Fueling Cornell Startups for Success

By Jackie Swift

Starting a new business isn’t easy, not even if you have a breakthrough Cornell invention to base it on. On average, around half of all new businesses are still viable five years after launch. Cornell entrepreneurs can give themselves a better chance at success, however, by joining an incubator, according to Robert M. Scharf, director of the Praxis Center for Venture Development.

“There’s a national statistic that says startup incubators raise the likelihood of success for a new venture by over 75 percent,” he says.

Robert Scharf ’77, Nurturing Cornell’s Startup Culture at the Praxis Center for Venture Development

Scharf ’77 recently returned to Cornell to head the Praxis Center after a career working at big engineering firms and founding multiple startups. The center, which opened in March 2019, is Cornell’s on-campus incubator for startup companies looking to commercialize Cornell-based breakthrough innovations in the engineering, digital, and physical sciences. Six fledgling startups applied to join the incubator by August 2019 as the inaugural group of companies.

“Most of our clients are first-time entrepreneurs and the vast majority have never worked anywhere but in academia,” Scharf says. “The center is here to help them find their way through all the minefields to commercialize these great inventions. In many cases, I’m a cheerleader, a guide, a technical consultant, and a network hub for these new entrepreneurs.”


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