Earlier this month, a special Networking@Rev event recognized Rev member startups’ dedication to customers. Approximately 75 people gathered at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works on October 13 for the second annual Most Customer Driven Startup Awards to celebrate the nominees — Antithesis Foods, Florae Collaborative, Levelle Nutrition, and South Hill Cider — while mingling with Ithaca’s entrepreneurial community and enjoying pitches.
The evening kicked off with networking, and attendees excitedly anticipated the announcement of the Most Customer Driven Startup winner, which was determined by a public vote.
Presentations began with keynote speaker Charlie Mulligan, co-founder and CEO of GiveGab, a highly successful fundraising platform that has earned “Rev Alumni Stardom” status. Mulligan discussed the importance of building relationships with customers and focusing on their needs — starting with just one person.
“The first thing we really focused on was to make one customer love us,” he said. “We decided first we needed to find one customer that absolutely has to do business with us and no one else. If we can’t find that, we’re not onto the right strategy.”
With this goal in mind, GiveGab set out to be the best tech platform customers had ever worked with, helping fundraising professionals be great at their jobs. Mulligan said the startup pinpointed three central values — customer love, team culture, and working closely with customers.
“It really paid off in the metrics that matter,” Mulligan said. While fundraising grows about 4% per year in the U.S., GiveGab events averaged over 46% donation growth every year since 2017.
Mulligan advised startups to earn customers’ love by first focusing on winning over one person, seeking the brutal truth through negative feedback, and making customer service 100% of their company’s identity.
Next up, three of the Most Customer Driven Startup nominees pitched their companies to the audience, highlighting how they have exhibited their devotion to meeting customers’ needs:
- Antithesis Foods: Jason Goodman, co-founder and CEO of the healthy, protein-packed snack foods startup, said, “Because we’re so customer obsessed, we’ve been spending the last six months working to find more affordable sources of protein, scaling up our manufacturing, redesigning our packages, everything so we can deliver for our customers, so we can make better food that’s better for people and better for the planet.”
- Florae Collaborative: Founded by Andrew Smith, the rare carnivorous plant retailer caters to a passionate niche audience. “Our goal is to make buying these plants online as much like visiting a greenhouse as possible,” he said. “We take photos of each individual plant that we sell and post those on the website, so everyone knows exactly what they’re getting. We provide as much information about the plants as possible, so where the plant material was originally collected in the wild, parents that have been used to make a particular hybrid, and descriptions of what people can expect the plants to look like as they grow.”
- Levelle Nutrition: “We are revolutionizing the sports nutrition industry by bringing focus to the needs of female athletes,” said co-founder and CEO Linda Alvarez. “We’re really focused on empowerment and success and wellness. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our three Levelle energy puree flavors from both athletes and nonathletes. What has been amazing is that women love the taste of our products, but even without tasting the product, women celebrate a company that celebrates women.”
After the pitches, Ken Rother, Director of Rev, announced the winner of the Most Customer Driven Startup Award — Levelle Nutrition. Thanking the audience, Alvarez accepted a handcrafted trophy for the achievement.
Following the presentation portion of the evening, networking continued over refreshments from Luna Inspired Street Food as the last Networking@Rev event of 2022 came to an end.