Here's how a Cincinnati startup grew 300 percent

Andy Brownfield - Reporter, Cincinnati Business Courier

A Cincinnati startup and graduate of the Brandery's class of 2015 plans to top 300 percent growth this year with no signs of stopping soon.

Oros, founded by two Miami University graduates, Michael Markesbery and Rithvik Venna, will top 300 percent growth this year. The company isn't disclosing revenue, but Markesbery said it will be in the seven figures.

Oros produces outerwear using aerogel, the insulator NASA uses in spacesuits to withstand temperatures that are near absolute zero. It's a technology they call SolarCore.

A big part of that growth – and the key to ramping things up – is a line of credit with Silicon Valley Bank in Palo Alto, Calif., which was announced Nov. 15. Silicon Valley Bank has funded and financed some of the largest names in startups including Airbnb, Fitbit, Pinterest, Uber, Lyft and TrueCar. It often takes small ownership stakes for more favorable credit terms.

That's huge for a startup with a physical product like Oros, Markesbery said, because young companies like his often don't have a five-year history of positive cashflow or credit history to be of interest to traditional banks. Oros had raised $2 million in a seed round in 2016, but it's not wise to use that to buy inventory, he said.

"It's not a scalable model to use equity to purchase product," he told me. "But it's instrumental to renew our inventory. It's an incredible feat for any startup, especially in the Midwest, to work with such a prestigious bank."

Venna told me the line of credit is instrumental to get to the seven-figure range.

Also critical to Oros' growth has been its marketing plan, Venna said. Because Oros is a physical product rather than software like many other startups, it can require a different approach to marketing. That includes things like viral videos showing wearers of its parka blasted with liquid nitrogen, which gets down to negative 321 degrees Fahrenheit; showing wearers of its items summiting Everest or never-before-peaked mountains in Nepal, and getting its gear in front of social media influencers to reach a larger audience.

MANUFACTURING

Oros has also started partnering with other brands to license SolarCore for use in items that don't compete with its own core lineup like Cabella's insulated footwear, John Deere gloves or L.L. Bean footwear.

Oros launched a new fall 2017 line of clothing that includes things like a mid-layer fleece, vest and quarter-zip. While its initial lineup included items meant to withstand extreme temperatures, Markesbery said the new line is meant for commuters in temperatures typical of Cincinnati falls and winters.

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