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Kickoff event celebrates entrepreneurial students

student pitches idea
Riley Yuan/University Photography
Student teams pitch their ideas for businesses to a panel of judges at PopShop in Collegetown Sept. 9.

More than 200 students packed the small PopShop storefront in Collegetown Sept. 9 for Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s 2014 kickoff event, an opportunity to mingle, hear about resources and listen to six teams pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges.

“So many students have innovative ideas for businesses,” said Esther Hwang ’15, a College of Arts and Sciences student and member of Life Changing Labs. “I didn’t realize how many students were interested in entrepreneurship.”

After time for networking amid tables set up for student entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses, students heard from members of the eLab student business accelerator program and from Chip Meakem ’93, co-founder of Tribeca Venture Partners in New York City, who was a judge for the event.

“I was really impressed with the quality of the ideas and entrepreneurs at the event and it was great to see the energy in the room,” Meakem said. “When I graduated from Cornell in ’93, I don't think entrepreneurship was even an academic concept. Now there’s a thriving ecosystem in place cranking out really interesting teams and companies.”

Summit 2014 set for Nov. 7 in New York City

Entrepreneurship at Cornell will host its annual Entrepreneurship Summit, “Beyond the Horizon,” at the Times Center in New York City on Friday, Nov. 7.

Keynote speaker will be Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani. Other featured speakers include:

• Andrew Yang, CEO, Venture for America
• Kegan Schouwenburg, CEO and co-founder, Sols Systems
• Matt Blumberg, CEO, Return Path
• Mona Bijoor, CEO, Joor

To sign up, visit

The evening culminated in a pitch-off featuring six teams who shared their business ideas in three-minute talks. Winner of the pitch-off Pablo Borquez, MBA ’15, has developed a platform called Produce Pay to change the way the produce supply chain is funded. Borquez, who grew up on his family’s farm in Mexico, said the produce industry has been slow to buy into technological innovations.

“My friends and professors at Cornell have motivated me and moved me forward in the business,” he said, adding that he plans to pursue his business idea full-time after finishing his MBA.

One of Borquez’s supporters is classmate Chris Felder, MBA ’15, who came to the event to support Borquez and other classmates who were pitching. Felder also has a few ideas of his own related to 3-D printing and high-end goods like tie clips, cuff links and a golf-cart tracker, “in case you have a few too many cocktails and happen to lose your cart,” he said with a laugh.

“I can see myself starting a business,” he said.

Students interested in startup businesses and venture creation have a variety of opportunities through Entrepreneurship at Cornell, from business idea competitions and an array of courses across all of Cornell’s schools and colleges, to support programs like eLab and PopShop and a summer internship program.

“The Cornell Entrepreneurship Kickoff event was fantastic,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “The room was packed, the energy levels high and the presentations were great.”

The event was sponsored by Entrepreneurship at Cornell, eLab, Student Agencies Foundation and Life Changing Labs, a startup network for entrepreneurial students.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

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