Student entrepreneurs selected as 2021 Kessler Fellows

This year, the program expanded to include Cornell juniors from all disciplines interested in entrepreneurship – it was previously limited to STEM students – bringing a myriad of academic perspectives to the 2021 Kessler Fellows cohort.

“I want to challenge myself to think outside of the box – not only of my career, but also of the value that I could bring to society,” said Anna Hu ’22, a College Scholar in the College of Arts and Sciences, and an alumni of student startup accelerator, eLab. “It’s rare to see a group of people so genuinely passionate about some ideas. I love being close to this kind of energy.”

During the spring semester students complete a one-credit entrepreneurial course and begin researching companies that match their skills and interests. Once the fellows have identified the startup where they will intern, they develop individual learning goals and conduct a business analysis, before embarking on their summer startup experience. During this phase of the program – fully funded through the generosity of Andrew J. Kessler ’80 – students receive a weekly stipend.

“Being a Kessler Fellow allows us to get hands-on experience from current entrepreneurs in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t in a more traditional internship experience,” said Chloe Elise Young ’22, who plans to attend medical school and believes the fellowship will assist her in the health care startup world. “I hope to target issues surrounding health disparities such as maternal mortality in the United States.”

Another benefit of the program is access to a team of experienced Entrepreneurs in Residence through Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, which provides guidance on patents, funding, branding and prototyping – all of which student entrepreneurs need in their toolkit.

The 2021 Kessler Fellows are:

  • Alex LoCicero ’22, mechanical engineering;
  • Anna Hu ’22, psychology and College Scholar;
  • Austin Stasko ’22, mechanical engineering;
  • Candice Mahadeo, ’22, applied economics and management;
  • Chendan Luo, ’22, mechanical engineering;
  • Chloe Elise Young, ’22, biology and society;
  • Cole DeMeulemeester, ’22, computer science;
  • Connor Reinhold, ’22, computer science and mathematics;
  • Emile Bouriez, ’22, mechanical engineering;
  • Emma Kranich, ’22, electrical and computer engineering;
  • Gary Wang, ’22, materials science and engineering;
  • Jackson Bauer, ’22, biomedical engineering;
  • Jueun (Jen) Yi, ’22, operations research and information engineering;
  • Maxwell Beck, ’22; ILR, information science and business;
  • Melissa Louie, ’22, chemical engineering;
  • Melody Yu, ’22, mechanical engineering;
  • Michael Grossman, ’22, urban and regional studies;
  • Payton Hunter, ‘22, mechanical engineering;
  • Rishitha Thambireddy ‘22, computer science;
  • Tiffany Chui, ’22, materials science and engineering.

Many past Kessler Fellows have completed internships with successful Cornell-affiliated startups, including Combplex, the $500,000 winner in the 2020 76West Clean Energy Competition; Dimensional Energy, a finalist in the ongoing $20 million Carbon X Prize competition; and Iterate Labs, which recently announced $1 million raised in seed funding.

“We’re very excited to welcome a new Kessler Fellows cohort to the entrepreneurship ecosystem at Cornell,” said the program’s director, Nate Cook, who also serves as a Cornell Engineering entrepreneur in residence and visiting lecturer at the SC Johnson College of Business. “We look forward to helping each fellow build a solid entrepreneurial mindset so they are able to make the most of the real-world experience they will obtain in their summer internships.”

The Kessler Fellows program is participating in this year’s Cornell Giving DayDonations made to the program through the end of the day on March 11 will provide more students with the opportunity to complete this hands-on entrepreneurial experience.

Bridget Bright is a writer for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

SBIR Workshop: Application Process & Funding Options for Startups

Join Kirk Macolini, President of InteliSpark, LLC for this workshop as he shares insight on the SBIR application process and how to find other dilutive funding sources.

The Small Business Innovation Research program funds a diverse portfolio of startups and small businesses across technology areas and markets to stimulate technological innovation, meet Federal research and development (R&D) needs, and increase commercialization to transition R&D into impact.

Attendees will also learn about the SBIR/STTR Assistance Program which can help eligible companies, based in upstate New York, hire a qualified grant writing consultant to help them develop a proposal. There will be a Q&A session at the conclusion of the event.

 

To register, follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sbir-workshop-application-process-funding-options-for-startups-tickets-159494679881

Accessibility:

Please contact Monika Crosby (mlc258@cornell.edu) at least three days prior to the event with any accessibility needs.

 

Deconstructing Conflict: Understanding Family Business, Shared Wealth, and Power

Valuable Vantage Points is a monthly networking symposium, open to all. Learn from Cornell Family Business Faculty and Fellows, connect with alumni, students, and business leaders, and begin to tackle many pressing issues within your family business. Each discussion will be a mix of content, conversation, and collaboration. Topics will range from tactical to strategic and will be specific to family business.

