PDA Q&A: Kylee Guenther

The E-Interview, co-founder and CEO, Pivot Materials, Detroit
Kylee Guenther
Kylee Guenther

DB: Where are you?
KG: In Cupertino, Calif., where our company is part of Plug and Play, an innovation platform that pairs promising startups with the world’s largest corporations. We’re in the new materials accelerator.

DB: How’s it going?
KG: For a three-month period, there are mentoring sessions and pitch-polishing sessions, and mentors help you prep for investment. Toward the end of the program there’s a spring summit, where all the corporate partners come together at Plug and Play in Sunnydale, Calif. At our (2019) summit, they had pitch demonstrations and we had a small trade booth.

DB: How does the program work?
KG: We started in March with an audition, and the corporate partners pick the startups in various categories — our category is New Materials and Packaging. Plug and Play vets the selected startups, and our category went from 40 to 20, and then 18 (participating companies). At Plug and Play, we’ve been meeting with existing customers and potential corporate partners. We’ve been self-funded (since the company started in 2013), but we’re kicking off our funding round.

DB: Any leads?
KG: We’ve been working hard on our pitch. It’s hard to get in front of a huge crowd, and even harder to ask for money. When we started (with the program), I was very shy, and now I’m speaking to crowds of 1,500 to 2,000 people. A year ago I would never have done that.

DB: Any new products?
KG: We just blew a new plastic bag in our lab that’s biodegradable. You could bury it and it would degrade safely. We blew the bag, cut the bag, sealed it, and now we’ve started testing. It would replace (regular) plastic bags, and we think
it would be useful for straws. We’re also looking
at other opportunities for biodegradable, one-time use utensils.