Cove-based UCI startup BottleRocket has achieved a recent milestone, raising $240,000 from MuckerLab in Santa Monica and $20,000 from Dorm Room Fund. BottleRocket is the first on-demand pickup service that rewards users for recycling at home. Their team believes change starts with each person, which is why they created a simple way for households to redeem California Redemption Value recyclables at the push of a button. Comprised of UCI students and alumni, BottleRocket's team includes Arthur Avetisov, CEO and Co-Founder, Brian Leung, COO and Co-Founder, and Malik Ahmad Co-Founder, CMO.
Before starting BottleRocket, both Avetisov and Leung formed a passion for entrepreneurship during their teenage years -- eventually meeting at UCI through the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. “We wanted to do something different in the industry, we didn’t want to take the same routes a lot of kids were taking,” said Avetisov. In May 2015, the pair interviewed with Ryan Foland, former Assistant Director of Blackstone LaunchPad at UCI (now UCI ANTrepreneur Center), who provided them with advice and connected them to opportunities and resources. Avetisov and Leung launched their company that same week, and became extremely involved with Blackstone LaunchPad. They even tested their product last spring— a hundred UCI students signed-up for the service in two days and participated in the one month trial period. Shortly afterward, BottleRocket was accepted into the Cove Share incubator program at Applied Innovation, connecting them to additional resources, workspace, and access to a diverse range of mentors through Experts-in-Residence.
Highlights from their progress from 2015 and 2016 include:
- UC Irvine Blackstone LaunchPad: ANTrepreneurs of the Year (2015) - "Best Startup" , "Best Green Venture"
- Entrepreneur’s Organization: Global Student Entrepreneurs Award - Orange County (2015) "2nd Place" (hosted at UCI)
- UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business, Business Plan Competition (2016) "Best Undergraduate Team"
Honing their pitch and business model as they have progressed through each competition, the BottleRocket team has made strides since they tested their first minimum viable product. Both Avetisov and Leung shared they have gained invaluable experiences that have been integral in their development as entrepreneurs, and are now equipped with knowledge that will enable them to continue growing their company.
BottleRocket's funding from MuckerLab also includes their acceptance into the 2017 cohort for the Santa-Monica based accelerator. As described on Mucker Capital's website "MuckerLab Invests at the earliest stage of a company’s lifecycle — “pre-seed,” as the first institutional capital — and helps entrepreneurs validate and iterate on the original hypotheses of their core business concepts. In short, [they] help companies achieve product-market fit in preparation to raise institutional venture financing." No more than ten companies per year are admitted into each cohort, enabling the accelerator program to "ensure that each and every company achieves the operating milestones required for the next round of financing."
BottleRocket's raise from Dorm Room Fund (DRF), an early-stage, student-run, venture capital firm, also represents a step forward. On a mission to help their peers start new companies, Dorm Room Fund invests specifically in student-run startups and emphasizes a rapid funding process that makes the process as straightforward and founder-friendly as possible. Follow-on funding from the over 125 DRF funded companies amounts to over $200M to date.
To learn more about BottleRocket, or to sign-up for their service. Visit http://www.bottlerocketrecycle.com/.
Hai contributes to the Cove as a content writer for both the Currents newsletter and blog. As an alumnus of UCI with a degree in English and a co-founder of a local creative agency, Hai's focus is centered on spotlighting events, stories, and startups within the Orange County community. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and has participated in fast-pitch competitions through the UCI Antrepreneur Center and has co-organized local business and startup groups such as 1 Million Cups and Orange County Young Entrepreneurs.