Former Student Entrepreneur, Eben Bayer, at Clinton Global Initiative

We first met Eben Bayer and his business partner Gavin McIntyre in 2007 when the team applied for an NCIIA E-Team grant of $20,000 to take their initial prototype out of their dorm room. For those who haven’t heard the Ecovative Design story, the team grew mushrooms under their dorm-room bed where they thrive … in the dark. Having grown up on a farm, experimenting with nature was not unusual for the duo. Taking Burt Swersey’s Inventor’s Studio course (which was also funded with a $50,000 NCIIA Course and Program Grant for faculty), was the catalyst for investigating useful applications for the Mycelia fungus. Known then as Greensulate, the team attended one of our Advanced workshops to develop a business model and form mentoring relationships with SBIR proposal writers. With a solid business case, the team went on to raise over a million dollars in business plan competition and grant funding. The funding enabled the team to build out their first manufacturing facility and hire their early employees. More importantly the funding enabled the company, now known as Ecovative Design, to de-risk their venture to the point of garnering early sales (replacing styrofoam in packaging for computers, window shades, surf boards… you name it). By the time they needed to take on investment, Ecovative had developed significant value in their business and attracted 3M and Sealed Air as strategic investors.

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge was one of the early competitions that helped fuel the company’s growth. This photo shows 2008 PLGC winner Eben Bayer, MD Marieke van Schaik and founder Boudewijn Poelmann on stage with President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) after Poelmannn announced PLGC’s Commitment to Action to upscale the program globally.

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