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Fall 2013
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Online Exclusive | Student Entrepreneurs

Future Looks Rosie for Student
Shopping App

By Stacey Shackford

Student Entrepreneurs
Credit: Stacey Shackford

Eric Zilber ’16 and Zach Steele ’15 at the launch of Rosie at P&C Fresh.

In the fictional sci-fi future portrayed by Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s, Rosie was a clunky cartoon robot who looked after the Jetson family. In the present day, Rosie is a personal shopping application dreamed up by Cornell students to help modern families who don’t have the time to get groceries. It’s also proving a big hit with Cornell students, thanks to the shuttle van that makes regular deliveries between East Hill’s P&C Fresh and campus.

In addition to facilitating online ordering from local grocers, the Rosie website can help its users create custom shopping lists and predict when items need to be re-ordered. It can also provide recommendations and related coupons. Users can browse the aisles or search and aggregate products based on categories such as “BBQ” or “breakfast.” They can collect the items from the shop or have them delivered by another new Ithaca startup, Gro2Go, for an additional fee.

Created in September 2012 at Startup Weekend Cornell, Rosie has blossomed. With $150,000 cash winnings and $50,000 worth of in-kind marketing support from the 2013 Startup Labs Syracuse competition, Rosie founders Nick Nickitas, MBA ’14, and Jon Ambrose, MBA ’14, were able to hire 10 Cornell students who spent the summer working in three teams to develop the product and prepare for its July 7 launch at P&C and wider rollout in August.

Rosie expanded to Cortland, N.Y., with P&C Fresh on Sept. 1 and to Nojaim Brothers Supermarket in Syracuse on Sept. 17. Five more stores in upstate New York and Pennsylvania are slated to join the roster, as well as three stores in Massachusetts, including two in Boston. Hundreds more in the Midwest and across the East Coast are in the works, Ambrose said. More than 2,700 people have signed up for the service so far.

Several CALS students leant their business brawn to the marketing team, including Dyson School students Zach Steele ’15, Jessica Krause ’15 and Eric Zilber ’16.

Zilber, an aspiring entrepreneur himself, said the experience has been fantastic.

“I joined Rosie not knowing what I wanted to do except for to change the world,” Zilber said. “If there's one lesson I've learned through Rosie it would be: Don't chase. Focus on people who understand you and your passion. Those are the only ones ready for the ride.”

Other students worked on the technical side. A great deal of programming know-how was required to build behind-the-scenes platforms, Zilber said. In addition to an easy-to-use home page for customers, the system combines predictive analytics and algorithms with interfaces for retailers as well as the delivery service.

Not only does Rosie offer convenience to consumers, it can provide a boost to independent local businesses that lack the resources or technology to compete with big chain stores, Ambrose said.

“We are giving them tools that they can use to compete in a market that is going to change dramatically,” Ambrose added. ”It will attract more customers and allow the store to sell products more effectively through tailored recommendations and promotions.”