Founder/CEO, PK Clean
Priyanka Bakaya is looking for another win.
Since June 2009, when she founded clean energy startup PK Clean, the company has won, among other prizes, a Lightspeed Venture Partners Fellowship, an MIT Clean Energy Prize, and both Best Energy Business Plan and Best Woman Entrepreneur at the esteemed Rice University Business Plan Competition.
PK Clean’s 10-person team manages a pilot facility in India that converts landfill plastics into oil and gas through a patented catalytic depolymerization process. The process yields 70 percent oil, as well as a 20 percent gas yield that is used to reheat the process, Bakaya said.
The fruits of the competition wins—cash, mentorship, legal services, and media attention—have kept PK Clean up and running, despite no venture capital funding. Bakaya will learn next week if the company wins a MassChallenge award, for which they are a final contender. Next month she competes in the national final of the Cleantech Open, after winning the regional final last week.
“These competitions are helpful,” Bakaya said. “You get mentorship, you get access to people in the industry, and each win gives the team momentum.”
But after more than two years of pitching, winning, testing, and building, PK Clean is moving beyond early testing and prize-based funding. After completing successful batch conversions, the company is ready to attempt a continuous conversion process. Next comes a round of seed funding in early 2012, followed by a full-scale commercial pilot plant.
“The goal is not to pitches, but to make an impact and get the product to market,” Bakaya said. With PK Clean predicting it can produce oil for as little as $25 a barrel, she is optimistic about success.
“The concept is very straight-forward,” she said. “People see the process and that it makes sense. Plastic comes from oil and right now we’re just landfilling this precious resource.”
Since graduating MIT Sloan in June, Bakaya has made the San Francisco Bay Area her home. She keeps in touch with the School through the MIT Sloan Global Entrepreneurship Lab, where PK Clean is a sponsor company.
“It’s exciting to give back and put into practice the concepts I studied,” she said. “We have gained so much from the resources at MIT and from being on Sand Hill Road at the VC incubator. It’s very rewarding to contribute and make an impact.”