Verb Energy was started when the co-founders couldn’t find a healthy and sustainable energy source and decided to create their own. After developing the idea for over a year and gaining significant market traction, the Verb founders were encouraged by a CTNext Entrepreneur in Residence to participate in the CTNext Entrepreneur Innovation Awards.
Verb Energy won $10,000 in addition to the $2,000 Audience Favorite Award at the 2017 Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, a pitch competition where Connecticut-based companies and entrepreneurs present their innovative project ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial experts for an opportunity to win $10,000 awards to help support business growth.
Co-Founder and CEO Matt Czarnecki explains how the startup came to be and its plans for the future.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and why did you start the company?
MATT CZARNECKI: A year and a half ago, I walked out of a coffee shop after paying more than $6.00 for a bitter coffee and a sugar-filled granola bar. I thought to myself: There must be a less expensive, more convenient, and better tasting way to do this.
Co-founders and Yale University students Bennett Byerley, André Monteiro, and Isaac Morrier, and I created Verb Energy because the four of us fundamentally believe everyone should always have the energy to live their life to the fullest.
IDH: Tell us about your startup.
MC: Verb Energy makes a caffeinated energy bar that contains a cup of coffee worth of caffeine—but the caffeine comes from organic green tea for longer-lasting energy. The bars taste amazing, have only 180 calories, and provide sustained energy at an affordable price of less than $2.50 per bar.
IDH: What makes your company unique?
MC: There wasn’t any healthy, tasty, convenient, and affordable everyday source of energy for people leading active and engaged lifestyles. Energy drinks are artificial and scary. Coffee is nutritionally empty, unpredictable in caffeine amount and effect, and can’t be stored. Granola bars can provide wholesome on-the-go nutrition, but they lack the energy kick of caffeine. Verb Caffeinated Energy Bars meet every energy need.
IDH: How did you become aware of the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards/why did you apply?
MC: Our advisor, CTNext Entrepreneur in Residence Richard Guha, encouraged us to apply because he believed we were well-positioned to receive a CTNext grant.
IDH: Have any other Connecticut startup resources help to shape your business?
IDH: Tell us something we don’t know about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and launch a startup.
MC: Starting my own company has brought the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It requires more hours than I ever thought possible. But every so often I get a spare moment to pause and reflect on all we have accomplished and it really is an incredible feeling.
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your company has faced as a startup?
MC: Balancing a full-time job while also being full-time students has presented an enormous challenge at times for all four of us. The absolutely overjoyed looks on our customers’ faces when we deliver them Verb Bars keeps us pushing forward.
IDH: Where do you see your company one year from now?
MC: We’re launching at the end of March in New England stores, online, and on 15 college campuses. In a year, anyone who is looking for good energy should grab a Verb Bar. They’ll be in company break rooms, dorm rooms, pantries, athletic fields, backpacks, jean pockets, and more locations. Young parents at Stop & Shop, athletes preparing for a workout, techies in Silicon Valley, CEOs before meetings, rock climbers starting an ascent, and anyone who strives to do more will hopefully be buying and eating Verb Bars.
Interested in learning more about 2017 Entrepreneur Innovation Awards winners and finalists? Read our interviews: