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BTTR Ventures

Kristen Loken Photography

BTTR Ventures

Emeryville, Calif.
Founded: 2009
Employees: 7
2009 revenue: $200,000
Estimated 2010 revenue: $500,000

University of California, Berkeley business students Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez perked up when a business ethics professor mentioned a sustainable business opportunity: using nutrient-rich discarded coffee grounds to grow mushrooms. Hooked on the idea of "creating a business out of waste streams," Arora says, the pair tested the idea in a fraternity kitchen in early 2009. When their mushrooms sprouted a month later, they started BTTR Ventures, and by the time they graduated that May, they had a $5,000 grant from Berkeley and interest from such customers as Whole Foods (WFMI) and Berkeley chef Alice Waters. BTTR Ventures collects 8,000 pounds of coffee grounds each week that shops such as Peet's Coffee (PEET) would otherwise discard. When they're done growing mushrooms, Arora, 23, and Velez, 22, donate the compost to local schools and community gardens. In addition to selling the mushrooms they grow in their 2,500-square foot warehouse, they sell starter kits to let consumers grow their own mushrooms. The home kits now move at a rate of about 200 a week in local Whole Foods, with additional sales online, and make up half of BTTR Ventures' business.

(This slide has been updated. The original slide inaccurately reported that BTTR Venture's starter kits let consumers grow mushrooms in their own coffee grounds. The kits come with coffee grounds. This slide also corrects that BTTR Ventures sells 200 homekits through Whole Foods, with additional sales online.)