2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: MacroCycle Technologies, MIT (Sloan)

MacroCycle Technologies

MIT, Sloan School of Management

Industry: Plastic Recycling

Founding Student Name(s): Stwart Peña Feliz (MIT Sloan MBA ’23) & Jan-Georg Rosenboom (MIT, Postdoc in Chemical Engineering)

Brief Description of Solution: Through MacroCycle’s patented technology, plastic waste of any quality can be upcycled to virgin grade plastic with zero carbon emissions.

Funding Dollars: $4.0M ($0.5M Non-dilutive & $3.5M Dilutive)

What led you to launch this venture? I previously worked for an oil & gas company, where I served as the technical contact for the unit that first recycled plastic within the company. This was my introduction to chemical recycling. Although I should have been excited to be working on such a cool project, I quickly discovered that we would be emitting significantly more CO2 emissions for the sake of recycling. The plastic industry, I realized, needed to change. Which is why when I met my co-founder in MIT Sloan’s Climate & Energy Ventures class, I immediately knew this was a technology I wanted to commercialize to fix our broken recycling industry.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We were accepted as Breakthrough Energy Fellows, which is an early-stage climate innovation accelerator founded by Bill Gates. We were awarded $0.5M in grants to scale up our technology. We’re really proud to be one of only 13 startups that were accepted into this program.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? The most significant challenge I faced in creating this company was ensuring that I had funding to be able to pursue this venture. I do not come from a privileged background and could not afford to bootstrap for nearly any period of time. I made this clear to my co-founder. With that, we set off on a mission to raise non-dilutive funds before we were ready to take on investments. This is how we ended up receiving the $0.5M grant, which will allow me to take a salary and start building the venture until we raise our seed round. And this is all thanks to the MIT entrepreneurial ecosystem, which granted us numerous opportunities to win pitch competitions and apply to programs that we would eventually be accepted into.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Prior to earning my MBA, I was an engineer mostly focusing on my technical skills. The Sloan MBA program helped me unlock the soft skills that have allowed me to lead this venture to the successes it has achieved thus far. And it has provided me with countless opportunities to secure non-dilutive sources of funding, mentorship, and exposure to the Climate Tech ecosystem in Boston. Most importantly, it created a space where my co-founder and I could meet to commercialize his technology. Bringing the greatest scientific minds together with those studying business helps create new ventures that will change our world.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My parents. They never started a company at any point in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t among the most creative of individuals when it came to business ideas that helped provide for our family. As charismatic salespeople, their ability to see a pain point, pivot their ideas if things didn’t go well, and working diligently to grow the businesses they worked for, are all achievements I have been exposed to throughout my life. They motivated me to follow my dream, no matter what obstacles were on the way. And I truly do believe that if my parents had the same opportunities that I have had, they would have been a lot more successful in entrepreneurship than I have been!

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Hands down, MIT Sloan‘s Climate & Energy Ventures class. It consists of 40 students from MIT Sloan, MIT’s engineering school, Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Kennedy School. This is where my co-founder and I met, and it is the reason our startup exists today. Through this class, I learned that diversity of thought is the most powerful weapon available for innovation. And it doesn’t hurt when everyone is equally as passionate about solving our climate crisis.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Senior Lecturer Donald Sull has made the most significant contribution to my growth as a leader and a visionary. He teaches the class Competitive Strategy at Sloan, and he opened my mind to the fact that “strategy without data is just poetry.” Because of this, I was always mindful in selecting the next endeavor I would work on during my MBA journey. Sometimes, the opportunity arose where I could clearly see and understand the vision, the data and the strategy that needed to come together. In these times, I  felt even more strongly that MacroCycle was the right venture to pursue.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Boston is the hub of ClimateTech innovation, especially within the subset of HardTech. And being at the greatest engineering school in the world unlocks an incredible amount of resources. The number of mentors, competitions, programs, venture capital firms, startups, companies, and enthusiasts that are located in this space have been of tremendous help as we scale up this venture. If we ever have questions specific to any climate technology, we are only steps away from asking the right person. As we fundraise, all the main investors are just one or two train stops away. And as we start hiring, we know the schools that have the talent. It has been an honor to be part of this ecosystem, and we hope we can contribute in making it an even better place.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our mission is to be the largest producer of PET plastics through our upcycled, zero-carbon emission technology. We believe that plastic has its rightful place in our society although plastic in its current form has too many harmful effects. Whether it is the pollution it creates in our landfills and oceans, or the fact that 4.5% of global emissions can be associated to the plastic lifecycle, the plastic industry needs fixing. Through MacroCycle’s technology, we are able to eliminate the problems plastic causes by creating virgin plastic from waste rather than from fossil fuels, which eliminates plastic’s carbon footprint. This way, MacroCycle can create a society where we all benefit from plastic, while preventing plastic from harming our planet and its inhabitants.


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