Opportunity Green strives to recognize organizations and businesses that promote sustainability through marketing, product development, and social relationships. These businesses all have one central goal: to promote the Triple Bottom Line of People, Plant, and Profit. As the clean-tech industry and green business phenomenon continues to grow and expand, Opportunity Green has taken the time to recognize start-ups and small companies that make a an impact bigger than their immediate size. Out of this extensive search formed the OG25 list. Today, we are sitting down with one of our featured OG25 start-ups: BTTR Ventures.
BTTR Ventures turns spent coffee grounds into gourmet mushrooms for high-end restaurants and retail outlets. We took some time to catch up with co-founder Naikhil Arora following this year’s Opportunity Green conference, in which BTTR (pronounced “better”) was named to the inaugural OG25 list of the best green startups emerging today.
by David Pfister
OG: You and co-founder Alex Velez are fresh out of bachelor programs at Berkeley. Did you have any entrepreneurial experience leading up to BTTR Ventures?
NA: Prior to our current company, both Alex and I were passionate about building small organizations and turning ideas into reality. Alex founded a mentorship organization while at Cal, the Sage Mentorship Project, which now boasts 300 mentors. I spent my time in college building a fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Zeta, and served as its president. Also, I had previously spent six months in West Africa at the University of Ghana, Legon where I established a recycling system for the 30,000 person university campus.
OG: When did the idea for BTTR strike?
NA: It started as a project for a business ethics class during our last semester at Cal, taught by Professor Alan Ross. The class explored business situations that test one’s values, beliefs, and ethics. We also covered a lot of corporate social responsibility. Professor Ross was a big influence, showing us how business, profit, and community development can all happen at the same time. BTTR slowly blossomed into a business as we built relationships and conducted months of R&D. By the time graduation came around, we knew we had the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of us and decided to run with it.
OG: What did you take away from your experience at this year’s Opportunity Green conference?
NA: The OG conference was a great chance to talk to a lot of other social entrepreneurs and hear their experiences about growing a business. Adam Lowry from Method stands out. I liked hearing his experiences starting a company at a young age, and the roller coaster ride that it took him on. It definitely helped lend perspective to the journey we’ve undertaken.
OG: What is your most valuable habit or trait?
NA: I always think of the worst case scenario: Once I am comfortable with the worst case scenario, it gives me the drive to take risks and make drastic moves.
OG: What tips do you have for green entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
NA: There is no such thing as good luck. The harder you work, the more things will work out for you. While building a business, you will always hit road bumps, and it is how hard you work when things are at the lowest that determines your success. For us, there were months in the beginning when little was working out, costs were adding up and our cash was dwindling. It’s the work and effort you put in during those lows that eventually starts to pay off. When things are going well, some call it being lucky, but there is always a tremendous amount of work that goes into something before there is any success.