Tucson Company Infinurja Advances in SBA Company | Tech Parks Arizona
   The University of Arizona

Tucson Company Infinurja Advances in SBA Company

April 8, 2015 | Arizona Daily Star

Nicholas Jennings, Vinay Nenwani and Adam Ross, of the Tucson company Infinurja, seek to turn waste into electricity for homes in India.

A Tucson panel has chosen one company, Infinurja — which creates energy from waste — to compete in the Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER women’s business challenge.

Locally hosted by the Arizona Center for Innovation, the competition was looking for entrepreneurs with a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization and fills a need in the marketplace.

The center received a grant last fall through a Small Business Administration Startup America initiative and was approached this spring to be a local host for the challenge. Though another Tucson organization was listed as a local host for the challenge, it did not hold a competition, so AzCI’s local finalist will be the only Tucson company moving onto the next stage.

“AzCI realized that this could be a great opportunity to provide to local companies and AzCI would be the right vehicle to do so,” said Anita Bell, acting director of the Arizona Center for Innovation.

Julie Forster with the University of Arizona’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, Carol Shaughnessy with SCORE and Steve Bernat, the founder of RallyUp.com, judged the local round of the competition.

Four companies competed for the chance to move on to the next round and compete to be a finalist:

Beads of Courage Inc. with Jean Baruch — a local nonprofit that provides beads to improve the lives of children coping with serious illness in hospitals.
Club Kidnect with Sarah Wollheim — creating a community of safety and learning addressing the issues of cyberbullying and inappropriate social-media use by children.
Infinurja with Nicholas Jennings, Adam Ross and Vinay Nenwani — providing electricity to families who have little or no access to electricity by utilizing energy from waste.
Social Sitter with Michele Joel — a software system the filters social media messages in real-time for inappropriate content before the message is sent with a measurable impact on cyberbullying.
Vinay Nenwani, CEO of Infinurja, the local winner, said he drew inspiration for the idea from his home country of India.

“I had seen the problems in India; there is no electricity and there is waste material lying all around and there is no cleanliness,” Nenwani said.

Nenwani said that Adam Ross, a microbiology scientist and Infinurja’s chief operating officer, knew how to use bacteria to generate electricity. Nenwani realized they could work together to try and solve the problem. The two met through the University of Arizona’s McGuire Entrepreneurship Program last March and began making prototypes of their product when the program began last August.

Their product, called the PwrTank, integrates into septic tanks or compost bins and generates enough energy to power the average Indian home, which is their target market during the first phase of distribution. Installation costs $500 or can be paid in monthly installments of $20 for 36 months.

According to Nenwani, around 79 percent of people in Third World countries have no access to electricity, relying instead on wood or coal for energy. He said this puts most of the pressure on the women of the households.

“In these areas women are the heads of the homes, they’re the housewives. Even if the woman is working, she has to do all of the housework,” Nenwani said. “So they suffer the most because of these problems. They have to do all the work by their hands.”

Nenwani said he believes that giving these households access to electricity will be the best for the women and their families.

Infinurja is currently testing prototypes at the Arizona Center for Innovation.

Next, Nenwani said Infinurja will go on to compete in five more competitions this month, where it hopes to win more funding to allow it to build 50 demonstration units to launch in Hingoli, India. Once they secure more funding, they plan to launch in India in September or October.

The Small Business Administration will review all local winners and identify no more than 10 finalists. If chosen, Infinurja will make a live pitch to a panel of judges during National Small Business Week in May with the chance to win one of three awards and prize money totaling $30,000.



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