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AUCVLab Graduate’s Product Design Makes Late AUC Student’s Work Live On


AUC student using CanBank to throw a plastic bottle


By Nour Ibrahim

The collaborative design of Ahmed Khalil and late Nour Anwar stands proudly at AUC’s New Cairo Campus as one of V-Lab graduates ZeroPrime Technologies’ first product, the CanBank. 

“CanBank is a machine that individuals can use to dispose of empty cans and plastic bottles in exchange for incentives like promo codes or phone credit or for donating their value with the aim of encouraging people to recycle,” said ZeroPrime Technologies’ CEO Islam El-Refaey.

The students contributed with the packaging design of the CanBank as one of their projects submitted for an undergraduate design course during the Spring 2017 semester. The AUC Venture Lab initiates these collaborations to help their startups develop fresh branding and help students work on real-life projects.

According to El-Refaey, ZeroPrime Technologies is a startup working in the field of smart cities infrastructure with a focus on autonomous waste management solutions.

“The idea originated when I would see the same scene over and over again of individuals sifting through the street garbage bins in search for cans and plastic bottles that could be sold to recycling factories so I started thinking that there must be a better way to do this and this is when the idea behind CanBank started,” said El-Refaey. 

El-Refaey recollected that they initially assumed that such a machine would be demanded by recycling plant but research and validation proved them wrong. Finally, ZeroPrime Technologies settled on a business model that offers individuals incentives in exchange for their items.

“We watched what others have tried doing before us and everyone was talking about source separation but no one had really managed to do it efficiently,” said El-Refaey.

El-Refaey explained that with the help of AUC’s Office of Sustainability, ZeroPrime Technologies was able to install the currently available CanBank machine on campus. Once the machine reaches its full capacity, ZeroPrime Technologies and an AUC responsible receive an automated sensor-triggered notification. An AUC worker is then in charge of emptying the machine, replacing the collection bag and preparing the collected items to be sold to the recycling plants.

On the other hand, ZeroPrime Technologies is responsible for the CanBank’s installation and maintenance.

Currently, the startup has three working CanBank machines; one at AUC’s New Cairo Campus, one at Misr El Kheir Foundation and the third was recently installed at Heliopolis Sporting Club.

With their main focus being on universities, clubs and malls, ZeroPrime Technologies aim at making the public more aware of their services by spreading to more and more places. 

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AUC launched AUC Venture Lab (V-Lab) in 2013 which is the first university-based incubator in Egypt. It incubates early-stage and growth-stage startups that are chosen through a selection process that judges the novelty of the idea, the team’s track record and cohesion, scalability and potential for commercialization, as well as the team’s tenacity and commitment to success. Once selected, the startups benefit from training sessions, mentors, student internships and their presence at the AUC School of Business. They also play an active role in the AUC community and Egypt, sharing their entrepreneurial experience with students, faculty members, mentors and investors, as well as a global alumni network.