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People's Choice Award for Systems Engineering graduates

In their Bachelor’s thesis, Systems Engineering graduates Reto Muhl and Claudio Ruiz developed a heatable food container. First, they were able to convince the jury of the ZHAW Startup Challenge of their business idea’s potential. Now they have won another prize at an international startup competition in the USA.

Astrid Besmer, Claudio Ruiz und Reto Muhl (v.l.n.r.) reisten als Gewinner der ZHAW Startup Challenge in die USA und überzeugten auch dort mit ihrer Idee.

As the winners of the ZHAW Startup Challenge, the “Nexenic” team, which includes the two Systems Engineering graduates Reto Muhl and Claudio Ruiz as well as Astrid Besmer from the University of Zurich, qualified for the Virginia Tech Global Challenge international startup competition in the USA. Once again, the young entrepreneurs presented their concept with success. “Steasy” is the name of their portable device which heats food gently with steam. The idea appealed to the audience in attendance, and the People's Choice Award, consisting of 5000 dollars, was awarded to the Swiss team. “We were a bit surprised that we won”, says Claudio Ruiz. “Not because we weren’t good, but because the level of the participating teams was quite high in general.”

Patent pending

The graduates don’t want to reveal too many details yet, because they have applied for a patent for “Steasy”. “The process is still ongoing”, says Reto Muhl. “We’ll see what parts of it we can protect.” While the technical details are under lock, the Systems Engineering graduates explain what their invention is for: “It’s a problem that many people have. So often, the only available lunch options are fast food, instant meals or sandwiches”, explains Claudio Ruiz. “If you want to keep a well-balanced diet, you bring your pre-cooked meal from home, but then you have to reheat it in the microwave, which lowers the quality.” The portable device developed by the graduates offers an alternative. It heats food using hot steam. “Reheating with steam is called ‘regenerating’ and doesn’t influence the quality of the food – the meals neither dry out nor lose vitamins”, says Reto Muhl. “Our device enables users to reheat healthy meals in manner than preserves quality, no matter when or where.”

Healthy eating as a business concept

Building on the fact that healthy eating is gaining importance for many people, the graduates want to found a startup company with their device. “The fact that we won the audience award is very encouraging”, says Claudio Ruiz. “People voted for us because our product apparently fulfils a real need.” The young entrepreneurs are investing all of the prize money in the patent procedure. Furthermore, their success in the ZHAW Startup Challenge won them a place in the ZHAW RUNWAY Startup Incubator (in German). Here, they will be supported by their very own coach in further developing their project for the next six months. Claudio Ruiz is already thinking about their next steps: “We are going to devise a business strategy and seek investors so we can push forward with development.”