At the finals of last week’s MICA UP/Start Venture Competition finals, Kyle Vaughan and Kenneth Wayman won $35,000 to move forward on development of a reusable water bottle that turns inside out.
Vaughan said the Saqua bottle has been in the works for a few years now.
Then attending University of Maryland College Park, Vaughan said he got the idea while sitting on the campus shuttle. He frequently has a reusable bottle for water, but wasn’t satisfied: They often got dirty and were tough to clean.
“They get too gross, and you end up throwing them out, which defeats the purpose of being reusable,” said Vaughan, who is originally from Baltimore.
Being able to turn it inside out, on the other hand, would allow “100% of the surface to be kept clean,” he said. And saving a bottle would mean being able to reduce waste. Teaming with Wayman, his longtime friend and roommate who is from Carroll County, they started to build out the concept, and momentum built as others said it was a product they would also want.
They found that creating a bottle with silicone could make it possible to achieve this. It would also keep beverages both hot and cold. And there’s an environmental impact, as it would be recyclable, and doesn’t contain the chemicals that have been found to leach into the contents of the container.
To build the company, Vaughan wanted to gain more skills both in business and designing for people. So he came back to Baltimore and went on to pursue a Master’s degree at the JHU/MICA Design Leadership MA/MBA, a dual degree program.
Fast-forward to February and the first “Pop-Up and Pitch” event MICA’s entrepreneurship initiative held for the venture competition: They’re ready to build prototypes, but that would mean pitching for funding. In the intervening months, they got guidance on doing that from mentors in the Baltimore tech community like Sean Sutherland of Kapowza, as well as weekly guest speakers. The process of putting together a pitch involved assembling a deck with a budget, marketing plan and more. That had value on its own to Vaughan.
“Whether or not you won, now you can go to another investor,” he said.
At the final event, they did end up winning the funding, and they want to keep building in the city. Vaughan said from the stage that they plan to work with Southwest Baltimore’s Harbor Designs and Manufacturing to build out the prototype that can then give way to a crowdfunding campaign. Going forward, the company wants to be a job creator in the city.
In talking to Vaughan, it’s clear he’s embraced entrepreneurship. Asked to reflect on what he’s learned so far, he talked about the value of listening to advice, and a willingness to fail quickly and move forward. He and Wayman have plenty of ideas for ventures that could contribute to the greater good and developed by bringing folks together under the banner of their company, called Greatest Possible Good (registered as GPG Technologies, LLC). But the Saqua bottle remains the first venture, and Vaughan has also seen the value in being fully committed.
“It’s our whole focus,” he said.-30-