Babson Magazine

Summer 2014

Growing a Startup

In the summer of 2013, Jeremy Cai ’16 was brainstorming ideas with a high-school friend. The two were intrigued with the concept of urban waste and how it could translate into a successful business. Thus began Sprout Products, an e-commerce site for environmentally focused merchandise.

For the first product, Cai envisioned something that would appeal to everyone, in particular city dwellers. So he designed the Sprout compost bin with an apartment environment in mind. The recyclable plastic bin is a compact 8 by 8 by 11 inches high. “There is no smell because the bin uses Bokashi, a Japanese grain-based fermentation catalyst, to complete the process,” says Cai. “One to two people might fill a Sprout container in about two months.”

Because of the Bokashi process, the bin can accommodate meat and dairy products as well as the usual vegetable and fruit scraps. “There’s no need to regulate acidity or temperature,” says Cai, “and once the process is complete, you can bury the byproducts or add topsoil on top of them and convert the bin into a flowerpot.”

Cai’s goal is to turn the company into an e-commerce platform with carefully curated, environmentally influenced products. Cai, whose background includes knowledge of the environmental industry, is spending the summer developing the e-commerce platform and taking courses at Babson. After that, he’s excited by the prospect of moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he plans to devote the fall semester to raising capital and further developing the platform and its products. Cai says, “Capital is easier to raise out West.”

Always looking to the future, Cai hopes to remain in the area next spring to attend the new Babson Undergraduate Semester program in San Francisco. “There’s a great course on Silicon technology ventures and another on consulting in technology ventures that I’d like to take,” he says.—Sharman Andersen