Our SVN Membership Saved Our Brand!
Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, Back to the Roots (BTTR) with Lara Pearson, Rimon, PC
Lara Pearson was first introduced to Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez at SVN’s 2010 Fall Conference. Nikhil and Alejandro were receiving SVN Innovation Awards honoring their start-up, Back to the Roots (BTTR). The two founded BTTR during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world, they learned they could grow gourmet mushrooms entirely from recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the opportunity to turn waste into wages & fresh, local food, they experimented in a fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms from recycled coffee grounds. With that single bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods & Chez Panisse, and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers. Back to the Roots has since grown to create the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country, grow gourmet mushrooms at home.
On April 2, 2011, Nikhil and Alejandro were invited to speak about their innovative business at TEDx Pesidio, where Lara Pearson was again in the audience. After watching their presentation, Lara, a Partner at Rimon, PC and trademark law specialist, decided to research BTTR’s trademark. She shared her findings with Nikhil and Alejandro at SVN’s 2011 Spring Conference. Alejandro recalls, “It turned out we had a trademark problem; someone had applied to register our mark! PTO registers marks on a first-come first serve basis, and this application would prevent us from registering our mark & protecting it nationwide.”
Wanting to support them, and recognizing they were a start-up, Lara donated her services to walk them through the legal issues and strategy. The three worked hand-in-hand with the other company’s CEO who was not aware of their brand. After careful discussion, he became a fan of their vision, and decided to give up the rights to their company's trademark. “We could not have done this without the help of Lara. This community is AWESOME,” says Nikhil. “We work together for the greater good and we look out for one another. Lara spotted an issue we would have missed and helped us prevent it from becoming a much more serious problem. Our SVN membership helped save our brand.”