4 Alumni Bingtrepreneurs You Should Know
Posted by Shannon Gerlach on November 16, 2022
It often feels like there is a national day for just about everything. From ice cream to every family member including our pets, everything and everyone gets their day to be celebrated. We may be a bit biased, but National Entrepreneur’s Day, a day to celebrate all of the hard-working trailblazers who have come out of Binghamton University, is pretty special around here. We are truly inspired by these exciting, innovating #Bingtrepreneurs, and we think you will be, too!
Matt Gill ’18, MS ’19, Founder and CEO of Enhance-VR
Binghamton is known for its carousels and spiedies, but many are unaware that Binghamton is also credited as the birthplace of virtual reality. How fitting that Binghamton alum Matt Gill established his virtual reality training company Enhance-VR right here, where it all began.
An electrical engineering major, Gill participated in hackathons put on by the University beginning his first year. Here, he gained experience in the world of creating simulations and putting them to the test. After creating a racecar simulator constructed from PVC pipe, duct tape and wood in just 36 hours at one event, Gill thought he may be able to take this hobby and create a company. With space and guidance provided by the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships at Binghamton, Gill began experimenting with the best way to bring his VR vision to market.
Starting off, Enhance-VR focused on developing virtual reality simulators for education experiences, but quickly pivoted into the world of training, creating custom experiences for companies to train new and existing employees on critical skills. Wearing virtual reality headsets, trainees are transported to a completely different location, training in environments such as warehouses, healthcare settings and beyond. The virtual option saves employers time and money while reducing accidents and risks that often come with these types of training. Gill credits his time at Binghamton for preparing him for his entrepreneurial journey.
“Binghamton University, from the entrepreneurship office to the engineering school and the University as a whole, constantly provided the resources to me to be successful in what I wanted to do," said Gill.
Enhance-VR currently holds office space in both downtown Binghamton and at the Koffman Incubator, and continues to gain clients and expand operations.
Sara Liu ’06 and Lei Liu ’04, MBA,
Founders and Owners of Parlor City Vegan
The spark for Parlor City Vegan, a hip, experimental vegan café located in the heart of Binghamton, really came from necessity. After co-founder and owner Sara Liu’s father suffered a heart attack, she headed to the kitchen to heal him with his favorite foods, but with a plant-based twist.
“My father had a diet that included a lot of meat and dairy and comfort foods. During his recovery, I brought him vegan meals that were based on those meals he really enjoyed, and he really liked them,” Liu said.
With the idea that if her father liked these foods, others surely would as well, Parlor City Vegan was born. Starting off at a booth at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market for their first two years, Lei and her husband and co-founder, Lei Liu, gained a cult-like following, selling out of food almost every week. The demand for their wildly popular mac and cheese inspired the pair to create their own line of vegan cheeses as well.
“A lot of vegan cheese on the market has issues where the texture might be off or the flavor may be a little weird. We’ve gotten great feedback on our cheeses, with people telling us that ours is very close to the taste and texture of traditional cheeses,” said Liu.
After great success at the Farmer’s Market, and with support from the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, Parlor City Vegan opened the doors to its Clinton Street café in 2018. With their daily changing menu featuring the best in seasonal local produce, and their warm, cozy atmosphere, Parlor City Vegan is a food paradise not only for veggie lovers, but for us all.
Zach Pedley ’10, Owner of The North Brewery
Opened as a small homebrew shop in 2012, The North Brewery in Endicott, N.Y., quickly blossomed into one of the most popular full-scale breweries in the Binghamton area. Searching for a career where he could express his creativity, owner and founder Zach Pedley '10 quit his retail job and decided to focus full-time on crafting some of the most unique and interesting beers the area has ever seen.
Known for their award-winning, experimental brews, Pedley’s goal is to never stop creating. “We just don’t do one specific style. We have vast, different styles that are under our belt. We use sours, barrel-aged -- all that type of stuff. We never stop creating. We’re always brewing new things, not to say that we don’t brew our old stuff. We still have a select 20 beers that we rotate through that people have come to love, but there’s new stuff that constantly we’re coming out with."
Putting his graphic design and marketing degrees from Binghamton to good use, Pedley designs all of the artwork for labels and handles the brewery’s marketing initiatives, along with the multiple other hats he wears as owner. With its fun, funky atmosphere and ever-changing tap list, The North Brewery is one area brew house not to be missed.
Jacob Kumpon ‘22, Co-Founder and COO of KLAW Industries
We all know the old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure." This could not be more accurate in regards to the idea behind KLAW Industries' innovative clean concrete product. Co-founder and COO Jacob Kumpon, along with co-founder Jack Lamuraglia (Clackson University '21), were both still engineering students when the idea for their company and product came to them.
“We knew we wanted to start a business together. We played around with a few ideas, but we weren’t sure what we wanted our business to be," said Kumpon.
After some trial and error, they decided to dedicate themselves to learning about the recycling industry, touring local facilities and asking as many questions as possible. After learning that 75% of trash is deemed recyclable, but only 30% of it actually gets properly recycled, the pair knew they had to do something.
“What stuck out to us the most is that the glass that you put into the recycling bin is not always recycled. A lot of the time, it just ends up going straight to the landfill.” said Kumpon.
From there, the team hit the ground running, creating a process to remove the contamination from the glass, then grinding that glass down super finely into a cement replacement in concrete, which they later named Pantheon™. Pantheon increases the strength of concrete by reacting with cement to add additional crystal structures to the concrete. This allows concrete producers to lower their cement content, save money and lower carbon emissions. KLAW’s product allows concrete producers to use 20 percent less cement in their mixes, preventing approximately 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in every truckload.
The future for KLAW continues to grow brighter. After establishing the business at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, the duo has raised over $1.1 million in funding, allowing them to purchase a 6,000-square-foot production facility in Binghamton, and to work with local concrete and construction companies to get their product utilized.
Shannon Gerlach is a communications specialist in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships.
Have questions, comments or concerns about the blog? Email us at email@example.com.