PennDesign News

Posted April 21, 2017
  • Left to right: iDesign judge Holly Flanagan, Wharton student Stephen Kuhl, judges Neil Epstein and Patrick FitzGerald, Wharton student Kabeer Chopra, and judge Lisa Roberts

Smart Couch “Burrow” Wins the 2017 iDesign Prize

At a public pitch session at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy on Tuesday, the University of Pennsylvania School of Design’s 2017 iDesign Prize was awarded to Burrow, a modular, luxury couch company that’s poised to revolutionize the way people buy and interact with their furniture. The team behind Burrow includes Wharton students Kabeer Chopra, Alex Kubo, and Stephen Kuhl, and Portland-based furniture designer Leah K.S. Amick.

Open to teams of aspiring entrepreneurs led by a Penn student, the annual iDesign competition was launched in 2015 to promote the design of physical objects that solve a real-world problem. The winning team receives $50,000 and mentoring from Penn faculty and alumni.

“Opportunities for innovation are all around us,” said Sarah Rottenberg, host of Tuesday’s event and Associate Director of the Integrated Product Design Program. “With Burrow, the jury was impressed by how fast the team seized the opportunity with a clever and well-designed product. They also made a strong case for how the iDesign Prize will help bring good design to more people, more quickly.”

Designed with the modern consumer in mind, Burrow is ordered online and ships free in easy-to-carry, compact packages. It can be assembled at home in under 10 minutes, without tools, with a 100-day trial. Launched earlier this month, Burrow has quickly attracted customers and national press coverage.

As Chopra said in the team’s presentation on Tuesday, “Burrow takes a luxury, mid-century modern sofa and reverse engineers it to ship in compact packaging, which cuts out several hundred dollars in cost. We’re able to combine a better product, and a better experience, at half the price of traditional retailers out there.”

Burrow was one of five designs in competition for the 2017 iDesign Prize. Other finalists included a baby bassinet developed in collaboration with Penn Medicine that allows new mothers to safely transfer their baby to and from the crib; an internet-and-cellular-free communications network intended to connect refugees with vital resources; a home pasta maker that uses bean flour instead of wheat flour to support vegetarian and gluten-free diets; and a fabrication appliance that combines the capabilities of a traditional lathe and 3D printer to meet the needs of jewelers, hobbyists, and medical device designers.

The final elimination round was judged by: Neil Epstein, Senior Creative Director, Comcast; Patrick FitzGerald, VP, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania; Holly Flanagan, Managing Director, Gabriel Investments; and Lisa Roberts (CW‘74), designer, author and TV personality.

The first-round jury consisted of alumni and PennDesign Overseers Jay Abramson (W‘83, L‘86), Laurence Goldberg (W‘89), Mason Haupt (W‘77) and Kevin Penn (W‘83).