The story begins with three childhood friends from Binghamton, New York.
They get to college and want to start a business together.
So far, so good. But what they do next is the plot twist.
Instead of looking for an innovative solution to build their business around, they went in search of a problem.
“We started with the problem because we wanted to do something that would solve real issues for our customers and for the world,” said Jack Lamuraglia, one of the aforementioned friends and now a senior at Clarkson University and cofounder of KLAW Industries.
“We got the idea to approach business this way from our mentors at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator and from a book called The Lean Startup. The Lean Startup is a popular book among software startups, and we wanted to apply the ideas to the concrete and recycling industries.”
Lamuraglia and his cofounders, Jacob Kumpon and Tanner Wallis, found their way through the search for a problem to a solution that turns recycled glass into a pozzolan that can be used in concrete.
Developed as part of the ASCE Grand Challenge, the ASCE Innovation Contest serves as a springboard for forward-looking infrastructure ideas. In its fifth year, the contest invited finalists to showcase their innovations before an international audience through a virtual competition during the Convention.
But back to the team’s quest to find a problem. In fact, they found multiple problems to solve. What they saw at the recycling facilities they toured was trash bin after trash bin filled with glass.
“No one really talks about it, but all that goes to landfill,” Lamuraglia said. “None of the glass gets recycled. So we started there. We tried to figure out every possible use for that glass.”
They worked on a variety of ideas before landing on another problem area they’d been learning about – the rising price of concrete. Traditional pozzolans like fly ash are disappearing as coal and steel become less prevalent in the Northeast.
And here is where KLAW Industries’ story switches into the solution portion of the plot. KLAW developed a new concrete pozzolan they call Pantheon, derived from recycled glass.
“It was kind of a two-for-one,” Lamuraglia said. “The glass gets recycled, and we can replace cement in the concrete industry, lowering their cost, solving their problem, all while helping the environment.
“This is an environmental solution that also saves money. It does both. That’s really where we see the excitement, when people start to realize it’s not just the new green thing. It’s also a cost-saver that makes their product better. The fact that it does both is the big thing.”
The KLAW team graduates this spring with plans to open a pilot plant in Binghamton this summer to serve several nearby recycling facilities and concrete manufacturers. The hope is to test the business model and scale production up from there.
“Winning the ASCE Innovation Contest helped us in a lot of ways,” Lamuraglia said. “It was definitely a confidence boost, having the top experts in the industry go through what we were doing and conclude our product was innovative and interesting. We went on to talk further with a lot of the participating members after the competition, and they gave us feedback and connections in the industry we would otherwise not have.”
Learn more about KLAW Industries and Pantheon.
Read more about the 2020 ASCE Innovation Contest winners: https://source.asce.org/tag/innovation-contest/