The InnoVention Competition is a tech startup challenge where NYU student entrepreneurs from across the globe build a team, prototype products, and pitch commercially-viable ventures to solve real-world problems. Last Wednesday, April 29th, concluded the final round of the semester-long competition where 5 finalist teams from NYU and 2 teams from NYU Abu Dhabi pitched their startup ideas through a virtual live session with over 200 participants showing up to witness the fierce competition over a total prize pool of $50,000. Team Rethinking the Porta Potty walked away with the first place, and received “most likely to invest” in the audience poll.
Rethinking the Porta Potty is comprised of two NYU graduate students: Anthony Wang (Tandon, 2020) and Nathan Weinstein (Stern, 2021). Anthony Wang studies Mechanical Engineering and works at the MakerSpace where he acquired much of his prototyping and designing skills for the competition. Nathan Weinstein is a full-time healthcare equity research analyst and part-time Stern MBA student with years of experience in the business world. Together, the engineering and business skillset combined to be the perfect solution to launching a startup.
About initially meeting co-founder Anthony Wang, Nathan Weinstein said, “we were initially connected by Victoria Bill, MakerSpace Director and Adjunct Professor at Tandon. Anthony is a trained engineer from NYU Tandon and MakerSpace! That is really awesome, for someone in my position coming from NYU Stern, having a few ideas rattling around as we all do, and most of which live and die quietly in the mind. But when you have an engineer of Anthony’s skill set, the prototyping facilities at MakerSpace and the resources provided by NYU, suddenly an idea can become reality.”
Rethinking the Porta Potty stood out amongst competitions with a stackable unit that will resolve the long-standing problem of space utilization inefficiency in the portable sanitation industry, and additionally, bring a more versatile, modern-looking, and affordable unit into the market. Traditional porta potties present a trade-off between portability and strength; the product Rethinking the Porta Potty presents achieves both simultaneously. This product will allow fleet operators to save on transportation and storage because the space that could fit one traditional porta potty unit can now fit multiple, stacked together. What originally required a flatbed truck or large trailer to transport will now fit into the back of a pickup truck. Importantly, this product will result in a lower carbon footprint that benefits the environment, 6.6 tons of CO2 reduction per vehicle to be specific.
Team Rethinking the Porta Potty expressed its appreciation, saying, “we are grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the InnoVention competition this year. The quality of the program is outstanding, thanks in large part to Neal Rooney and the other talented members of InnoVention Society. Outstanding, in this context, means: rigorous development of the teams and their ideas, pitch preparation, a very tight feedback loop, and access to resources including start-up workshops. Without exception, in our opinion, the participating teams came with really strong and novel concepts. It’s so exciting that all of this is happening at New York University, and these teams could go on to have huge impacts on the world.”
Finally, when looking ahead, team Rethinking the Porta Potty said, “for the next stage of development on Rethinking the Porta Potty, we plan to create a full-size prototype for field tests and trial runs. Also, we continue to network within the portable sanitation industry, meeting potential customers and industry veterans, so that as we come closer to market, we can continue refining the product along the way, maximizing the chances of making a positive, meaningful, and concrete improvement to porta potties. Granted, innovation in the porta potty world is not quantum computing or gene therapy, but it is an interesting little niche (it’s actually not that little, we estimate our TAM at $330mm), if you spend some time analyzing it to any meaningful degree – and it’s often overlooked, wherein we think opportunity can be found.”