addition to mentorship from entertainment industry leaders, including Disney CEO Bob Iger. ABC, Radio Disney, and ABC Family have used Pundit to allow fans to interact with stars, most recently with artists at the 2016 Country Music Awards, through short conversations. By using a podcast-like advertising model, Pundit hopes to see revenue similar to the industry standard of up to $30 for every 1,000 listeners.