Courtesy Rev Ithaca

Ken Rother

August 27, 2018

Rev Ithaca Director Discusses Programs, Benefits for Students and Startups

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Have an idea or interested in creating a startup? Rev Ithaca may have the resources to help you succeed.

Located at 314 E. State St., Rev Ithaca is a local business incubator that offers mentorship programs, workspaces and networking events to help entrepreneurs realize their ideas. Ken Rother, director of Rev Ithaca, discussed how the non-profit helps first-time entrepreneurs.

“One of the main ways we help entrepreneurs is through mentorship. A lot of research says that really one of the most important things that first-time entrepreneurs need is mentorship by people who launched a startup,” Rother said.

Rev Ithaca’s Hardware Accelerator program provides support to teams that want to develop a physical product for commercial or non-commercial use.

“Every summer we take eight teams and we help them create their first prototypes and help them understand who their customer is, how much their customer would pay for the product and what problem they are solving,” Rother said. “We normally get between 20-25 applications and we pick the eight we think we can help most effectively.”

In addition to providing mentorship, Rev Ithaca funds participants of the Hardware Accelerator program.

“We make available to them up to $2,000 for supplies and also up to $2,000 to do customer discovery,” said Rother, referring to the process of visiting potential customers to understand their needs.

Rother discussed the main goals behind the Hardware Accelerator program.

“The first is that we would love if people launched a business, but we are also realistic that after 11 weeks, only a small percentage follow this path,” Rother said. “The second is that we want to give people the skills to be hardware entrepreneurs.”

Rohan Rai ’20, who was part of team CONSRV that participated in the Hardware Accelerator program this past summer, discussed his team’s experiences.

“It was relatively structured with [in-person] facetime between my team and other teams as well as entrepreneurs-in-residence and the program organizers,” he said.

Rai, who worked along with Victoria Tan ’21 and Navin Ramsaroop ’21, developed a device that could cheaply measure water usage.

“We were working on an easy to install water metering system that would give users information on which appliances were using what amount of water along with time stamps to date the usage,” Rai explained.

The team’s final product was presented on Aug. 9, during Rev Ithaca’s Demo Days.

In order to reduce wasted effort, Rev Ithaca encourages entrepreneurs to have communication with customers early in the development process.

“One of the main things we teach is helping people understand is that a product or service is always addressing a problem or a need, and you can learn a lot about a customer’s need by asking them different kinds of questions before you ever go off and make things,” Rother said.

Apart from its Hardware Accelerator program, Rev Ithaca offers services, ranging from tax benefits to access to prototyping labs, for member firms. In order to be a member firm, the organization must be a legal entity and have “reasonable employment growth potential” according to Rev Ithaca’s website. Prices for membership range from $100 to $200 per month.

In addition to mentorship through six entrepreneurs-in-residence, Rev Ithaca gives its member firms access to other types of learning opportunities.

“We put on educational events such as workshops around marketing, taxes and intellectual property. Some of these events are also meetings of the entrepreneurial community so people can help each other and share stories,” Rother said.

Rev Ithaca members include Ithaca-based Ursa Space Systems, a satellite analytics firm, GiveGab, a firm which helps non-profits fundraise, and Rosie, a grocery technology company.