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WPI business plan winner Bob Winnicki
(second from left) with his prize. Shown here are the contest
judges, including (l-r) Patrick Kelley, Worcester Capital Partners;
Winnicki; Susan Loconto Penta, Midior; and Arif Padaria, TVM Techno
Biopolymer company makes natural recovery of
$30K in WPI competition
|05/20/2002 08:46 AM |
Robert Winnicki entered Worcester
Polytechnic Institute’s business plan competition with the simple
intention of improving his writing skills.
In the end,
28-year-old Winnicki and his ecological technology also ended up
with the $30,000 first prize.
“It’s been a very good
experience for me,” he said. “The support at WPI has been
Winnicki’s company, Natural Metal Recovery
Systems, uses natural biopolymers to remove heavy metal contaminates
like chromate, copper and magnesium from liquids.
biopolymers bind to any metal with two charges.
In the mining
industry, for instance, the company’s device could remove copper
from water found in the mines. The company also plans to target the
iron and steel industries, as well as the circuit board
These clients then could use the recovered metals or
Today, most of these metals are turned into a
sludge that is buried in a landfill as hazardous
Winnicki, who hopes to finance the company through
angel investments rather than venture capital, said he will need
$100,000 to $150,000 to build a large-scale device.
will take about nine months and $50,000 to $70,000.
can get $200,000, we’ll be ready to go,” Winnicki
Worcester Advanced Plating has offered to serve as a
And if all goes according to schedule, the device
could be on the market in a year to a year and a half.
company’s revenue stream would include the sale of the device and
reorders of the polymer used in the device.
Winnicki hopes to
team up with small consulting firms that develop systems needing
such a tool.
“Each plant has different needs,” he said. “Our
real challenge is proving to this small group of professionals (the
consulting firms) that this technology is valuable.”
won the competition sponsored by the WPI Collaborative for
Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) after competing with five
other young entrepreneurs.
Natural Metal Recovery Systems,
however, is not his first company.
He co-founded Natural
Biopolymers LLC about two years ago. The company, which makes
cosmetic products from biopolymers, was a lot easier to start in his
own home than this latest endeavor, he said. The technology behind
Natural Biopolymers didn’t require as much infrastructure as does
the new company.
Winnicki now plans to focus primarily on
Natural Metal Recovery Systems, while still remaining involved in
his first company.
Unlike winners of most business
competitions, Winnicki did not receive his prize in one lump sum.
Instead, CEI instructs its winners to bill the office for their
“That keeps them coming into the office,”
said McRae C. Banks, CEI director. “We also want to make sure they
are spending it on that business.”
Banks said Winnicki’s
solid concept and the valuable nature of his technology made his
idea a winning one.
Three local venture capitalists judged
“When a venture capitalist looks at an
application and says, ‘Can we build this quickly to a $500 million
business?’ the answer to this one is ‘yes,’ ” Banks said.