Victoria Gregory ’17 and Gabe Alba ’17 will graduate from MIT on June 9. But don’t expect them to relax post-Commencement. The duo will continue their quest to keep coffee hot longer, as originally chronicled on MIT News in March.
Gregory and Alba are now in the advanced stages to mass produce the Coffee Cookie, a small device that can keep coffee hot for an extra 15 minutes, or about the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.
“Their device is the Coffee Cookie — a lightweight, circular object that attaches to the bottom of disposable coffee cups. It looks like a sea-blue casino chip but in fact is a battery-operated drink warmer that heats up to 90 degrees Celsius.”
With Coffee Cookie, MIT duo takes product from idea to launch, MIT News, March 30
While the Coffee Cookie could be a godsend to hot coffee lovers, Gregory and Alba’s entrepreneurship isn’t caffeine focused. They saw the Cookie as a needed—and trendy—accessory to a popular product, and a welcome respite from another startup venture—building a miniature jet engine.
“Our goal was to find and create an accessory for something that's already very successful," Gregory says. "When selfies became popular, there became a need for a selfie stick. It's kind of like a selfie stick for coffee.”
Up next for the soon-to-be mechanical engineering alumni: one week in New York City to refine the Coffee Cookie then six weeks in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, where they’ll open an assembly facility that will manufacture an initial run of 10,000 devices. (Alba spent part of his childhood in Leon.)
Gregory says the idea-to-launch process, which began in January, has blended their MechE knowledge with a crash course in entrepreneurship and mass production.
“It’s easy to fall into an engineering hole and focus only on the technical aspects,” she says. “But you also need to flip it inside-out and focus on how it can actually get in people’s hands.”
Gregory and Alba have encountered MIT support both on campus, through a $10,000 grant from the Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, and off campus, thanks to advice and encouragement from MIT alumni.
Alba says that Amir Hirsch ’06, MEng ’07 helped guide them a through a complicated battery purchase from a company in China, and electrical engineering alumnus Bayley Wang was instrumental in the electronics design.
“If it wasn’t for Sandbox, we’d still be thinking small-scale,” Alba says. “And it’s doubtful we would have fixed some of the problems we ran into without the help of MIT alumni. It definitely makes us want to help more students in the future.”