Happy Valley LaunchBox Zeroes In On Waste With ReDi Index

What if there was a method for companies to zero in on their waste output until it reaches, well, zero? That’s what Brendan Bagley and Al Matyasovsky, innovators behind the ReDi Index, have set out to design. “The ReDi Index is a two number system or index that is a sustainable way to assist in quantifying a company’s journey to zero waste,” Bagley explained.

Last November, applications for Happy Valley LaunchBox opened as part of the Invent Penn State initiative. Penn State hopes to use the initiative as a means of translating their success in research into valued products and services. Among the first five teams to enter the LaunchBox program are the innovators behind the ReDi Index, the startup to end all waste.

The LaunchBox works to establish partnership, a fundamental feature of Invent Penn State. Through the program, innovators partner with entrepreneurial professionals who can help make their ideas into successful businesses.

The LaunchBox recently opened as part of Invent Penn State, in which startup teams are given the tools to bring their concepts to the commercial marketplace. Five teams were chosen last December and began the 10-week business startup training program in the start of the spring semester. In addition to these training courses, the LaunchBox teams get workspace, personal mentorship, expert consultations, and research resources at no cost. Bagley and Matyasovsky’s startup, the ReDi Index, is among the first cohort of the program.

“The Response Diversion Index, or “ReDi Index” is a system designed to measure the effectiveness of a waste program. “Response means you have a way to “handle different types of waste” a trash can and a recycling bin are two examples. And Diversion measures how much of the waste from those two bins (using the example) is diverted away from/out of the landfill,” Bagley explained.

Matyasovsky acted as the manager of the Waste Management program here at Penn State until just last year. “This was his brainchild as it allows people to actually quantify what zero waste means and measure their progress toward it,” Bagley said of his partner. “His insight, finding new approaches to old ideas, finding savings where most people never look, and willingness to help other out is actually the basis of our product.”

Bagley and Matyasovsky developed their startup as a team, and now work collaboratively with the LaunchBox program to drive the business concept toward success. “We are very fortunate to have been chosen among all the great company teams in this first cohort [of the LaunchBox],” Bagley commented. “There’s a process to starting up an effective company, and the LaunchBox provides the insight needed for that process.”

The startup’s participation in the LaunchBox program was dependent on their acceptance following an involved application process. After a simple paper application, the team received an in-person interview. “The in person interview was a bit daunting.  There were nine interviewers in the room. It had a ‘Shark Tank’ feel to it but [it was] nowhere near as aggressive. Everyone was rather welcoming. But it was still ‘not simple,’ as they wanted you to understand that you should have your ‘ducks in a row,’” Bagley explained.

The ReDi Index analyzes the methods in which you handle your waste, and provides numerical responses to tabulate how efficient those methods are. These numbers provide substantial figures to allow companies to continuously improve their waste management programs and work toward a more sustainable approach. Thus, companies are able to use a more financially and environmentally efficient method of handling their produced waste.

A major goal of the ReDi Index is to simply allow companies the opportunity to thoughtfully consider the costs of their current waste handling program, both environmentally and financially. Many are unlikely to search for alternative options because they have not even realized there are alternatives, or that these alternatives would be worthwhile to pursue. ReDi Index makes data about these alternatives available as based on the success of companies with similar issues.

“The vision is that entities (manufacturing facilities, colleges, municipalities, hospitals, etc.) take diversion seriously. So it all starts with an educational step. Entities need to understand that there is often more that they can do with their waste then what they first realize. One simple example is their being informed that some entities might actually purchase their plastics from them and they immediately find a cost savings in the process,” Bagley explained.

The LaunchBox has supported ReDi Index by providing the tools necessary to establish and foster a business. “It has provided basic business insight into things like: the Business Model Canvas (BMC), understanding what a pitch is and when to use it, insight into Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and its importance to the process, how to conduct Lean Start Up – Tests, what Angel Investors are and what they deem important, to name just a few things.  It’s a wonderfully collaborate approach and the cohort members feel and understand that they are not “going it alone” with the help of other start-ups,” Bagley said.

Over the next year, ReDi Index hopes to more firmly establish its brand and its capability to educate companies on a journey toward zero waste. “This will assist them in being better stewards of their (our) resources,” Bagley said. Following this, they hope to continue expanding their educational efforts as well as their web application to apply to additional duties of the waste manager.

Bagley highlights a two-fold approach to a successful startup. First, he emphasizes the importance of conceiving a concept that eliminates a prevalent need for consumers. “Know how your product fulfills or solves a rather exact/simply stated problem.  If you have something that ‘solves a problem,’ then you have real potential as a start-up,” he explained.

Second, he credits the LaunchBox for its guidance and encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to reach out for advice from other professionals. “Be very willing and open to listen to others’ opinions to help you grow individually, as a group/team, or company.  Not all the ideas are “perfect” for your situation, but many different ideas and viewpoints can assist you in honing your product and the problem it solves. Be willing to accept these ideas and perspectives and blend them into your process,” he said.

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About the Author

Olivia DeBellis

Olivia DeBellis is a writer for Onward State. She is currently a freshman pursuing a double major in Food Science and Nutrition here in Happy Valley. She enjoys people watching, long runs with food at the finish, and binge watching HGTV. Follow her @OliviaADeBellis or send her an email at [email protected].

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