Wednesday, July 10, 2013

5 Questions with WSJ “Startup of the Year” Finalist PlanetReuse

As anybody in the Kansas City startup world knows, our city is full of great startups.  But in the grand scheme of things, we are just one city on a large United States map.  There are thousands and thousands of startups being built throughout our country, and standing out from the rest is an extremely arduous task.  Of all of the hundreds of thousands of startups in our nation, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down the best ones.  But thanks to some incredible work and research done by a publication called The Wall Street Journal, it can be done...and has.

The Wall Street Journal recently announced 24 companies for its Wall Street Journal Startup of the Year (#WSJSOTY) initiative.  Over the next few months, The Wall Street Journal will be tasking their 24 finalists, from over 500 entrants, with milestone tasks, ultimately leading up to the crowning the Wall Street Journal’s Startup of The Year.

Of those 24 finalists, only one hails from Kansas City.  Lucky for us, this new company is stationed on the 5th floor of Think Big Coworking, our well-known coworking space in downtown Kansas City.  Which company, you ask? PlanetReuse Marketplace powered by InvenQuery, one of the oldest members of Think Big Coworking. 

Nathan Benjamin, CEO of PlanetReuse.
Think Big was fortunate enough to snag 10 minutes with Nathan Benjamin, CEO of PlanetReuse to talk more about being a top 24 finalist for Startup of the Year.  

THINK BIG:  How did you hear about The Wall Street Journal’s Startup of the Year award?

NATHAN:  We heard about the opportunity through Pipeline and applied for the program. There was an extensive application process and out of more than 500 startups nationwide, we were selected.  We’re excited to represent not only the Midwest, but our local Kansas City startup community as well.

THINK BIG:  So far, what has this experience been like?

NATHAN: It's been challenging, but in a good way. Wall Street Journal is assigning tasks for each of the companies along the way. The first task (which will be aired in a few weeks) really encouraged us to step outside our comfort zone as a team and look at the way we were presenting ourselves to our current and potential customers. The task asked us to re-imagine our logo, our tagline even our company name. It urged us to examine our core value and to consider how we might best communicate it to different audiences, which gave us a deeper understanding of what makes us unique among our competitors.

They also just announced which mentors would be paired with which startups and we couldn’t be more pleased. We're excited to study under the expertise of our mentors Carly Fiorina and Alex Osterwalder, who both have incredibly impressive, successful backgrounds. We're looking forward to their suggestions and feedback on our concept, our marketing and our operations.

THINK BIG:  Of all the business challenges of the program, what task(s) do you feel PlanetReuse will excel in?

We think that we will excel at many of the tasks and feel that our mission and direction of the company are aligned with the criteria for the SOTY: First, the social impact of the business and second, the viability of the business.

I also think we can nail the elevator pitch task. We’ve been working to narrow down exactly what makes PlanetReuse Marketplace a viable, disruptive company and our passion shows through in our presentation. I was actually just asked last week by Scott Case with the Startup America Partnership to deliver a 30-second pitch on the spot at the 1 Million Cups event at Kauffman Foundation here in Kansas City—a little nerve-wracking, but great practice for the tasks to come.

THINK BIG:  Have you seen or experienced any impact from being chosen as 1 of 24 finalists?

Definitely.  We’ve seen a deluge of support from the Kansas City startup community. We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of friends and family who have voted for us on the WSJSOTY site, along with so many of our startup comrades. The KC startup community is incredibly kind to one another and the social media attention we’ve received has been just amazing. We’ve also received really great press from local media outlets. It just reaffirms our belief that Kansas City really is the best place to start a business.

THINK BIG:  Even though it is early, if PlanetReuse were to win SOTY, how do you think that would elevate the business?

It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to educate the country about the positive impacts of material reuse, inspiring a huge audience to think reused before new and donate before ditch. Communicating this message to millions nationwide makes us and the reuse industry "winners" already.

We take a triple bottom line approach to business, ensuring that people, the planet and profit are all taken into account. Winning would be a fantastic platform for fundraising and finding like-minded individuals who share our belief that we can do well by doing good. It would also be confirmation that sustainable businesses, ones that can make money while making a difference in their communities, are not only valuable, but viable and the way of the future.
We’re excited for what’s in store for Nathan and the rest of the PlanetReuse Marketplace team. Learn more and follow along with their journey on WSJSOTY and be sure to vote for PlanetReuse here.

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