Alexander Mittal got the idea for his latest startup during a volunteer mission to install water pipes in a remote mountain community in Honduras. He recalls that after he surveyed the materials, he decided there could be a better way to secure infrastructure from bacterial contamination.
A few years later, with an engineering degree and an MBA in hand, Mittal, now 25, is taking his vision for bacteria-resistant materials to market. The company he co-founded and heads,
Philadelphia-based Innova bills itself as a materials company. It’s currently marketing a technology called IonArmour, which is used to protect surfaces from bacteria and other microbes.
The company has already deployed the technology in water bottles, producing a spin out, called Hydros Bottle, which makes a bottle for filtering tap water. Innova is also working with the U.S. Army and several large companies on separate projects, says COO and co-founder Arjun Srinivas.
Most of the company’s projects are in stealth mode, with a couple exceptions, according to Srinivas. One such project is with KSI, a keyboard maker that is using antimicrobial technology in products tailored for health care settings. Innova has also partnered on another project with ClearSounds, a maker of products for the hearing impaired, which is marketing a line of microbe-resistant phones.
Innova secured rights to the intellectual property underlying the antimicrobial technology from the University of Pennsylvania and has filed more than a dozen patent applications, Mittal says. The company’s technology is based on research that Mittal and Srinivas took part in while completing their engineering degrees at the university.
Now the company is looking to scale. Initially, the co-founders obtained had seed funding after winning a business plan competition at the Wharton School of Business. They raised about $500,000, mostly from individual investors. With the latest financing round, Mittal says, the plan is to roughly double the size of the 10-person company in the next year and to focus on further commercializing its antimicrobial technology.
But Mittal says he hasn’t forgotten about applications such as the one he first envisioned in Honduras.
Although Innova’s technology was not deployed in that particular installation, Mittal, a former president of his university’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, says the plan is that it will be used in similar projects.
“This comes from a desire to help the developing world’s problem, which is access to clean water,” he says.
For Mittal, Innova is actually the second startup he’s launched with a partial focus on solving a developing world problem. He co-founded and previously served as CTO at Crederity, a credential verification service that operates in the United States and India. —Joanna Glasner