The eLab First Fall Bootcamp, 2015-16, held at Rev:Ithaca Startup Works on Oct. 24th, was all about preparing the startup teams to validate their problem through customer discovery.

Once properly bagel fed and coffeed, the 12 teams each presented their business to the group. The collaborative spirit caught on strong and early. After seeing the other teams present, Joseph Farrell of Yeastology, a company redefining yeast supply as creation between customer and supplier, said that he had read the descriptions of teams online, but seeing them in person actualized their dedication and business plans.


Tyler Hogge, presenting Unbroker, removing the broker between lender and borrower.

DAKA SC00290

Ke Huang, left; Yat Lam Wong, right of DAKA, a platform providing Chinese students needed information for high schools abroad.

After team presentations Ken Rother, eLab Managing Director and Instructor, framed the program and moved quickly through the Business Model Canvas. Steve Gal, Instructor, addressed targeting a market segment, including what is a market and what the ideal startup market segment looks like. Finally, Tom Schyver, Instructor, spoke on customer discovery, including pinpointing who is the customer is and what drives them.

Tom Schyver, Executive Director of the Center for Regional Economic Advancement and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, eLab Instructor

The day featured break out session with teams practicing customer discovery strategy on each other.

Special guest, Shane Trost, Senior Director of Marketing at Cornell, spoke on the importance of starting brand development early and building a brand around why your business does what it does, the passions and beliefs that drive you, the higher reason for it all. He touched on creating community and communicating the why before approaching logo and color scheme. Throughout the program, Shane will serve as a brand and marketing adviser to the teams. To build brand development right alongside the other aspects of business progression, rather than addressing it separately, is a first for the eLab program.


Shane Trost, Senior Director of Marketing at Cornell

“We found that brand development often came too late to be useful. We are very grateful to have Shane helping the students early in the program, this year.” -Ken Rother.

Among the insights Shane shared, he showed a clip from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk and recommended the entire talk to anyone starting out or in need of a refresher.

Also attending:

Dan Kathan, Managing Director of Student Agencies Foundation (SAF)

Angelle Aldridge, Program Director of SAF

Brad Treat, educator of management at Johnson Graduate School of Management

David Lesser, CEO at Millennium Carbon and member of the eLab Board of Managers

Dan Kathan, left; David Lesser, right

“It was a great starting point. Some [teams] were way farther along than I expected at this stage. It was very inspiring and encouraging.” – David Lesser.

As part of the program, startup teams are meeting one on one with instructors to work through present challenges. Fall Bootcamp 2 is coming up fast. Each startup will report their progress to the group. Our guest speaker is Jeff Stein, Partner at WilmerHale and our primary legal adviser for eLab startups.

-Jeremiah Cotman

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