Conflict exists in some form in every family and organization. Yet, it creates discomfort for many and may often be avoided, thereby creating further conflict. Based upon his methodology known as “The Conflict Equation,” Doug Baumoel ’78 will present five foundational concepts to help participants deconstruct conflict into its component parts. This webinar will help you understand the reasons that underline all conflict, what triggers active conflict, and why conflict can be so extreme in family businesses.

You will receive a confirmation email upon registration with the Hopin coordinates. If you did not receive this communication, please reach out to Hannah Barends at heb87@cornell.edu.

The Entrepreneurship at Cornell Podcast

Ever wonder how a young Cornell entrepreneur got their first idea? Or when they decided to just go after it?

Wonder what they do first thing in the morning? Or if there’s a book they read that changed their life?

Listen to Startup Cornell, the new podcast from Entrepreneurship at Cornell that explores the bold entrepreneurial ideas coming from our students, faculty, staff and young alumni.

In each segment, you’ll hear a Cornell entrepreneur tell their story of success, failure, wins and losses. They’ll also offer actionable advice for building and growing your own business.

Find episodes here: https://eship.cornell.edu/news/startup-cornell/

Nominate or Apply for Student Business of the Year

Applications are open for Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Student Business of the Year Award. Emphasis is on the business and the team behind it, not just on the entrepreneur. The award will recognize commitment to developing and operating a successful business while pursuing an education. The cash prize is $5,000. Apply now.

One on one with Dean Lynden Archer, chemical engineer and entrepreneur

(This interview originally appeared in the Chemical and Engineering News on feb. 22, 2021)

Postdoc Simone Douglas-Green talks to this chemical engineer and entrepreneur about the serendipity of opportunity

By Simone A. Douglas-Green, Special To C&EN
FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 99, ISSUE 6

Lynden Archer is known for his work with “hairy” nanoparticles. He studies structure, dynamics, and transport at liquid-solid interfaces using polymer and hybrid materials with applications in energy storage technologies. He cofounded NOHMs Technologies to commercialize novel battery materials developed in his Cornell University lab. NOHMs, which stands for nanoscale organic hybrid materials, was named one of C&EN’s 10 Start-Ups to Watch in 2015. Archer is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Physical Society. Simone A. Douglas-Green spoke with Archer about how he chose his research focus and what it takes to start a successful company. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Lynden Archer: I was about 9 or 10 years old. My mom bought me a science book, and one of the chapters extolled the wonders of brewer’s yeast, which affects metabolism. My mom was entrepreneurial and raised broiler chickens as an income supplement, and she allowed me to experiment with metabolism by adding brewer’s yeast to a small portion of her flock. I had some chickens as controls even though I didn’t know what controls were at the time. I felt like a real scientist using the essential tools of science and discovery to answer a question, and that ultimately gave me more confidence.

SDG: As an aspiring professor, I am trying to figure out what the research focus of the Douglas-Green lab would look like one day. How did you figure out the research focus of the Archer Research Group?

LA: I think this is something aspiring professors stress themselves out too much over—the thought of coming out on day 1 with a career-defining research direction that they’re going to follow faithfully throughout a career. An essential part of growing and becoming successful as a scientist is understanding your core skill set and the things that excite you and working to develop those fully. Successful professors must be able to see change coming and have the tools ready to adapt. That means you’re reading the literature, you’re sitting in talks at conferences that aren’t in your area, and you’re hearing what other communities are thinking. The graduate student and postdoc years are excellent times to identify and burnish these core skills.

SDG: This is fantastic advice to hear, especially as a new postdoc in a chemical engineering lab coming from a biomedical engineering background looking to expand my skill set in drug delivery design. Can you talk about the design process of your nanoparticles?

Click here to read the full interview on the C&EN website

Cornell Commercialization fellows help bring innovation to market

(This story was written by Casey Verderosa and appeared originally in the Cornell Chronicle on Feb. 18, 2021)

After completing high school in Côte d’Ivoire, the West African nation where he grew up, Yehou Michel Davy Gnopo, M.S. ’18, Ph.D. ’20, took a gap period to construct roads throughout West Africa.

“The story was always the same – we would stay in a town or village for two to four weeks and during that time attend funerals for five to six kids under the age of five,” he said. “Up to that point, I never had an interest in the pharmaceutical industry. Later, when I went back to school, I discovered that the infectious diseases killing these kids could be prevented, or even eradicated with appropriate vaccines.”

