The next step for any student startup after completing eLab is to take advantage of the supportive ecosystem of partners and networking connections available through Cornell. Such was the case for Natural Cuts, a 2016-17 eLab startup that uses a proprietary food science processing technology to prolong the shelf-life of fresh-cut produce— like the potatoes used to make French fries. The initial inspiration behind Natural Cuts’ was to reduce food waste in areas without access to refrigeration and freezing.
This week, Vipul Saran, MPS ’17, and Mike Annunziata ’11, MBA ’17, of Natural Cuts are starting a BGINternship. The competitive internship— offered by New York City brand-building agency The Burns Group in cooperation with Entrepreneurship@Cornell— offers startups the opportunity to work with branding and marketing experts. Natural Cuts has been selected for a three-week residency in the NYC office where they will work with strategists and designers to fulfill key branding needs for the business.
Natural Cuts isn’t the first eLab startup to win a BGINternship; in fact, they’re the third. Last year, Equine Design founder Caitlin Parucci (also a Member of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works and alum of Rev’s Hardware Accelerator) used the insights from the experience to rebrand as Stablesense. Specdrums (also Rev Hardware alums) participated in the program to develop branding for their color-sensing, musical rings.
“We believe in paying it forward,” said Joanne McKinney ’87, Chief Strategy Officer at Burns Group, and founder and head of strategy for BGIN. “The Burns Group recognized that many young companies are, in reality, products or services in search of a brand. But brand strategy and execution is typically out of reach from a budget and timing standpoint. We launched BGIN to make brand strategy, design and communications more accessible to young businesses; BGINternships let us extend the same opportunity to student founders.”
The Burns Group selects BGINterns through a competitive process. Startups hoping to be selected fill out a questionnaire with their vision, interests, needs and commitment. The Burns Group evaluates the applicants based on perceived level of commitment, stage of development, feasibility, scalability and whether the startup has a real branding need that can be addressed in three weeks. The Burns Group also considers which applicants can benefit most from networking opportunities with the firm’s other clients and contacts.
The Natural Cuts crew first learned about the BGINternship at Cornell’s Celebration of Entrepreneurship. They heard Joanne, who also serves on the Entrepreneurship@Cornell advisory council, and her colleague, strategist Rosie O’Regan ’16, present the program using examples from Stablesense. Vipul and Mike were already familiar with Caitlin’s positive experience, and decided soon after to apply.
“We hope to refine our brand image,” said Mike. “We believe BG can help us to best position Natural Cuts, and communicate our competitive advantages. The BGINternship will be a great place to dive into that process with top-notch resources to help us execute in a short period of time.”
Vipul and Mike will temporarily relocate from Ithaca to Brooklyn while working with BGIN. They plan to use their home base in NYC to connect with potential partners, like restaurant owners. The Burns Group has many contacts in the food and hospitality industry, which will help Natural Cuts find more opportunities for customer discovery.
Joanne sees future opportunities for more eLab and Cornell startups to participate in the BGINternship program.
“Stablesense and Specdrums entered their BGINternships with well-thought-out product ideas and prototypes that were nurtured through their participation in eLab and Rev. They were prepared to hit the ground running and make critical decisions during their time with us. We feel Natural Cuts is also at the right stage to impact their business— we see an opportunity for them to define their brand beyond the first product they are producing.”
eLab 2017-2018 applications are now open! Do you think you have what it takes to be one of our student startups? Read more or apply here. For information on BGINternships, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.