Sept. 9, 2015

Horse water intake device takes entrepreneurship prize

Caitlin Parucci
Robert Barker/University Photography
Caitlin Parucci makes her pitch at the Entrepreneurship Kickoff Sept. 2.

The winner of the pitch contest during the Entrepreneurship Kickoff event Sept. 2 wants to solve a problem for horse owners all over the world.

A competitive equestrian for 15 years, Caitlin Parrucci ’15, is creating a specialized drinking bucket called “Thirst Alert” that measures horse water intake and issues alerts when there’s been a change or when the bucket is low. Changes in water intake can be an early signal that a horse is suffering from colic, so these alerts could help owners prevent the disease.

Parrucci was one of seven students who presented ideas during the event, sponsored by Entrepreneurship at Cornell, which brought more than 400 students to Kennedy Hall to learn about campus resources for student entrepreneurs.

For her company, Equine Design, Parrucci brought home the $1,010 first prize and automatic acceptance into eLab, a student business accelerator created by Entrepreneurship at Cornell and Student Agencies Foundation.

“Colic is a very scary word in the horse community,” said Parrucci, a master’s degree student in the College of Engineering. “It's the No. 1 cause of death in horses. It can happen suddenly, without warning and progress rapidly. I've personally seen horses die of colic and I know many others who have lost their horses to colic.”

Parrucci said she is looking for teammates with electrical and computer science knowledge and Web and embedded engineering skills to help design the back end of the product.

Second place went to Navo, an app that helps shoppers navigate shopping malls and compare prices at various stores, presented by CEO and founder Landice Gao ’17. Third prize went to Golden Start, a company founded by Priscilla Akomaning, MBA ‘16, which provides breast milk to nonlactating mothers.

Akomaning admitted her presentation might have made audience members uncomfortable, but said there’s a strong market and a social goal she can meet with her idea.

“Human milk is necessary for babies to have the best nutrition possible at the start,” she said, citing statistics showing only 4,000 mothers are producing milk for neo-natal intensive care units around the country, but about 6,000 are needed to meet the demand.

“One thing that really stood out for me tonight was the number of women presenters and winners,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “I’d encourage even more women entrepreneurs to show their might at our events.”

Before the pitch contest, students milled around the hallway outside the auditorium to meet student companies, including Maidbot, represented by Alex Levy ’18. Maidbot is developing a prototype for a robotic vacuum to help hotel workers more thoroughly and efficiently clean rooms each night.

They also heard more from Shulman about renovations that will create eHub - 14,000 square feet of entrepreneurship space on campus and in Collegetown. eHub will include 10,000 square feet on the second and third floors of the Student Agencies building at 409 College Ave. and 4,000 square feet on the first floor of Kennedy Hall. These facilities will become an epicenter for entrepreneurial “doing” with cross-campus support and leadership, Shulman said.

The eHub project is the result of a partnership between Entrepreneurship at Cornell, Student Agencies Foundation and participating Cornell schools and colleges including Johnson, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the ILR School and the School of Hotel Administration. eHub should open in late spring 2016.