Entrepreneurial Success in Tandon’s Latine Community
Daniela Blanco often thinks about the family members who remain in her native Venezuela. With the annual inflation rate there reaching 83,000% by mid-2018, prices roughly doubling each month, and a single cup of coffee costing a staggering 2.5 million bolivars, journalists often refer to the nation’s economy as being in freefall.
Blanco, like most of her fellow expatriates, does all she can for those still in Venezuela, and she feels especially grateful to be here at NYU Tandon, where she is earning a doctoral degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering — while concurrently proving her entrepreneurial skills as the co-founder of the recently incorporated company Sunthetics.
The venture had its genesis in 2017 when Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Miguel Modestino was researching a method of using water, plant waste, and solar energy to manufacture nylon, instead of the fossil fuel currently used. Blanco, along with recent B.S. grad Myriam Sbeiti (‘18), signed on to shepherd that innovation from the lab to the real world, and Sunthetics was born. The team envisions the process being of interest to not just the fashion industry — which produces millions of tons of petrochemical-based nylon each year, thereby generating significant emissions of carbon dioxide — but to anyone in the broader chemical-manufacturing world seeking greener production methods.
Soon after it launched, Sunthetics began racking up accolades and prizes, including a $100,000 Technology Venture Prize (part of the NYU Stern $300K Entrepreneurship Challenge), the $20,000 top prize in the Innovention Competition at Tandon, and a $20,000 Stage II VentureWell grant. In October Blanco will travel to Denmark to take part in the University Startup World Cup, which attracts dozens of teams from around the world to network with established entrepreneurs and investors, develop and benchmark their business idea, and compete for the title of Best University Startup and a prize of $25,000.
Between traveling, conducting doctoral research, maintaining her 4.0 GPA, and scaling up Sunthetics (which is now in the process of building a larger, new reactor), it’s turning out to be a whirlwind year for Blanco. Like all young entrepreneurs, she is keeping her eye on the future — which may soon be cleaner and more sustainable thanks to her work — and she fervently hopes to see the situation in her native country improve even sooner.
Another Latine Entrepreneur on the Rise
Bertha Jimenez, a native of Ecuador who earned a Ph.D. in Technology Management and Innovation in 2016, is gaining national attention in recent days. High-profile trade publications and business journals alike are taking notice of Rise, the company she founded as a student. Even the New York Times is praising Jimenez’s idea to eliminate food waste by milling the spent grain produced by breweries into a nutritious and flavorful flour now being used in bakeries throughout the city. Chocolate, barley and dulce de leche poundcake; shortbread cookies; and fresh pasta are all on offer according to the Times, so you can indulge your gourmet side while helping to support more sustainable food practices.