Investment banking students morph into urban mushroom farming phenomenon

Even if you find the average recycling innovation story boringly predictable, this one, as it gathers momentum with one ludicrously lucky sustainability discovery after another, will have you cheering along with the audience

Mining main street stores for certain kinds of sweet-scented refuse may sound odd, but these two guys struck the motherlode. It all began when their Berkeley university professor made a suggestion that he never expected them to take quite so seriously. In six months they became a sustainable gourmet retailing sensation.

The event was TEDx Presidio: Business, 3.0 – Not business as usual. it was held at The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco on April the 2nd 2011

Nikhil Arora is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Nikhil is a May 2009 summa cum laude graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, from the Haas School of Business and Department of Political Science. Prior to founding Back to the Roots in 2009, Nikhil spent time involved in business development and operations advisory.

He also spent nearly six months in 2007 studying and working at the University of Ghana, Legon to setup a campus-wide recycling program for the 30,000-person campus. Since co-founding Back to the Roots, Nikhil has been named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, one of the Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA‘s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners. Nikhil also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Sage Mentorship Project.

Alejandro Velez, in addition to founding a 1000+ member non-profit & largest student-run organization at CAL, The Sage Mentorship Project, Inc. (www.sagementors.org), being awarded the Chancellor’s 2009 Public Service Award and being named the 2009 UC Berkeley Alumni Association Undergraduate of the Year, Alejandro Velez spent time in investment banking and business development with Morgan Stanley and Qualcomm. Alex is a May 2009 summa cum laude graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a degree in business administration and a minor in education.

Alex has also been named 2010 PODER Magazine’s 20 Influential Hispanics Under 40, one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA’s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners.

Here is a BBC video featuring some coverage of the enterprises detailed in the video above. The clip was broadcast a year after the BBC’s first encounter with the founders.