April 15, 2013

Student startup snags $200,000 accelerator award

Nick Nickitas and Tom Schryver
Jon Reis
Nick Nickitas, Rosie CEO, left, chats with Tom Schryver, Cornell Entrepreneur in Residence.

Rosie Applications Inc., a student startup business at Cornell, received the $200,000 grand prize in the CenterState CEO Startup Labs Syracuse competition April 8. The prize consists of $150,000 in cash and the Market Ready Award, a suite of marketing and branding services by Eric Mower and Associates, valued at $50,000.

“Rosie provides online and mobile predictive shopping applications to the retail sector,” said Rosie CEO Nick Nickitas, MBA ’14, who had thought of the concept for Rosie in August 2012. “The company saves customers time, money and stress by predicting the items they need before they run out, and ordering them from local grocers and online retailers for in-store pickup or delivery.”

When users log in to the application, either on the Web or a smartphone, Rosie displays their favorite household and grocery items and enables the customer to quickly find and order other items they may need. Rosie then routes the order to the customer’s retailer of choice, which may vary based on price, location or other factors.

“We’re not trying to simply put the grocery store online,” said Chief Operating Officer Jon Ambrose, MBA ’14. “We want to transform the way people buy groceries and household items by making it smarter, faster and easier. We’re integrating intelligence into every aspect of our application to create a unique and customized shopping portal that people will love to use.”

Nickitas had initially pitched the Rosie concept to participants in Startup Weekend Cornell in September, at which a team of students formed to pursue the idea and create the company. In October 2012, Rosie joined eLab, a business accelerator for high-potential Cornell student entrepreneurs that offers office space, legal advice and access to alumni mentors. The company placed second at the annual Cornell Elevator Pitch Competition and was a finalist at the 3-Day Startup at Cornell, in November 2012, before receiving the Startup Labs award.

The Rosie team.
Jon Reis
The Rosie team.

“Winning this award is great recognition of what we’ve accomplished as a company, and we’re thrilled to receive this endorsement from Startup Labs, one of the industry’s most innovative accelerator programs,” said Nickitas.

Rosie was one of five finalists for the Startup Labs award, chosen from among 96 companies. Finalists received $30,000 each and participated in Startup Labs’ 22-day program to receive mentorship and technical support to ready their company for the competition and help validate their business model for later-stage investors.

Led by its three co-founders – Nickitas, Ambrose and Michael Ryzewic, chief technical officer – Rosie launched its website Dec. 4 and had more than 750 signups its first week. It was incorporated as Rosie Applications Inc. in March 2013 and will officially launch at P&C Fresh in East Hill Plaza in early May. The company plans to add several more stores across upstate New York later this summer and to expand nationally beginning in 2014.

The startup includes 16 undergraduate and graduate students. Startup Labs’ grand prize will enable Rosie to grow more quickly, hire two full-time employees and add retail partners across the United States, Nickitas said.