3 Day Startup explores the journey of student entrepreneurs from all over the world in the ongoing blog series Born in Dorms. Universities are ripe for more innovation: the combination of bright students, open information, and more accessible tech creates an environment where student companies can flourish better than ever before. These highly motivated and driven students share their successes, failures, and everything in between as they navigate the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship in their local communities. Read more about each student’s unique perspective on building a viable company in and around campus.
Nick Nickitas, a Johnson MBA student at Cornell University cofounded Rosie in September 2012 along with fellow MBA student Jon Ambrose, and Michael Ryzewic, a Columbia alum.
Rosie predicts household items customers need before they run out, and orders them from local grocers and online retailers. Customers can use Rosie on their mobile phones or through Rosieapp.com. Rosie uses patent pending machine learning algorithms to provide a fast and convenient shopping experience for its customers, as well as targeted shopper marketing insights for retailers.
One of the key resources Nickitas and his team have found instrumental to Rosie’s growth and success has been the eLab, Cornell’s business accelerator for high potential startups. “The eLab has provided us with the mentors and resources that have helped to move our company from the idea phase to a product launch. Our mentors from the eLab have introduced us to key industry contacts, as well as top retail experts,” says Nickitas.
In April, Rosie won an accelerator competition called Startup Labs Syracuse, receiving a $150,000 cash prize as well as $50,000 in in-kind marketing resources. Over 100 startups applied to the program and Rosie was among the five finalists that competed in the final demo day. While this was a big milestone for Rosie, Nickitas says their biggest accomplishment to date is transacting their first order. “We completed our first end-to-end order with the system in March to order food for our company’s first annual offsite retreat. This order was the culmination of seven months of hard work, and our team couldn’t be prouder of what we have accomplished.”
Nickitas says the startup’s main business objective for 2013 is to have Rosie available in five different stores across New York state. “With these five stores, we look forward to more than 3,000 people using the service on a regular basis. By the end of the year, our integration process with stores will be streamlined to the point where we can on-board a store in less than three weeks.” The team also wants to continue to improve Rosie’s cutting edge predictive web and mobile shopping applications. “These applications not only provide customers with a platform to order groceries online but also utilize machine learning concepts to track user’s items, recommend new items, and give users the fastest, smartest, and most convenient way to shop,” Nickitas says.
The biggest lesson Nickitas learned when building Rosie with his team, is that communication is key. “Communication between our business and product teams ensures we are building a product based on real customer wants and needs. Communication with our partners allows us to identify areas of improvement quickly, and accelerate the distribution of our offering. In everything we do, effective communication helps us identify high value goals and projects, and execute on them efficiently and skillfully,” he says.
“If you are planning to launch a startup, seek a technical cofounder. Yes, it’s going to be really hard, but don’t let that discourage you.” Nickitas references Andy Chen’s blog, which captures some of the tech community’s sentiments about business cofounders, and recommends the following, “Focus on finding ways that you can create real value to the company like making sales, forming partnerships, reviewing legal documents, securing funding, creating marketing, writing copy, and team recruiting. If you work to forge relationships across campus and respect your technical partners, you can build a terrific reputation in your school’s entrepreneurial community.”
Help support Rosie through their crowdfunding campaign where they are seeking to raise $12,000. They have about 9 days left to reach their goal and have raised about $4,000.
About 3 Day Startup
3 Day Startup (3DS) teaches entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. In addition to supporting budding entrepreneurs, 3DS programs cultivate entrepreneurial communities that contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship ecosystems in the regions surrounding these university programs. This proven program provides students the tools they need to start successful companies. To date, more than 41 companies have come out of 3DS to collectively raise $14.5 million in investor capital and more than a dozen have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator and TechStars.
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