Earlier this week (July 21), over 125 members of the Ithaca startup community convened at South Hill Cider, a Rev member company, for “Fast Pitches + Fresh Faces,” Rev: Ithaca Startup Works’ first in-person networking night in over a year. The evening featured remarks from leaders in Ithaca’s entrepreneurial community, pitches from up-and-coming startups, and the naming of the winner of Rev’s first “Most Customer Driven Startup” award.
While the COVID-19 pandemic provided significant obstacles, Rev’s member companies didn’t let that stop them or their missions. They continued to virtually collaborate, innovate, and exceed their goals. Despite the challenges of 2020, Rev members generated $36.5 million in revenue, raised $36.9 million in capital, and created 202 new jobs in the region — incredible milestones which call for a celebration.
The mood was energetic as friends of Rev — old and new — convened to enjoy beverages from South Hill Cider and snacks from Luna Street Food. Connections were formed and people were eager to reunite face-to-face after months of virtual gatherings.
“We’re here today to celebrate getting back together,” said Ken Rother, Director of Rev. “It’s been a long, hard 16 months, and we shouldn’t forget that. But while all of this was going on, people were forming businesses, coming up with innovative ideas, joining Rev, and receiving mentorship. We’re here to celebrate those entrepreneurs.”
“I just want to say thank you to all of you,” added Tom Schryver, Executive Director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement. “We’ve all been in our homes, in our basements, and on Zoom calls, and it’s time to get back out again. Keep coming and getting the word out, this is a great place to start and grow a new business.”
The evening also served as an opportunity for three of the newest Rev members, some of whom entered the entrepreneurial ecosystem during the pandemic, to introduce themselves to the startup community. Short pitches came from:
- Conan Med Tech: Bayan Alturkestani, founder of Conan MedTech and recent Cornell MEng graduate, is creating a diagnostic device to detect damage to the blood-brain barrier when a person suffers from a mild traumatic brain injury. “I believe that health and well-being is one of our fundamental rights,” she said. “Conan MedTech aims to revolutionize the mild traumatic brain injury market as soon as possible.”
- Indian Milk & Honey: Amrit Singh, co-founder of Indian Milk & Honey and Ag & Food Tech, presented his locally-made lassi and ghee in flavors like Blueberry Cardamom and Golden Turmeric. “I call myself a blue-collar entrepreneur—and I’m proud of it. Rev, and the Ithaca area, is a wonderful place to work if you know what you want out of it,” said Singh.
- Cayuga Climbs: Cornell alum Keith Liao recently opened Ithaca’s first bouldering gym. He spoke about how Ithacans would drive all the way to Syracuse to climb, and the market’s need for a local, accessible climbing space. “The bouldering community is so inclusive and welcoming, which is why we’re so proud to have opened the first public bouldering gym in Ithaca,” he said.
Jennifer Tavares of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce made an appearance to announce the winner of Rev’s first-ever “Most Customer Driven Startup” award. The award, which gained local media attention, was presented to the Rev startup that had made the biggest commitment to their customers over the past year. The nominees included Rosie, Head & Heal, and South Hill Cider.
“If you’ve been to Rev, you know that there’s a sign in the washroom beside the sink that says ‘Have you spoken to a customer today?’” said Rother when introducing the award. “We believe in talking to customers. I think all of our companies know it’s all about customers, but these three really excelled and we want to acknowledge them.”
Winning the majority of the public vote, CBD retailer Head & Heal took home the prize. They serve as an exemplar for putting the customer first throughout their business model, including ensuring their products are of the highest quality and purity, sharing product lab results with customers, and providing educational content on how to test the quality of any CBD product.
“Rev has been such an instrumental part of our business journey. I remember very early on [Entrepreneur-in-Residence] Brad Treat told us to call our customers, so we called and interviewed a number of them,” said CEO and co-founder Karli Miller-Hornick in her acceptance speech. “Those interviews are now things that every one of our employees has to listen to as a part of their training. In those customer conversations, we really understood the impact that we were having on changing people’s lives, and we’re just so lucky to have this community supporting us.”
Join us at the next [email protected] event: Hardware Accelerator Demo Day. Taking place on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, startup teams from Rev’s Prototyping Hardware Accelerator and ClimateTech Prototyping Hardware Accelerator will debut their innovations to the startup community.