2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Sortile, Columbia Business School

Sortile

Columbia Business School

Industry: Textile Waste Management

Founding Student Name(s): Constanza Gomez (MBA ’22), Agustina Mir (MPA), and Florencia Valladares

Brief Description of Solution: We provide a hardware device that reduces the time to identify the fiber composition of clothing by over 6x. Additionally, we use the data from this device to provide management and logistics services to textile collectors and sorters.

Funding Dollars: 126k in grants + 712k in investor funding.

What led you to launch this venture? I began my professional career studying Latin American retail. As part of that research, I became aware of the amount of waste the industry creates and the lack of awareness and solutions for it. Additionally, as a Chilean, it struck me particularly close as we are one of the largest importers of secondhand goods and many of them end up in illegal dumping grounds and later incinerated creating significant health issues for the communities in the area.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Securing Goodwill South Florida as a beta customer. As one of the largest textile collectors in the US, having Goodwill interested in our product was a huge validation.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? In every way.  I always say I tripped into entrepreneurship. While I was convinced that I would work in eliminating textile waste, I had not originally thought to start my own company. The MBA gave me confidence; the network taught me how to pitch; and the programming showed me how to conduct better customer interviews, etc.  It also gave us our first funding through grants which allowed us to validate our MVP.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you?  My father built his own business about 10 years ago and he has been an absolute inspiration. He had the guts to leave his corporate job and start his own business when he had 5 kids. He has also built a culture inside his company where everyone has a voice and so many of the initiatives have come from ideas of his employees.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Greenhouse.  You need to be inevitable; persistence is absolutely key.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Jack McGourty. He was an incredible sounding board at a time when so many things were uncertain.  He was able to provide a structured way to move forward.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? It has been extremely beneficial to be located in New York for multiple reasons. First, it is one of the few places in the United States where policy around textile waste is being discussed. This has meant that both startups and companies have started looking into innovation around this space: Fabscrap, Wearable Collections, Retrievr, Rent the Runway and so many more.  This has created an ecosystem that is pushing towards circularity in textiles and collaborations to make it happen.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We will divert all textiles from landfills.

DON’T MISS: MEET ALL OUR MBA DISRUPTORS OF 2022 or WANTED: STUDENT START-UP IDEAS TO COMPETE FOR A $50K CASH PRIZE IN OLIN BUSINESS SCHOOL’S BIG IDEABOUNCE® ELEVATOR PITCH CONTEST

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.