After Cornell's College of Engineering held a startup career fair in February, the high turnout made administrators wonder how many students had already started their own businesses, said John Jaquette, executive director of Entrepreneurship@Cornell.
That question led to the creation of PULSE, a showcase of student-run startups held April 7 in Sage Atrium. "For a lot of students, it's hard for them to recognize their own work as entrepreneurial," said Jesse McElwain '12, who organized the event. "PULSE gives them a physical location to meet other entrepreneurs on campus and see who's doing what."
At the Splat table, for example, Ricky Panzer '13 demonstrated the smartphone-powered laser tag game he had created, while his team of programmers busily wrote code.
"A lot of computer science students get recruited by big companies like Microsoft," Panzer said. "I think a lot of them don't realize how powerful they are and their potential to make projects that can really make some great impacts and even large profits."
Across the room, Alex Colket '01 presented his company, Swidjit, a social media platform for trading goods that aims to compete with Craigslist. And two tables down, James Muna, a December graduate, showcased the T-shirts he produces under the name Bora Wear. The shirts are made from African fabrics, and the profits return to Africa to help nonprofit organizations there. "It's about making Africa a better place," Muna said.
The turnout exceeded McElwain's expectations. "I'm really happy to see a mix of people here," he said. "There are undergraduates, there are graduates, there are alums -- there are even some people from town."
Dan Cohen, who runs eLab (a collaboration of Student Agencies and Entrepreneurship@Cornell to incubate student startups) and was in attendance, agreed that entrepreneurship has seen "serious growth in demand on campus." As a result, Cohen said, Student Agencies, in collaboration with Entrepreneurship@Cornell, is trying to get access to a larger space that could serve as "a hub of all entrepreneurial activity on campus."
After the PULSE event, students were invited to the grand opening of PopShop, a co-working space at 206B Dryden Road that McElwain manages, for free ice cream and to learn about what other students were doing on campus.
Both PULSE and PopShop, McElwain said, provided a "great atmosphere" for students with startups to learn from one another.
"When you have so many people in the room who know different coding languages and can help each other out with branding and marketing, with putting together a business plan, you start to see these connections being made, people helping each other out," he said.
PULSE was sponsored by Entrepreneurship@Cornell and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at the Samuel C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.
Elisabeth Rosen '12 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.