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Entrepreneur-in-Residence to mentor budding businesses

An innovative technology and a well-formed business plan are the key ingredients to launching a successful company.

That's what Brad Treat, MBA '02, hopes to instill in the entrepreneurially minded students, faculty and others at Cornell he'll be mentoring as Cornell's first Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR).

The EIR's purpose is to coach Cornell startups and aspiring entrepreneurs, from helping write business plans to reviewing legal documents. The Johnson School, in collaboration with the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization (CCTEC), has modeled its first EIR program after similar positions at many venture capital firms and other business schools.

"It's not meant to be just for the Johnson School," Treat said. "It's meant to be a universitywide resource."

An entrepreneur himself who co-founded a startup company in 2001, Treat became the EIR in July for a one-year term. He said he hopes to facilitate connections between Johnson School students, alumni and others who might have a certain skill set or technological expertise but lack a great business idea. Likewise, someone with business aspirations could be searching for just the right technology or product to market.

Zach Shulman, director of entrepreneurship at the Johnson School, decided about a year ago that Cornell should have an EIR after witnessing similar programs at other universities. Soon thereafter, CCTEC, which manages Cornell intellectual property (IP -- primarily patents and copyrights), expressed interest in collaborating on the new program.

Treat will be a close mentor for startup companies commercializing Cornell technology, Shulman explained, in a wide variety of areas, from fund raising and business plan development to how to become operational. The Johnson School already offers entrepreneurs what Shulman calls a triad of services: consulting through BR Incubator; venture capital through an in-house fund called BR Ventures; and legal assistance through the BR Legal program.

What the triad does not do, Shulman said, is provide hands-on operational guidance for budding entrepreneurs -- the gap the school hopes to fill with the EIR program.

Treat's startup, SightSpeed, a California-based company now in its sixth year, began while Treat was a Johnson School student as a collaboration with engineering professor Toby Berger and then-undergraduate Aron Rosenberg '02.

Together they launched SightSpeed, which produces a video-calling software that enables a computer to be used as a video phone. SightSpeed now ships with more than half the world's webcams, is used for 200 million minutes per month and is in use in every country of the world.

Founding and marketing SightSpeed make Treat well qualified to be the new EIR, said Scott Macfarlane, technology manager at CCTEC, who worked with Treat to help launch SightSpeed.

"He did an excellent job tapping into Cornell's resources," Macfarlane said. "And so to me he seemed like a perfect person to kick off the program."

Due to the collaborative nature of the program, Treat maintains office space at both the Johnson School and at CCTEC, which is located in the Cornell Business and Technology Park.

"We are introducing [Treat] to most of our early stage startups," Macfarlane said. "He has already helped several make significant progress." Treat works closely with other technology managers at CCTEC helping faculty, postdoctoral and graduate student build startup companies based on the technology they have developed at Cornell.

The new program working with Cornell's entrepreneurial and "extremely inventive" faculty and students will help strengthen Cornell's reputation as a leader in the creation of university startups, Macfarlane said. "Brad Treat is a key to making sure that the EIR program not only gets off to a successful start, but that it can continue and grow into the future."

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