2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Changing Room, Columbia Business School

Changing Room

Columbia Business School

Industry: Tech

Founding Student Name(s): Martim de Mello (MBA ’21) and Jeremy Yao (MS Engineering at Columbia)

Brief Description of Solution: We are a Strava-like social platform helping users track and reduce their environmental impact. We provide tools that evaluate the environmental impact of products while shopping and show lower impact alternatives real time

Funding Dollars: $25k (10k Summer Startup Track) + $15k founder investment

What led you to launch this venture? We met in an innovation class at Columbia University called “Think Bigger” where we were challenged to identify a problem we cared about and come up with an idea for a solution.

The problem: fast fashion is contributing massively to the climate crisis and fashion consumers are uneducated about their clothing’s environmental impact and unaware of more sustainable alternatives due to a lack of transparency in the industry.

Our motivation: We believe we can help consumers make more sustainable decisions in a fun and engaging way.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We’ve been able to build our beta product while studying at Columbia and I am super proud of how it looks and works.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The MBA program taught me the importance of “going for it.” It’s nice to have ideas and ambitions, but it all starts with the decision to take the first step into implementing that idea. The journey begins and there’s no looking back.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? One of my biggest inspirations is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. He has spearheaded the sustainability movement in fashion, understanding the importance of social and environmental well-being from early on.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Think Bigger was the most important because it was where it all started. But Greenhouse helped us push the idea to a whole new level. Dave, Brendan and Justin challenged us through candid feedback, teaching us the lesson that you need to be totally open to feedback and ready to adjust your initial idea with a humble attitude and growth mindset.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Todd Jick. He taught me the complexities of leading teams and the importance of acting as a coach more than a leader or boss, helping people perform at their highest standard.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? It would be to create a powerful social force that moves the world closer to solving the climate crisis. I want to look back in 20 years and see that people continue using Changing Room to track their ever more sustainable lifestyle.

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