ASU-led tech startup Hygiea heads to Berkeley entrepreneurship competition

April 27, 2017

Last year, a group of students launched a small startup with a big idea: to make waste management less wasteful.

To date, Hygiea has raised more than $40,000 in grant funding, and the team heads to their seventh entrepreneurial competition this week. Left to right,Hygiea founders Saiman Shetty and Parshad "Patrick" Patel, stand with the Mayor's Cup in Los Angeles, California. Since starting last year, Hygiea has made waves in the entrepreneurial world, entering numerous startup competitions and raising more than $40,000 in funding. This week, they're headed to the University of California, Berkeley, for LAUNCH. Photo courtesy of Saiman Shetty Download Full Image

Led by founder and CEO Saiman Shetty, Hygiea will be pitching their internet-of-things-powered platform, which gathers data about the content and capacity of waste containers at LAUNCH, the University of California’s startup accelerator, held at UC Berkeley. Rounding out the team are chief technology officer Parshad “Patrick" Patel and Pooja Addla Hari, VP Business Development, and a graduate of the technological entrepreneurship management program at the Polytechnic School, one the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. 

The idea for Hygiea came to Shetty when he noticed the inefficiency of waste collection. Workers often waste time visiting trash receptacles that aren’t full, while overflowing receptacles are missed.

“The inefficiency was in that the workers had no feedback or strategy about bin fullness and so could not plan their collection circuits effectively,” says Shetty, who earned his master’s of science in electrical engineering from the Fulton Schools.

To combat this, Hygiea developed a system that runs the data collected from waste receptacles through a powerful analytics engine that helps optimize collection routes and schedules. The system can also leverage past data to predict population dynamics and surges in receptacle use, possibly saving waste management companies 30 percent on collection costs. 

Shetty said the company is also looking to fill the need for this kind of service in the health care industry, where hospitals and other health care institutions have reported problems with biohazardous waste bins overflowing.

At LAUNCH, Hygiea will be competing against 15 other teams, which were selected from a field of 250 applicants. The grand prize is $30,000 in funding, with smaller cash prizes for the audience choice award as well as second and third place.

But this isn't Hygiea’s first rodeo. Their first entrepreneurial competition was the Silicon Valley Business Competition at San Jose State University last year. Out of 128 teams, Hygiea advanced to the final four, securing $5,000 in funding.

They also participated in Arizona State University’s signature startup competition, the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, becoming one of the 20 ventures in the 2016 cohort. They ultimately earned $20,000 in funding and struck a deal with ASU in which the university agreed to sponsor patenting and intellectual property processes. The venture also took home the top prize at ASU’s Changemaker Challenge, beating out 86 other teams to claim $10,000.

“These two grants helped us get the product development in full speed,” says Shetty. “We hired an Indian company located in Rajkot to jointly develop the software side of our product and we partnered with a local company here for the hardware. We love to keep hardware manufacturing closest to us because the turnaround cycle is super quick with companies in the U.S.”

Hygiea has made other connections stateside as well, entering Los Angeles’ Mayor’s Cup, which fields applications from innovative startups. Out of 150 applicants, Hygiea was one of five chosen to present and receive assistance from L.A. town hall to market their products to the city.

“We are currently in talks with the sanitation department of LA town hall to run a pilot program to prove its benefits to the city,” says Shetty.

The venture has also made inroads within Silicon Valley, accepting an incubation offer from Plug and Play Tech Center, the investment firm and startup accelerator that has produced PayPal, Dropbox and other successful companies. Plug and Play also invested $150,000 in kind and provided Hygiea with office space in Sunnyvale, California. This leap forward spurred Hygiea to incorporate and officially become a company.

“Thus, what started with student competitions and as a pastime project became a real product and ready to cater to a market need that is existent out there,” says Shetty.

While they prep for LAUNCH, the startup is currently fielding investment requests from different janitorial companies looking to leverage Hygiea’s tech to boost their operations. But Shetty sees the scope of Hygiea to stretch beyond simply become profitable, but to advance in the way we manage waste.

“More than anything else, we identify ourselves as a technology company and commit ourselves to our mission: To Eliminate Waste from Waste Management,” says Shetty. “That's how we want the world to look at us as well. We want to keep innovating to redefine the limits of waste management processes using technical innovations that we do at Hygiea.”

Pete Zrioka

Managing editor, Knowledge Enterprise


ASU grad student’s thesis inspired by Arizona Legislative Internship

April 27, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Jennifer Kahn is graduating from Arizona State University this May with a degree in political science as part of ASU’s 4+1 program, an accelerated bachelor’s and master’s major track. Before beginning her graduate studies, Kahn took part in the Arizona Legislative Internship Program. Download Full Image

The Arizona Legislative Internship Program provides students with the opportunity to work at the Arizona State Capitol on various projects that range from data analysis to specialized knowledge on interest groups in the area. The experience influenced Kahn’s established ideas of the political system.

“I have always wanted to go to law school, ever since I was younger, and this experience really helped me understand the other side of the law,” Kahn said.

“I did not know, prior to my internship, that there were research analysts in the Senate and House, much less analysts assigned to each committee, who need to know the bills inside and out, what interest groups are pushing for this bill to be passed, and what interest groups are pushing for this bill to fail,” Kahn said. “Even though I knew the basic process of how a bill becomes a law, there was a lot that goes into it that I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for my experience in the Senate.”

After completing this internship, Kahn went into the 4+1 accelerated graduate program offered by ASU, pursuing her master’s in political science. She was recently awarded the Warren E. Miller Research Paper Award from the School of Politics and Global Studies for her master’s thesis.

Her study consisted of two experiments with fictional advertisements that varied the gender of candidates and the “gender” of the advertisements themselves. The object of this study was to determine and understand how gender differences in the campaign may influence the way the public views male and female judicial candidates. 

When asked about her motivations behind this study, she said, “I was interested in this research because I enjoy reading research on the gender differences in legislative and executive campaigns, but realized there was very little research done on the judiciary, so I decided to combine my interest in law with my interest in gender differences and conduct this study.”

After graduating from the 4+1 program, Jennifer plans on attending ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, pursuing her childhood dream.

office assistant, School of Politics and Global Studies