There has been no looking back for AEROPOWDER since winning the Varsity Pitch 2016.
Ryan Robinson, 29 and Elena Dieckmann, 29 are product testing a year later and just about ready to hit the limelight. Their company, AEROPOWDER, is developing new feather based materials that can be used to create high-performance and environmentally friendly products. Feathers, yes, you read that correctly. Poultry is one of the world's most popular sources of meat. Globally we consume around 134 million chickens every day and that's a lot of feathers!
Feathers are composed of keratin, a chemically resistant and physically strong protein; and are one of the lightest natural fibers in nature and are also excellent thermal insulators. Ryan and Elena believe that there has to be a better use for the waste bird feathers.
Elena Dieckmann studied Innovation Design Engineering, during which time she came up with the original concept of using waste feathers in sustainable materials. Ryan Robinson has a background in biological sciences and now works full time on exploring the commercial potential of AEROPOWDER.
They won the Varsity Pitch in 2016, and the funding has been invaluable to allow them to conduct testing and trials. Ryan says, “Since Varsity Pitch, we have moved from concepts to further product development, recently completing production trials and moving to customer focused testing/feedback.” They also hope to make use of the network of the sponsors from the competition, to get their products out to the right audience.
So, what was their highlight after all? Ryan laughs, “The highlight for sure was winning!” He further adds, “There was a lot of tough competition, but it was a huge confidence booster for ourselves and our company to be announced as winners.”
Their strategy to win the competition was rather simple; ‘Thinking about a problem that many of us are contributing to unknowingly, and providing a very different type of solution to what people normally come across in their lives.’ Ryan feels that the unique nature of their concept and their confidence in it, helped them win.
Their advice to future aspirants is, “Practice, practice and practice some more!”. Ryan emphasises, “Go out and test your ideas with people in your industry, even if it’s just over a coffee.” This way, one will be very confident by the time they have to pitch at the competition. Ryan adds, “Even if you don’t come away a winner, you will leave knowing what you need to do and how you can succeed.”
In a word, AEROPOWDER describes their Varsity Pitch as ‘Inspirational’. They are not wrong, after all, they inspire change too.
Text: Rituja Rao