Pure Energy Partners

BigApps is the premier showcase of NYC’s tech ecosystem. It’s a competition that empowers New York’s sharpest minds to solve the city’s toughest challenges through technology, making NYC a better place to Live, Work, Learn, and Play. Whether you’re a hacker or a maker, a designer or an investor, a novice or a pro, we provide resources that make it easy to make a difference. Come to build. Come to network. Come to win.

NYC BigApps 2014 is an initiative of NYCEDC to promote government transparency and the creation of innovative new technologies. Following NYC BigApps 2013, this year’s event is the fifth annual run of the competition and is being managed by HR&A Advisors in collaboration with Super Vision and Splash.

Smart Bin - Design a simple, low-cost sensor system and user experience to help restaurants, markets, and households compost smarter & seamlessly.

Our Challenge to You

The Opportunity: Food waste from households, restaurants, and supermarkets can be converted to valuable resources like compost and clean biogas energy. NYC’s awesome restaurant sector alone produces  1 billion pounds of food waste annually (enough to fill 100 subway cars per day!) Most of that material is sent to landfills, which costs New York City millions of dollars. By diverting those food scraps to recycling facilities, NYC can create significant value in the form of lower dumping costs, healthier soils, and local clean energy. We can also reserve landfills for actual garbage that can’t be better utilized.

The Challenge: Compost and bioenergy manufacturing facilities need clean source-separated organic waste (SSO). SSO is compostable material (e.g. past-prime produce, rotten tomatoes, greasy pizza boxes, salad trimmings, stale bread) that is put into a separate bin without any contaminants, especially glass. For busy restaurant workers, supermarket operators, and households, it can be confusing to remember what should go into the SSO bin and what shouldn't. This prevents NYC from realizing the cost savings and environmental benefits of SSO recycling. The more contaminant-free SSO, the more competitively priced renewable energy and compost options there will be for our great city!

Who Should Build This: Hardware hackers, empathetic designers, and coders are perfect for this challenge. They should go door to door and talk to restaurants participating in the food waste challenge, households in the residential SSO program, supermarkets working on their own composting initiatives, haulers who are helping small businesses separate their organics, and recyclers who are producing energy and compost from SSO. Listen to their unique problems with organic waste, test your hypotheses, collect data, and design the product accordingly.

The Time is Right: The rising importance of this issue, the increasing convergence of IT and resources, and the availability of lean startup tools make this the perfect time to tackle this issue.

Product Wish List - Smart Bin

A simple and low-cost sensor system + user interface that can plug into the operations of a restaurant, market, and household seamlessly. Ideally this system would:

• Make it super easy for users to understand what materials are compostable
• Integrate with existing SSO and waste bins already in place
• Alert users if glass or other contaminants land in the SSO bin (beep beep!)
• Provide actionable data (e.g. weight of SSO as a percent of their total waste, potential cost savings by avoiding landfills or waste of edible food)
• Allow users to reduce their food waste
• Allow businesses to send predictable quantities of materials to SSO recyclers
• Be suitable for households across income levels


Pure Energy Partners helps cleanweb companies grow faster and one of our partners has been trying to hack the food waste problem since 2005. We want to mentor Big Apps teams and potentially make an in-kind investment after the competition in the form of enterprise design services, business development and fundraising support. The winner of the challenge will be invited to a design workshop with our team and design partners from The Public Society.

Evaluation Criteria

Design: Intuitive UI/UX that doesn’t require a lot of effort from the user
Sensors: Sensors deployed in a cost-effective, “plug and play” manner
Customer Development Data: Data showing that teams have talked directly with potential users to test hypotheses (the more conversations, the better)
Traction: Do you have users who love your product and are giving you feedback to help make it better?
Scaling Plan: Can you get this product into restaurants, households, and markets across the country?
Team: We prefer working with a team that has the right balance of skill sets

BigIdea Mentors

Sameer Rashid

Enterprise Design, Food Waste

Sameer is passionate about using design & IT to solve big problems in a resource-constrained world. He wants NYC to create more economic & environmental value from food waste

Learn more about Sameer!

Nicholas Eisenberger

Enterprise design, Growth

Nicholas is a clean economy pioneer with broad experience across corporate, startup, and financial sectors

Learn more about Nicholas!

Ned Horneffer

Product Management

At his day job, Ned is a Senior Analyst at Pure Energy Partners - a strategic advisory firm that helps cleanweb startups connect with early customers.

Learn more about Ned!



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What is NYC BigApps?

BigApps is the premier showcase of NYC's tech ecosystem. It's a competition that empowers New York's sharpest minds to solve the City's toughest challenges through technology, making NYC a better place to Live, Work, Learn, and Play. Whether you're a hacker or an engineer, a designer or an investor, a novice or a pro, we provide resources that make it easy to make a difference. Come to build. Come to solve. Come to win.


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