UB Alum Demonstrates Entrepreneurs' Opportunities for Change-making

Elijah Tyson and Abid Alam

BY SYDNEY ZUCKERMAN

Release date: January 11, 2019

The UB alum owned food storage startup, ColdSpace, has made headlines in the Buffalo as the company and its young entrepreneurs continue to develop the technology and introduce their product. ColdSpace provides users a safe, cool place to store food brought from home to save money, eat healthy, and limit waste from takeout containers. Through an original app, users reserve a space in the refrigerated locker that the company expects to be located in Student unions, office complexes, libraries, etc.

Elijah Tyson, ColdSpace founder and CEO, stopped by UB Sustainability office to give more insight into why it matters, what’s next, and his philosophies that keep him going.

First off, ColdSpace is far from Elijah’s first business venture. He is a fitness and nutrition coach for his wellness platform, Hustle Aesthetic and runs his own podcast, The GrindTribe, as well as guest starring on other podcasts. In general, Tyson says that his goal is to help people and specifically, entrepreneurs, be productive without giving up their health, fitness, or energy levels. His dedication to healthy lifestyles and his interest in solving problems lead to his first startup venture, ColdSpace.

Before ColdSpace, Tyson first realized a problem affecting healthy living on budget at UB. As a student, Tyson opted to bring his own food to campus, but often found himself leaving food behind in class or his healthy foods getting rank sitting in his bag all day. As a problem solver, Elijah developed the ColdSpace concept specifically aimed at health and fitness on a budget, but his solution to that problem inadvertently works on a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals like good health and wellbeing, gender equality, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption, and climate action. Despite his previous experience with starting a business, Tyson admits that he was not as confident when it came to a startup, as this was his first startup venture. When asked the difference between a startup and any other business, Tyson described a startup as a “new opportunity” that is “disruptive” to the remaining market and specifically involves new technologies. In order to be as successful as possible, Tyson partnered with fellow UB alum Abid Alum and the pair worked with Blackstone and UB venture coaches to get their startup off the ground.

Initially, the pair developed the ColdSpace hardware with help from a UB engineering class that worked on the project as part of an experiential learning experience. Tyson highlights the risks associated with hardware as compared to software (like developing an app) because of the capital needed to build and test prototypes. Because of these risks, ColdSpace’s relationships throughout UB alleviated some of the financial and knowledge based pressures of producing that first successful prototype. From there, Elijah and Abid began developing a corresponding app to pay for subscriptions, reserve spaces, receive alerts and reminders, etc. Simultaneously, the pair began testing their product in the Blackstone office at UB from early October until about Thanksgiving, receiving feedback from users and adjusting prices.   

For those who opt to bring food to work or school in hopes of reducing waste and single use plastics, ColdSpace not only offers secure storage, but an opportunity to skip buying a lunch box, brown paper bags, or plastic zip-lock bags. Although lunch boxes and bags are reusable, they are still typically made of some sort of plastic and eventually create more waste. When using ColdSpace, a user can use glass storage containers without worrying about it breaking in a bag or carrying around heavy containers all day.

Touching on his goals for ColdSpace, Elijah discusses the positive impact ColdSpace can have on energy consumption. First, traditional refrigerators waste more energy than a ColdSpace unit because a traditional refrigerator door opening and closing throughout the day requires more energy to regulate temperatures. In contrast, ColdSpace uses just a small opening to access just one locker space, keeping temperatures inside the unit much more constant than a traditional refrigerator. Elijah hopes that one day office spaces will replace most traditional refrigerators with ColdSpace units to save on energy costs and wasted energy. Second, Tyson and his team hope to make ColdSpace units solar powered to completely cut traditional energy sources from the equation and ultimately lower costs.

Apart from the environmentally focused goals, Elijah believes ColdSpace can be used for individuals with specific needs, such as breast feeding mothers or people with sensitive medications. For example, mothers could store breast milk in their own personalized ColdSpace locker to keep it safe, away from other foods, and as a convenient option as opposed to formal milk. Tyson highlighted accessibility benefits for people who rely on medications that must be refrigerated or those with diabetes who need regular insulin. For the many people who fall into these categories, ColdSpace can provide a safe, discrete, public space for whatever they may need to get through their day.

Finally, Tyson touches on other opportunities in the food service industry for ColdSpace such as food delivery, partnering with markets or cafés, and helping eliminate food deserts. He envisions people ordering groceries or meals to ColdSpace units to be safely picked up at a later time, with potential partnerships with certain health conscious vendors. Tyson briefly touched on potential solutions to food deserts such as donation lockers or syncing ColdSpace with food assistance benefits like SNAP.

You can almost see Elijah’s wheels turning with new ideas constantly developing as he rattled off the potential uses for ColdSpace in his unassuming, yet determined and delightful manner. Elijah summed up his philosophy on his work and lifestyle when he paraphrased Peter Diamandis (Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation and UB Distinguished Speaker) who believes that entrepreneurs are going to make the changes of the future and not the government. This notion, coupled with his passion and belief in the power of a healthy lifestyle, drivers Tyson to become and continue to be a change maker in our Buffalo community and beyond.

Tyson and Alam

Elijah Tyson and Abid Alam with their ColdSpace prototype

global goals

Sustainable Development Goals:

3. Good health and well-being: Ensuring healthy and happy lifestyles for all ages

12. Responsible consumption & production: Developing sustainable methods of product invention and consumer spending