More than 200 alumni are expected to return to campus – along with a few humanoid robots – for Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Celebration conference, April 27-28. Keynote speaker for the event will be Rodolphe Gelin, chief scientific officer of SoftBank Robotics Holdings, who will bring three versions of “Pepper” the robot with him.
“We look forward to hosting Celebration each year, as it is a wonderful student-centric conference,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “Each year brings new programming and tons of entrepreneurial energy.”
Celebration public events
Wednesday, April 26
5:30-7 p.m.: “Generation Startup” documentary screening and a Q&A with Avery Hairston ’14, who is featured in the film, eHub Collegetown, 409 College Ave., with reception to follow.
Thursday, April 27
9 a.m. to noon: Cornell Venture Challenge, the BR Venture Fund contest’s finalist presentations, Statler Hotel Ampitheater.
9:30 a.m.: “The Future of Robotics: How Humanoid Robotics Are Changing the Game,” keynote by Rodolphe Gelin, chief scientific officer of SoftBank Robotics Holdings, eHub Collegetown, 409 College Ave.
4:15-6:15 p.m.: eLab Demo Day, where teams of students from the eLab pitch their companies, Statler Auditorium, Statler Hall.
Friday, April 28
4:30-6 p.m.: Big Idea competition, eHub Collegetown, 409 College Ave.
The conference features symposia sponsored by Cornell schools, colleges and programs on a wide range of topics, including mentorship success, sustainable social enterprise and health administration.
It also includes many public events where students, faculty, staff and community members show off their businesses and business ideas, including the Cornell Venture Challenge, eLab Demo Day and the Big Idea Competition.
Gelin’s keynote talk, sponsored by the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, will take place at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, April 27, at eHub Collegetown, 409 College Ave. Pepper robots will also be part of a student competition inviting teams to explore how Pepper – which has the ability to interpret emotions and have intelligent conversations – can be used innovatively in a hospitality context. The Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship in the School of Hotel Administration is sponsoring the competition and providing $10,000 in prizes for the three winning teams.
“SoftBank has created a technologically fascinating product, which combines scientific, engineering and social/behavioral science disciplines and can have multiple applications for our society in the near future,” said Rohit Verma, dean of external relations for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “Pepper is already installed at more than 3,000 locations in Japan, and such devices are soon going to become more commonplace around the world including in the U.S.”
On Thursday afternoon, students will share stories of their companies during eLab Demo Day. eLab teams, chosen in the fall in a competitive application process, take part in fall and spring boot camps, a mentor-match pitch event in New York City, and weekly meetings and classes. Student startups also receive support with outreach to alumni mentors. Companies earn a $5,000 investment from eLab if they’re making sufficient progress as the spring semester begins, as well as up to 4.5 credits for the eLab class. Demo Day is the culminating event of eLab’s year.
“Getting to work with the other ambitious teams in eLab has been a blast. It’s not every day that you get to spend time with a group of students who are building actual and exciting businesses,” said Samuel Kramer ’18, who co-founded eLab company InvestMend with Danielle Ragin ’17.
InvestMend connects individual and noninstitutional investors with solar energy projects for direct investments. The company’s goal is to increase the amount of private capital invested in solar energy.
“At Demo Day we plan to ask the audience for introductions to more potential customers and we’re looking to begin building an advisory board, so we’ll also be asking for advisers in the real estate, renewable energy and financial services industries,” Kramer said.
“Demo Day is when teams get to tell their story,” said Ken Rother, eLab managing director. “Whether that story is that they’re ready to secure funding or whether they need industry connections or are looking for potential customers down the road – whatever their need is at the time – that’s who they’re pitching to. When Demo Day ends, they’ll go back to being student entrepreneurs, building their businesses.”
The Celebration conference is sponsored by Entreprenuership at Cornell, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Student Agencies Foundation, and corporate and government sponsors. Learn more or register at the Celebration website.
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.