Where are they now? The Steel Glass: Best Business Concept winner, 2014 USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase

The Steel Glass co-founders and USC Marshall alumni Constantine Greanias and Iñaki Pedroarena-Leal.

The Steel Glass co-founders and USC Marshall alumni Constantine Greanias and Iñaki Pedroarena-Leal (photo provided by The Steel Glass).

In Fall 2014, The Steel Glass entered the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase. It won a top honor: the $7,000 Best Business Concept award.

Not bad for the student startup’s first competition.

Several months later, the young company won a second contest, earning $15,000 from the USC Marshall New Venture Seed Competition, organized by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. More recently, The Steel Glass qualified as one of ten finalists for the San Diego Tech Coast Angels’ Quick Pitch Competition on October 1st, out of a pool of 100 teams.

The Steel Glass, which provides ultra strengthened glassware to the restaurant and hospitality industry, was able to launch with the USC Stevens and USC Marshall prizes alone, according to its co-founders Iñaki Pedroarena-Leal and Constantine Greanias, who were USC Marshall graduate and undergraduate students, respectively, at the time of the competitions and have since graduated.

With the cash prize from the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase, the pair was able to do a successful beta test almost immediately for their product, fulfilling an order for two restaurants in Los Angeles, said Pedroarena-Leal. In addition to giving the two student entrepreneurs valuable funding, the competition gave them experience in business pitching – key skills they still use today – and provided validity and feedback to their startup concept in order to move forward with an actual business.

“The Showcase proved to Constantine and myself that this technology was viable in the new market we adapted it to, and just as importantly, it demonstrated to us that we did indeed want to make a career that stemmed from this technology,” said Pedroarena-Leal.

The Best Business Concept award was funded by the Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund at the USC Marshall School of Business and was one of five cash prizes totaling over $20,000 at the 2014 USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase.

After the beta test, The Steel Glass started collaborating with a New York research incubator specific to glass ceramics, which was a big step to get the business off the ground, according to the company’s co-founders.

Their product is already in two restaurants as of summer 2015, and in a few months they plan to be operating on a more industrial level, with their glassware in multiple restaurants throughout Northern and Southern California, and also Texas, Colorado, and New York.

In one year, The Steel Glass will be expanding its customer base to include big name retail stores, restaurant supply stores, and selling directly to glassware companies and high-end hotels.

The next USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase takes place October 23, 2015 from 9AM to 3PM. Applications to be in the Showcase are now being accepted online at http://stevens.usc.edu/events/student-innovator-showcase until September 27, 2015.

–By Peijean Tsai, USC Stevens, published September 4, 2015