The Ups and Downs of Building a Company in 54 Hours — EntoBento’s Story
We are Chris M., Chris G., Kaison, Dan, Gilles, and Amanda.
All of us participated in the GSB Startup Weekend Competition almost exactly one year ago. We met on a Friday afternoon in San Diego, CA., and had 54 hours to come up with an idea for a company, validate the idea and pitch it to a panel of judges on Sunday night. We did not know it then, but we were planting the seeds for one of the most rewarding projects we have ever been a part of.
Our First Idea
Believe it or not, our initial idea for the startup weekend competition wasn’t a dog treat. Not even close. The original idea was a mealworm protein grow kit for people to grow their own sustainable protein source in their homes. Part of the judging criteria on Sunday was to demonstrate that people actually wanted our product and the only way to do that was to hit the streets and ask people if they would buy our product. This recent UN report was our inspiration.
Saturday morning we met around 8 AM. We decided to split up to cover more ground. Part of our team went to a local farmer’s market to ask people if they would buy an insect based grow kit for their home. The other part of our team went to crossfit centers to ask the same question. We talked to about 40 different people and only one person said they would buy it. One out of forty people isn’t a large enough market for a product. So we all met back up around lunch to figure out what to do next.
Frustration Sets In
The next few hours were difficult and demoralizing. We tried everything to find a market for our sustainable protein. We called exotic restaurants that used insects on their menu to ask if they would buy our kit. They laughed at us and said they were trying to “keep bugs OUT of the restaurant” and didn’t want live insects crawling around. Then we called pet stores that sold worms to pet owners that purchased insects for their lizards and pet snakes. They said they do not do enough volume to justify growing their own. No one wanted our grow kit.
So here we are, Saturday afternoon and we have no product, no market, no validation and we are scheduled to pitch it to a panel of judges in less than 24 hours. Awesome right?! Fortunately for us there were mentors walking around the competition area helping teams press on. We were all sitting around our table with our heads down and tails between our legs. One of the mentors could tell we were down and started asking us questions. We told him the story. He liked the pet store idea and asked if he thought people might be willing to feed insects to their dogs. We thought, hell why not…we do not have anything else to try so let’s go ask people. We hit the streets but this time we focused on dog parks and pet stores. Guess what?!?! Omg, people finally started to say yes.
There are so many benefits to using insects as a protein source. There have actually been multiple Kickstarter campaigns that use cricket flour in their products! You should definitely check them out. One of those benefits is water usage. Insects require a fraction of the water to produce and in many cases are a more nutrient rich source of protein. Living in southern California, many people are affected by the lack of water and understand the importance of finding a solution to our local and global problem. The people and dog owners we talked to loved the idea. Many said their dogs already eat bugs. So we decided this was our new company, this was our market, and it was time to hit the kitchen. Saturday night we researched homemade dog treats. We altered the recipes and came up with the very first (as far as we knew) insect based dog treat.
We ended up in 2nd place and were selected to move forward to the regional competition. We were selected as winners there after a small miracle happened and moved on to the global competition. We came in 6th place. Not bad for a “technology” themed startup weekend. It was the best weekend of our lives. We received such tremendous support that we decided to keep going. There are a lot of challenges with starting a company with 6 people, some of those we will share with you throughout the campaign and hopefully you can learn from us.
Right now we’re on Kickstarter and are about to hit our goal. This is an incredibly exciting time for our company and we can’t believe how far we’ve come in one year. It all began at startup weekend exactly one year ago…