May 17, 2013

FlashFood laying solid groundwork for hunger-fighting venture

Posted: May 17, 2013
FlashFood Team
The FlashFood team includes (left to right) Jake Irvin, Loni Lehnhardt, Eric Lehnhardt, Katelyn Keberle, Steven Hernandez and Ramya Baratam. Mary Hannah Smith is not pictured.
Photo by: Jessica Slater/ASU

FlashFood, the entrepreneurship team of current and former Arizona State University engineering, business and sustainability students, recently finished a close second in national voting for Inc. Magazine’s Coolest College Startup of 2013.

The team was one of 12 student startup ventures from around the country to be selected to vie for the public’s votes that were cast through Inc. Magazine’s website.

FlashFood emerged in part from the Engineering Projects in Community Service program (EPICS) in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The team created a mobile-phone application to help develop a network to collect donations of surplus food from restaurants, banquet halls and catering services, and deliver it to communities with people in need.  

The mobile app is designed for use in establishing communications between food donors, collectors and community distribution centers to get food to people in need in a timely fashion.

A pilot operation is now being tested with participation from two food donors – a dining hall and an organic juice company – and two community centers serving as food distribution sites. To date, the operation has collected and delivered more than 600 meals.

FlashFood team members are ASU graduates Eric Lehnhardt (biomedical engineering), Steven Hernandez and Ramya Baratam (computer science), Jake Irvin (marketing and sustainability), Loni Lehnhardt (sustainability), Mary Hannah Smith (sustainability and global studies) and senior materials science and engineering major Katelyn Keberle.

The team’s selection to compete in the Inc. Magazine contest is only the latest step in the endeavor’s progress.

In April, FlashFood members competed in the Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University in Houston, winning $700 to help fund the startup.

Some team members also traveled to Boston for a workshop organized by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance E-Team Program. As one of 40 teams from around the country selected to participate, FlashFood received $5,000 in travel and venture capital funding. The workshop focused on development of business models and strategies.

Finishing high in the Inc. Magazine contest brings valuable exposure to FlashFood. "Every time you have an event like this, you get fresh contacts, and in this case we met a lot of people in the Phoenix area who can become a part of our program,” Eric Lehnhardt says.

It’s one more in a string of accomplishments that includes:

• First place at the 2012 U.S. Microsoft Imagine Cup competition

• Best in Showcase at the 2012 YUM! Global Sustainability Challenge

• People’s Choice Award at the international Dell Social Innovation Challenge

• Winning support from the ASU Innovation Challenge, the Entrepreneurs @ ASU Elevator Pitch and the ASU 10,000 Solutions Leap Day Challenge

In addition, FlashFood has earned support from the ASU Venture Catalyst program’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides funding, mentorship and office space for promising student entrepreneurship efforts.

Learn more on the FlashFood website.

Written by Natalie Pierce and Joe Kullman

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Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering