Innovation Labs

We help reuse companies get the support and investment they need to take their business to the next level.

People’s awareness around waste - especially single-use plastics - has increased dramatically in recent years. And there is now soaring demand for solutions. The increase in plastic bag, Styrofoam, and straw bans as well as consumers’ willingness to carry their own reusable mugs, water bottles, and utensils show there is a growing market that businesses can fill.

The challenges are great, but so is the opportunity. In the United States alone, the market for single-use plastics in the food service sector is $21.9B. And the global $4.5B market for compostable food service products demonstrates a desire for a shift away from our throw-away culture to something better. Hackathons and panel discussions can inspire and educate, but we need real, scalable solutions today. This is where our Innovation Labs come in.

Our labs are a little different (like Shark Tank meets the Voice different :)

Our Innovation Labs are a competitive program matching startups with the mentorship and investment they need to accelerate their business. From early stage startups - looking to fine tune their business plan and attract investment -  to established teams facing the challenge of scaling their operations, our labs are designed to bring the knowledge and investment needed to take reuse businesses to the next level.

How does it work?

To be invited to pitch before our panel of mentors and investors, applicants will be required to submit a business plan that:

  • Supports the creation of Throw-Away-Free Places and Communities
  • Enables a reuse system in communities, venues, school systems, or businesses 
  • Can be implemented in New York City or the Bay Area, CA
  • Can produce a measurable impact within 12 months, either through full implementation or a pilot program

Submissions and teams with the highest potential for success and impact will be invited to pitch live in New York City in April 2020 before a diverse and experienced group of investors and business leaders with a proven track record. 

These leaders (our mentors) will select up to 3 teams to participate in a two-day, intensive workshop to develop and hone their pitch before going in front of the Innovation Labs’ investors for a final pitch. The workshopped pitch will be made in front of our team of investors - and a live studio audience - for the opportunity to raise capital and bring on additional expertise.

Teams that secure investment partnerships, will continue to receive support from their mentors and adhere to regular check-ins and updates as well as their agreed-upon deliverables schedule. Together, the investors, mentors, and the UPSTREAM team will provide support and access to an incredible network of expertise to help build not only actionable plans but fully realized solutions at scale.

Interested in pitching your project or business?

Please contact Berna Tural at

Interested in becoming an Innovation Labs Investor or Mentor?

Please contact Berna Tural at