Alumni entrepreneurs, investors to return for 'Celebration'

Alumni entrepreneurs working in areas as diverse as app development and food product marketing will return to campus Thursday and Friday, April 16-17, to share their insights with students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered for Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s annual Celebration conference.

Celebration events
The following events are free and open to the public. Register here for the conference and Celebration banquet.

Thursday, April 16
9:30 a.m. to noon: Cornell Venture Challenge Finalist Presentations, Amphitheater, Statler Hotel
4:15-6:15 p.m.: eLab Demo Day, with keynote by Jay Walker ’77, Statler Auditorium

Friday, April 17
4:30-6 p.m.: “BIG Idea” Undergraduate Competition Finals, Ballroom, Statler Hotel

Jay Walker ’77, founder of Priceline and Synapse Group and chairman of Walker Digital, will deliver keynote remarks at Thursday’s eLab Demo Day event, and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 will offer remarks at the opening night banquet.

The eLab event – which features student business teams presenting their ideas to a broad audience including angel investors, venture capitalists and alumni entrepreneurs – is one of the student-focused highlights of the conference, which also includes the culmination of the Big Idea and Cornell Venture Challenge competitions and awarding the Student Business of the Year.

“Celebration is our largest on-campus entrepreneurship event and will provide two packed days of programming and events,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “Celebration truly shows the universitywide reach of entrepreneurship across our campus.”

Thursday afternoon’s panel, “Bringing Your Idea to Reality: Funding and Realizing your ‘Aha’ Moment,” features four company founders talking about how they developed and funded their business. Presented by the College of Arts and Sciences, the panel is being held in collaboration with Cornell’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program, which enhances training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to prepare them for careers beyond academic research.

“Our alumni will be sharing firsthand experiences of their successes, but also sharing what they learned from their not-so-great moments along the way,” said Laurie Johnston, assistant director of alumni engagement and outreach for the College of Arts and Sciences. “We have such amazing stories from our alumni to share.”

The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the School of Hotel Administration asked its alumni to talk about networking skills for its Thursday panel, “‘MingleAbility’: A Hotelie Approach to Networking for Entrepreneurial Mobility.”

“The ability to socially navigate in an environment to connect and engage with others comes naturally for hotelies as it is not only encouraged but reinforced in experiential learning activities,” said Mona Anita K. Olsen, assistant academic director of the Pillsbury Institute. “Given the implications of the sharing economy on the ability to connect with people all over the world in many formats, the notion of entrepreneurial mobility and leveraging the Cornell Alumni Network expands beyond networking in a physical environment.”

Celebration also will include a showcase of emerging technologies sponsored by Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing and tours of the Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences.

More than 200 alumni usually return to campus for the event and registration is required.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

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Joe Schwartz