Tuck MBA students completed 58 First-Year Projects (FYP) in spring 2023. FYPs are an opportunity for student teams to draw upon what they’ve learned in the classroom to help solve a timely business challenge for a client. Explore two client projects for USRowing and human waste sanitation and sustainability company Wasted*.
In February, the student-led Tuck Social Venture Fund (TSVF) announced its participation in a Series Seed round financing for Wasted*, a human waste sanitation and sustainability company founded in 2020.
The partnership continued this spring when Wasted* enlisted the help of a Tuck FYP team to identify new growth opportunities for their approach to circular sanitation, which collects human waste and processes it into fertilizer for local application.
Wasted* currently deploys its ecosystem by renting portable toilets in the greater Burlington, VT area. According to FYP team member Carolyn DeFalco T’24, portable toilets capture between one and two percent of waste in the country, largely at construction sites.
“Our team was looking at the other 98 to 99 percent of waste that is produced and thinking about how they can deploy their expertise and scale the company’s impact,” says DeFalco.
The remainder of the U.S. market for human waste is largely contained at wastewater treatment facilities so DeFalco and her team conducted research and built a financial model to inform how Wasted* could begin to broker partnerships with smaller-scale water treatment facilities in Vermont.
Our team was looking at the other 98 to 99 percent of waste that is produced and thinking about how they can deploy their expertise and scale the company’s impact.
— Carolyn DeFalco T’24
DeFalco’s FYP teammate Edmund Ong T’24 dove into research on local and federal regulations as well as possible funding opportunities through legislation like the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Edmund also took a leading role in building a scalable financial model to help inform the company’s growth strategy.
“When we presented the model to the client, you could tell they were really impressed and were eager to jump in and play around with it,” says Edmund. “We designed it with scalability in mind so they could easily calculate how much capital would be needed to invest at varying levels of implementation.”
The FYP was Edmund’s first exposure to working with a startup and he says one of the highlights of the experience was the amount of trust and responsibility his team was given to execute their vision for the project.
“When you work for a large, established company, the work is often a bit more segmented,” Edmund says. “In this environment, we had the opportunity to really run with our ideas and bring them to fruition.”
In addition to the financial analysis, DeFalco says the research her team conducted to better understand the market and the regulatory environment will allow Wasted* to be even more prepared in their conversations with potential clients and partners.
“There are a lot of variables to consider, including the facility’s size, local regulations, and relationships they have built with municipal stakeholders,” says DeFalco. “The ability to leverage all of this research and data should add a lot of depth and credibility to their proposals.”
Olivia Hack T’23 has deep ties to the sport of rowing. Her parents are on the rowing board in her hometown of Old Lyme, Connecticut. She and her siblings grew up rowing and her older brother, Austin Hack, is a two-time Olympian as a member of the U.S. men’s 8+.
As the national governing body for the sport in the United States, USRowing has long embraced the challenge of making rowing more accessible and inclusive for all types of competitive and recreational rowers. For their FYP, Hack and her team had the opportunity to strategize ways USRowing can strengthen its engagement with a growing wave of coastal rowers.
“There is growing optimism that beach sprint rowing will be included in the 2028 Olympics games in Los Angeles,” says Marcus Bailey T’24, who joined Hack on the project. “The challenge for us was how to bring this passionate community of coastal rowers who for a long time have been on the fringes of the sport to a place where they feel seen and valued as a part of the larger rowing community.”
With the help of their FYP teammates, Hack and Bailey began interviewing members of the coastal rowing community to solicit feedback on their experience. Based on insights gleaned from these interviews and market research, the team came up with a set of three recommendations. The first and easiest to implement was to increase the representation of coastal rowing on the organization’s social media and web platforms. The second was to improve the education and support offered to coastal rowers, mainly by training coaches and growing awareness of the sport within communities.
The challenge for us was how to bring this passionate community of coastal rowers who for a long time have been on the fringes of the sport to a place where they feel seen and valued as a part of the larger rowing community.
— Marcus Bailey T’24
“For athletes who might be interested in coastal rowing, we found there were not many established clubs where they could get the training and expertise they needed,” says Hack.
Their final recommendation was a longer-term investment in coastal boats which are also in short supply. Understanding the organization’s financial limitations as a nonprofit, the team offered several potential funding solutions to either rent or subsidize the purchase of coastal boats by rowing clubs.
Beyond the recommendations they shared, Hack says another critical aspect of their project was crafting a compelling story for USRowing to share about why coastal rowing matters and why it should be supported by the broader rowing community. Based on the feedback the team received and the discussions that followed, it was clear to Hack that the organization valued their partnership.
“We ended up going through a final brainstorming session with them following our presentation,” says Hack. “You could tell that they viewed us as more than just someone to deliver them a product, but as true collaborators which helped make the project successful.”