MBC Innovation Track Spotlight
The Zell Lurie Institute’s campus-wide business plan competition, the Michigan Business Challenge (MBC), concludes on Friday, February 26. As the MBC Finals approach, ZLI will highlight student entrepreneurs competing for $100,000 in cash prizes.
EcoSimmer provides the first ever flameless, compact, and lightweight device for making hot food and drinks in the backcountry. Tom Swift (MBA ’21), Josh Troger (MBA ’21), Joshua Ahrens (MBA ’21), Ted Jerse (MBA ’21) and Cory Ireland (MBA ’21).
What was the origin of this venture – how was the problem/opportunity discovered?
EcoSimmer was incepted in the summer of 2020 by Tom Swift and Bill Swift as they were backpacking through the Desolation Wilderness in California. There were many wildfire concerns and state-imposed restrictions on the use of open flame cooking equipment, so while hiking over Phipps Pass, they had the idea of making a flameless alternative to traditional portable gas stoves for making their dinner.
What do you think will be the long-term impact of launching your venture?
At EcoSimmer we hope to improve accessibility to the outdoors by reducing the complexity and environmental impact of cooking in the backcountry. Particularly, as more individuals are exploring the outdoors due to COVID-19, we want to ensure that there are simple solutions to help keep the outdoors natural and preserved for future generations. Our goal is to create easy-to-use backcountry cooking solutions that limit man-made wildfire and environmental threats from cooking over open flames or using combustible fuels.
How did you form your team?
EcoSimmer started with Tom Swift and Bill Swift as the founders who conducted initial market research and who created the initial proofs of concept. From there, Joshua Ahrens, Josh Troger, Cory Ireland, and Ted Jerse were inspired to join the team and to work on developing the business plan as a part of the New Venture Creations class in the Ross School of Business. The broad team has diverse experience across all parts of business and is constantly innovating on EcoSimmer’s business.
How has participation in MBC helped move your venture forward?
The Michigan Business Challenge has helped EcoSimmer formalize a lot of the theory taught in the classroom. It is great to learn about financial projections, marketing strategies, and customer lifetime value, but until you are on the hot seat in the University of Michigan’s version of Shark Tank and have to defend all of your decisions and projections, you really can’t fully appreciate the importance of each concept.
What has been your biggest takeaway from the MBC experience (so far)?
Our biggest takeaway as a team is that every investor is looking for something different. Some investors really care about financial assumptions while others really want to see validation of the technology… being able to provide confident answers and to show that we have thought through each topic has been critical.
What are your plans following MBC? How would prize money help your venture?
Following MBC, EcoSimmer plans on continuing its market research as well as investing more in developing its technology. In particular, the MBC prize money would help with covering some of the many costs associated with developing a physical product.
What advice do you have for other student entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is complex and will expose you to an incredibly diverse set of challenges to solve. Having the drive to learn and to tackle these challenges is where the fun comes from! There is no set of classroom education that could ever substitute the learnings obtained from actually taking the leap and starting a venture.
How can others connect with your venture?
www.ecosimmer.com/ – coming soon!
2021 Michigan Business Challenge Finals
The 2021 Michigan Business Challenge Finals will be held Friday, February 26. Follow these outstanding University of Michigan student startups through ZLI social media.