Leveraging guidance from Cornell Engineering’s Ph.D. Commercialization Fellowship program, Gnopo is endeavoring to build a pharmaceutical business in Africa based on a mucosally delivered vaccine system, administered inside the cheek via cotton swab. He wants to be part of the development of African pharma, which he envisions as a self-sufficient industry responding to the continent’s specific health care needs and relieving Africans from reliance on western or Chinese pharmaceutical companies.

The Commercialization Fellowship, which wrapped up its fifth cohort in December 2020, introduces engineers to the process of turning their academic research into businesses that solve real-world problems. During a fully funded summer and semester, fellows work one-on-one with a mentor, complete National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Teams training and collaborate with a team of Johnson MBA students to create a business strategy.

“Before applying to the program, I lacked both practical entrepreneurship experience and fundamental business knowledge. I think most engineering graduate students find themselves in this boat,” said Gnopo, who earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

Fellows learn about intellectual property, marketing, product development, fundraising and other skills from entrepreneurship experts. Gnopo’s favorite part of the program was working with MBA students.

“While the fellowship does a great job closing the business knowledge gap before the MBAs join the fray, nothing beats having a dedicated team of business students forming a plan for my venture,” he said.

Because the fellowship is fully funded, fellows are able to focus entirely on commercializing their innovations. Hedan Bai, a mechanical and aerospace engineering doctoral student, used the experience to work toward commercialization of stretchable sensors that are incorporated into garments and can be used to measure athletes’ movement and force, technology she developed with Organic Robotics Corporation, a Cornell startup that recently took top prize at the NFL 1st and Future Competition.

The I-Corps Teams experience, an intensive national training program through which academics explore commercialization opportunities for their research with an emphasis on the customer discovery process, was the most valuable component of the fellowship, Bai said.

There, she and her teammates became a “dream team,” she said. “While performing customer discovery, we discovered some real opportunities and market insights to pursue the commercialization of this technology.”

Another 2020 fellow, mechanical engineering doctoral student Jane Shin, cited the program’s highly individualized mentorship as an “enormous help” in crafting the direction to take in applying her tech to solve real-world problems. Shin is exploring using her intelligent sensor path planning algorithm as a solution for decision making in autonomous driving trucks. Fellowship mentors are entrepreneurship experts in industry and academia.

The 2020 Commercialization Fellowship cohort presented their final business plans on December 10, 2020 to a panel of entrepreneurial leaders from the region including: Frank DeCosta, partner, Finnegan Henderson; Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO, Launch NY; Chris Lee, chairman and CEO, Huxley Medical; Eric Young, partner and co-founder, Canaan Partners; and Todd Zion, co-founder, president, and CEO of Akston Biosciences Corporation.

Applications for the 2021 Commercialization Fellowship are open through February 22, 2021.

Casey Verderosa is a writer for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

Praxis Center and engineering startups grow together

(This story appeared originally in the Cornell Chronicle on Feb. 12, 2021. It was written by David Nutt.)

Nearly two years after launching, the Praxis Center for Venture Development is reconfiguring its structure to reflect the growth of engineering startups at Cornell and their specialized needs.

The center is differentiating into two thematically focused branches, with the Praxis Center for Engineering and Physical Sciences remaining in the current space in Duffield Hall, and the Praxis Center for Enterprise Software now based in nearby Rhodes Hall.

The space in Rhodes Hall was renovated last year and is now occupied by a pair of software startups: Ava Labs and Exotanium. The success of both companies has demonstrated the effectiveness of the center’s model as it helps Cornell researchers turn their innovative ideas into thriving businesses.

Cornell impacting New York State

The expansion allows the center’s five startups that have an engineering and physical sciences bent to remain in close proximity to the technical resources offered by Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF) and Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR) in Duffield Hall.

“Rhodes Hall is an office environment, so it really fits the sort of analytical things that don’t require any testing or laboratories,” said Robert Scharf ’77, Praxis’ director. “This lets us keep the physical and engineering sciences teams in Duffield, where the laboratories, model shops and testing facilities are concentrated. It has no effect on the productivity or the effectiveness of the facility for the software teams.”

The Praxis Center opened in March 2019 with the goal of supporting engineering and physical science startups through mentorship while also boosting business development in New York state. The new structure will allow Praxis to better connect these companies with more specialized mentors and advisory groups who can help them later on to focus their products, perfect their pitches and plot their next steps.

“There are different business models and advisory roles that fit each specific kind of venture,” Scharf said. “We certainly wouldn’t want a software company talking to someone with deep experience in chemical manufacturing, where there’s really a low level of relevance of the possible interactions. This will help us attract the right kind of advisors, mentors and guides to each branch, because now they’ll have a much more distinctive identity and a clear reason for participating.”

