UMN startup BKB Floral Foam took first place at the 2022 startup competition MN Cup, beating out 90 semifinalists to be crowned Grand Prize Winner and receive $50,000 in funding. BKB Floral Foam produces compostable floral foams as a sustainable alternative to traditional foams, which are widely used and petroleum-based. UMN startup Q-rounds was recognized as the life science/health IT division winner, and Refr Sports, co-founded by recent UMN graduate Wyatt Gustafson, won the student division.
BKB Floral Foam is one of a growing portfolio of UMN startups focused on sustainable chemistry and materials, many of which stem from the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers. This portfolio includes Låkril Technologies, which is deriving acrylic acid from corn instead of petroleum, with the potential to defossilize common household items such as paints, coatings, detergent bottles, and disposable diapers, and Niron Magnetics, a developer of rare-earth free magnets for electric motors that recently raised $21.3 million for a new pilot production facility.
According to BKB Chief Technology Officer David Goldfeld, “The University of Minnesota is much more straightforward and kinder to the idea of an entrepreneurial startup…That made a big difference for us. A lot of other technology agreements elsewhere are really complicated, dealing with different percentages depending on different markets and having all sorts of caveats and catches. The University of Minnesota made this idea of technology transfer easier to navigate, and I think that was one of the things that really drove BKB to agree to move forward with a university project.”
Companies interested in sustainability also have the option to license UMN sustainable technologies.