Startup Profile: fikiLABS
2020 was the year of plastic.
From record sales of single-use vinyl gloves and other plastic-based PPE equipment to an explosion in everyday items like takeout containers and plastic utensils, Scientific American reported a 30% increase in plastic waste from 2019 to 2020. Unfortunately, much of this plastic will never be recycled, ending up in landfills, or worse, the ocean. …. unless Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship founder Mia Brzakovic has anything to say about it.
Brzakovic’s startup fikiLABS is on a mission to bring a new type of sustainable plastic to market. A plastic that is carbon neutral, biodegradable, soluble, and even edible…all thanks to the magic of seaweed.
Brzakovic first discovered the power of seaweed after befriending fikiLABS Co-Founder and fellow Trinity College Dublin student Matthew Corcoran. Corcoran had been working on creating sustainable hamburger meat using seaweed as a base. As the two brainstormed and experimented together, they developed a plastic-like structure by accident. Intrigued, they spent the next few months studying the chemical structure behind their algae-based plastic so they could recreate it at scale.
After Brzakovic and Corcoran landed on a repeatable, carbon neutral “plastic” recipe, they branded their innovation fikiLABS, and began working with the Trinity College Dublin Blackstone LaunchPad program to help turn their idea into a business. For Brzakovic, the idea to pursue entrepreneurship was a natural one. Growing up, she watched her entrepreneurial father start and grow multiple businesses. Even as a child, she was fascinated by his ability to grow and scale from a small office with one desk to an entire team and constant stream of new, innovative products.
In her eyes, it all comes down to making a difference: “I think the entrepreneurial space is somewhere you can innovate and be the one who actually makes the little steps necessary toward a better world. I know it may sound cliché, but it’s really hard to make a huge difference. If we all make small differences here and there, we can actually create a better environment for all of us in the future.”
While building fikiLABS at Trinity College Dublin, Brzakovic and her co-founder Corcoran have been working closely with their school’s LaunchPad. They have enjoyed the many workshops available and are grateful for all the networking opportunities to connect with fellow entrepreneurs on campus, as well as potential mentors.
“Like many entrepreneurial students, Mia’s had to overcome the challenges of starting a business during COVID-19,” said Trinity College Student Start Up and Innovation Manager Alison Treacy. “She’s done so admirably, maintaining a really positive attitude and helping to buoy up those around her in the same situation – she is a dedicated, enthusiastic and ambitious entrepreneur and I anticipate great things from her and her startup!”
For Brzakovic, the best part about working with other entrepreneurs is the sense of community it provides. Seeking community prompted Brzakovic to apply for the Summer 2021 Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship, powered by Future Founders
Though fikiLABS is still in early stages of development, Brzakovic is working hard to map out the future of the business. Long-term, she envisions a two-sided operation, with one business unit focusing on the production of raw bioplastic material for applications such as food packaging and construction, and the other unit focusing on the development of a carbon negative reactor to capture and reduce carbon emissions. Though there is still a long road ahead, Brzakovic knows change will come. She has seen hundreds of new innovations pop up over the last year and hopes that more people will consider bioplastics like fikiLABS as the new standard: after all, a small change like moving from single-use to bioplastic can be all you need to make a huge difference in the world.