Dimitris Ntaras ‘21, Aditya Shah ’21, and Ryan Thorpe ’22 are heading into the Keller Center’s eLab Accelerator this summer already winners. Their startup AquaCerta took “Best Early Stage Startup” at the 4th Annual UPitchNJ, an innovative statewide collegiate business model competition showcasing the Garden State’s top young talent.

“The event, just due to its character showcasing some of New Jersey's up-and-coming college startups, was really beneficial. We did not go in, foreigners among foreigners, to pitch ideas that will take totally different directions; rather, we saw what is going on in our own neighborhood, made useful connections with them for the future and left really empowered by everyone's big ambitions,” commented AquaCerta founder Dimitris Ntaras. 

With a novel filtration product that is cheap, easy to make and highly efficient, AquaCerta aspires to give power to water deprived households by allowing them to secure access to clean water for themselves. This simple non-electric filter is the brainchild of Dimitris.

As a high-school student in Athens, Greece, he and his friends decided to tackle the country’s tainted water supply issue by creating a filter model that was cheaper and easier to build than current systems. Upon arriving at Princeton he continued his work with encouragement from Keller Center faculty member Professor Marty Johnson ’81, whom he met when he took Johnson’s course EGR 498 Special Topics in Social Entrepreneurship. He received additional support from the Pace Center’s Service Focus and the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Somewhat ironically, the team had to fight through a torrential downpour and subsequent weather-related traffic jams driving from Princeton to this year’s host university, Seton Hall. One of twelve New Jersey universities competing, the team of Tigers arrived just in time for their pitch slot and came away winners. 

eLab program manager Stephanie Landers accompanied the team on their trek to South Orange, not only to cheer on the startup chosen to represent Princeton in the competition but to get a sneak peek at what they may be bringing to the eLab table this summer. “I have been in contact with Dimitris, Aditya, and Ryan as they’ve spent this year in the eLab Incubator, but this was the first time I’d seen the three of them pitch as a team. They work well together and I’m proud of the wonderful job they did presenting their venture and fielding questions from the judge’s panel. Winning ‘Best Early Stage Startup’ will surely give them an extra dose of motivation as they enter the eLab Summer Accelerator next month, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the team grows and develops their venture!" said Landers.

UPitchNJ’s aim is to highlight the ingenuity and creativity of today’s college entrepreneurs, many of whom are increasingly launching businesses from their dorm rooms. As entrepreneurship educators in New Jersey, we want to provide our entrepreneurial students with a networking forum with other students, mentors and potential investors.

Be sure to attend one of Keller Center's two eLab Demo Days in August to see how AquaCerta develops over the summer.