Rev: Ithaca Startup Works has a name that implies growth, acceleration, and an eagerness to advance. Its philosophy closely mirrors this impression.
It creates an effective approach to agile entrepreneurship that coalesces with the humility and rationality needed for decision-making.
The Rev Philosophy
1. Startups are not small versions of large companies. Startups need to be much more agile and customer-facing.
2. Successful entrepreneurs will create companies with business models validated by intense customer interactions. Founders will be encouraged to find a business model with a customer “pull”, rather than finding ways to push customers to their offering.
3. A thoughtful and honestly pursued process that yields a “no-go” decision is not a failure – rather, it’s a process success that should be celebrated and one that frees up time and resources in the pursuit of projects worthy of a “go” decision.
- Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR) Brian Bauer describes our philosophy as “the ethos of this place.” Even potential members must prove that they are customer-oriented and willing to explore the viability of their company, and their entrepreneurial abilities. “It’s a grow-and-go philosophy” that stems from Steve Blank’s Lean Startup model, where iterating early and often with an openness to immense customer influence leads to a more successful startup, sooner.
Rev Case Studies
Last summer, Rev hosted its first Hardware Accelerator program that provided funding, mentorship, and a prototyping lab for product-oriented startups to iterate often and learn quickly. They practiced the Lean Startup model firsthand, working with industry experts to assess their products throughout the summer.
Several Hardware Accelerator teams pivoted, which Eric Ries describes in his book as a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, business model and engine of growth. Entrepreneurs periodically must ask themselves a seemingly simple question: Are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original strategic hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a major change?”
Working with the Rev Philosophy in mind,
- — Make Better Stuff’s Kairos Light pivoted towards a different target consumer group, which led to a new product design. Read more about the pivot here.
- — Maidbot made a “go” decision with a new vacuuming design.
- — hovvaX pivoted from making their own drones, to outfitting existing drones to meet the company’s goals.
- — Equine Design’s founder, Caitlin Parrucci, used the Rev Hardware Accelerator to formulate her idea into prototypes tested by potential buyers and users (horses!). “I had so many pivot points with this project and I took it so much further than I thought I could have taken it ever by myself,” said Parrucci.
As a result of customer validation, several other Rev members made major pivot decisions:
- — Push Interactive pivoted from being an automobile add-on to an apartment hunting app. By taking a different direction, the company better aligned its strengths with a new, more viable customer group in Ithaca. The decision worked; Push Interactive was eventually acquired for its technology.
- — Ursa Space Systems originally planned to launch a full constellation of satellites into orbit to gather surface data, but realized their collective knowledge could be applied to other entities’ data and satellite imagery. This company progression resulted in short-term revenue capable of supporting their long-term goals.
- — Rosie, a grocery delivery app, pivoted towards a new customer segment. After testing hypotheses and talking to several potential clients, they realized their competitors were targeting a less viable segment, positioning Rosie uniquely in the market.
- — GiveGab realized they had to listen to what customers mean, not just what they say. As a result, they discovered new problems to solve in the nonprofit space, and expanded their offerings to make GiveGab more unique to end users.
At Rev, progress is our product. Rev member companies are surrounded by industry experts, fellow entrepreneurs, and a vibrant community of Ithacans and students who can provide invaluable insights. The Rev Philosophy propels entrepreneurs forward with confidence.
Kristi Krulcik is a Marketing & Communications Associate for the Southern Tier Startup Alliance. To stay up-to-date on new resources from Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, join our email newsletter.