Penn’s coffee-loving student body need no longer worry about carrying bulky reusable mugs, thanks to an alumnus’ collapsible cup startup.

Smash Cup, a New York-based company co-founded by 2002 Engineering and Wharton graduate Ben Melinger , will launch its product in February of 2015. The startup will produce silicon cups which can fit in pockets or small bags. When the contents of the cup have been consumed, users can simply smash the empty mug against a wall and it collapses as easily as an egg cracks, Melinger said.

The company’s founders, inspired by the amount of paper waste accumulated in coffee shops, sought to develop a more portable line of eco-friendly, reusable cups. Melinger designed the product with a computer-aided design system, to which he was first introduced while at Penn.

“Originally [Smash Cup] started as a small side project when I was playing around with other CAD products. It was kind of a hobby,” Melinger said. “We wanted to create a beautiful product that we would be proud of.”

Melinger was first introduced to 3-D CAD — computer-aided design — in an introductory mechanical engineering class at Penn. After graduating, he took a job in the consulting industry and eventually reengaged with computer-based product design.

Soon after production began, Smash Cup’s co-founders discovered that there were similar collapsible cups on the market, but none that were suitable for coffee — and none were completely leak proof. Smash Cup sought to fill those gaps.

“Our product is silicon rather than metal so it is certainly an improvement of others on the market,” Melinger said.

Melinger and his two co-founders wanted to attract a primarily urban population with the product — Smash Cup is designed to appeal to the sensibility of someone who loves drinking coffee but doesn’t have room to store larger, reusable cups.

Engineering and Wharton senior Lucille Alexander and Nancy Fang assisted the Smash Cup team in media outreach and backer communications during the Kickstarter campaign, Melinger said. 

Initially, Smash Cup was dated to launch in early October. Feedback from the Kickstarter campaign led Melinger to delay production so that he could implement a microwave safe plastic.

Although the company has not yet generated revenue, it has developed a strong online presence at www.smash-cup.com and raised over $120,000 in funding from over 4,000 backers through its Kickstarter campaign.

At this point, Melinger does not yet have a clear plan of where he intends to promote or sell Smash Cup. In the future, he hopes that Smash Cup will be customized in red and blue to be marketed to Penn students and sold in the bookstore.

“When we go to universities, Penn will definitely be at the top of our list,” Melinger said.

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