That mentorship was instrumental for helping get Exotanium off the ground, said CEO Hakim Weatherspoon, associate professor of computer science, who founded the company in 2018 with Robbert van Renesse, professor of computer science; and postdoctoral researcher Zhiming Shen, Ph.D. ’17.

Exotanium’s software enables businesses to reliably run their applications on servers in the cloud at low-cost using cheap unreliable servers. When these “spot” servers become unavailable, Exotanium’s technology automatically migrates these application servers to stable environments without any interruption, a kind of high-tech game of Whac-A-Mole that can slash a company’s cloud-computing costs by an order of magnitude.

The startup joined the Praxis Center in fall 2019, and last year raised more than $1 million in pre-seed funding, with another round of seed funding planned for this year. Last fall, Exotanium conducted a successful pilot demonstration for software company Autodesk, Inc., and they are now working on establishing a commercial relationship.

“Praxis has been critical for us to evolve from three people who are professors and a Ph.D. to three people and a company that is very successful in the market,” Weatherspoon said. “And Praxis is critical to Cornell. Cornell is a great idea generator, but a lot of scientists are not trained in business. To have a successful business, you need a place like the Praxis Center. I don’t know where we’d be without something like that.”

Exotanium has grown to include five full-time employees – four of whom are based in Ithaca – as well as three part-time employees and several interns and consultants.

The Praxis Center has also helped provide a “center of gravity” to keep businesses like Exotanium in New York state, when so many software companies are lured to big tech meccas like Silicon Valley, Seattle and Boston.

Exotanium’s neighbor in Rhodes Hall, Ava Labs, was one of the Praxis Center’s first clients and is now the largest. The company has grown to be an international operation, with a total of 72 employees, the majority of whom work in the company headquarters in Brooklyn, which opened in July 2019.

“We went from being a nascent company that just had one idea, which was mostly undefined, to a small seed company that receives funding from the giants of Silicon Valley, all the way to being a company that has launched a network that has billions of dollars’ worth of value in it,” said Ava Labs co-founder and CEO Emin Gün Sirer, associate professor of computer science and co-director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts.

Ava Labs’ flagship technology is Avalanche, an open-source platform for verifying and securing blockchain networks. In July, the company sold 72 million AVAX tokens, its form of digital currency, raising $42 million in its first public sale.

The company now has a system that is storing $2.2 billion worth of value from thousands of users on five continents.

Ava Lab has eight employees in Ithaca. While the company is nearing the day it will move out of Rhodes Hall to make room for new startups – five developing companies are currently in the pipeline, according to Scharf – Ava Labs will always have a deep connection with the Praxis Center, Sirer said.

“Every relationship changes. I feel like we spent our infancy at Praxis. And when we were in our teenage years and needed to prove ourselves, we went down to where the big folks are in New York City,” Sirer said. “Now, I would like to retain our connection to Praxis and pay forward our dues. I would love to help them in the future, whether it’s in the form of advising other financial technology startups or helping others connect with people, whatever it might take.”

To that end, Scharf is looking to develop a new mentorship model for companies that are no longer tenants at the center but maintain a relationship with the university.

The Praxis Center is also strengthening its ties with CNF. Both groups now share the same director of operations, Ron Olson, and program safety officer, Phil Infante, consolidating the technical support on which so many engineering startups depend.

“We’re centralizing the administrative functions, and that’s going to be a productive thing for everyone,” Scharf said. “The synergies of all these things are beginning to become evident.”

Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator Accepting Applications for ERA Summer ‘21 Accelerator Program

Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) is NYC’s leading tech accelerator. They invest $100K in selected startups and work closely with founders to help them build their businesses. To date, ERA has invested in 226+ companies who have gone on to raise $1B in investor capital and have a combined enterprise value of $4B.

Details:  Applications Open for ERA Summer ‘21 Accelerator Program
Apply Today: https://www.eranyc.com/apply/
$100K in seed money with potential follow-on funding from NYC’s leading accelerator and support from NYC’s largest mentor network (500+). Work daily w/ dedicated team + venture partners and join the largest founder community of 226+ companies.

Deadline: April 26th; Program Start: June 21st
Meet us at one of our events or sign up for office hours: https://www.eranyc.com/apply/

 

Direct all questions to Emily at emily@eranyc.com

Cornell DTI to run an incubator this semester

Cornell Design and Tech Initiative is a project team that builds websites & apps used by thousands of students. This semester we’re running Propel, an incubator for ideas or projects that Cornell students or people in the Ithaca community would use.

At Propel, we will provide $250 in funding, resources, networking opportunities, and mentorship for Cornell undergrads to build and scale their projects, whether it’s just an idea or already a prototype. To learn more and apply, check out propel.cornelldti.org.

Applications are due February 19th.