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Entrepreneurship celebration to feature talks on game design, family business

More than 200 alumni are expected to return to campus April 11-12 for the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration two-day conference.

The event will honor the 2019 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the eLab business accelerator for student businesses.

“Celebration marks the culmination of Cornell’s entrepreneurship activities and influence each academic year,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “With its student and alumni focus, we are able to get Cornell’s various schools, colleges and programs to collaborate on the conference. It is a great example of the ‘One Cornell’ theme.”

Leonard Schleifer

Entrepreneur of the Year Leonard Schleifer ’73, founder and CEO of Regeneron Inc., will take part in a question-and-answer session with Lance Collins, dean of Cornell Engineering, at 1:30 p.m. April 11 in Room 101, Phillips Hall. The talk is free and open to the public.

Other highlights of the event, open to the public, include:

  • eLab Demo Day, 4:30-6 p.m. April 11, Statler Auditorium, Statler Hall
  • Big Idea Undergraduate Competition finals, 3-4:30 p.m. April 12, eHub Collegetown, 409 College Ave.

Conference attendees can also attend a keynote talk by Jens Molbak, founder of investor group WinWin; a lunch and discussion hosted by staff from Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing; a gala dinner April 11 honoring Schleifer; and numerous symposiums on topics including mentorship success, sustainable social enterprise and health administration.

Walker White, M.S. ’98, Ph.D. ’00, the Stephen H. Weiss Provost’s Teaching Fellow and director of the Game Design Initiative at Cornell, will moderate “The Business of Games and Entrepreneurship” panel on April 11.

Panelists will include Erik Anderson, assistant professor of computer science and video game designer at Cornell; William Dalton ’88, vice president of production, ArtCraft Entertainment Inc.; Saswat Panda ’10, founder of LiveLikeVR; and Perry Tam ’04, CEO and founder of Storm8.

White says the panel will discuss monetization models in gaming.

“Game prices have been sticky for a long time (we have paid $60 for games for almost 20 years now), but costs are always increasing,” he said. “This has required game companies to be more creative with how they raise revenue, but a lot of these choices have major effects on how the game itself is played or enjoyed.”

The conference will also feature the announcement of winners for several other business competitions, including the BenDaniel Venture Challenge, the Engineering Innovation Competition and the Student Business of the Year award given by Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

A panel discussion Friday will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of eLab, a program started by Entrepreneurship at Cornell and Student Agencies Foundation that provides business acceleration support for student businesses. The panel will be moderated by Dan Cohen, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University and founding director of eLab in 2008; and Ken Rother, eLab’s current director.

“I wanted to create a lab where students could really launch companies because I knew there was no better vehicle for learning than in a startup,” Cohen said of eLab’s beginnings. “It takes everything you’ve learned in the classroom and puts it into practice, whether you’re successful or not.”

Cohen remembers the early days, when he sold the program to faculty and students by visiting classes and setting up countless meetings.

“I knew we had arrived when I was dropped off at the PopShop (a tiny Collegetown location for eHub), at night in the pouring rain for a back-to-school event, and there were 300 kids in there pitching their ideas,” he said. That was three years after the program began.

Today, eLab is a highly competitive yearlong program that offers students a $5,000 grant for their business, up to 5.5 credits for working on their startup, legal consultation, a co-working space in eHub and one-on-one mentorship from successful entrepreneurs.

“When we started eLab, I always felt surrounded by a team,” Cohen said. “Everyone wanted the program to succeed; it was a team effort in every single way.”

Visit the Celebration website to learn more or to register.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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