Business competitions highlight student ideas

Beverly Wallenstein
Jason Koski/University Photography
ILR student Beverly Wallenstein will enter her business idea, Girls Mean Business, in the 2016 Big Idea Competition.

Would-be student entrepreneurs from across campus spent some of their spring break polishing their pitches for the Big Idea Competition, to be held Friday, April 15, at 4:30 p.m. in the Statler Ballroom during the 2016 Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration.

Alyssa Holman ’18, a biology and society major in the College of Arts and Sciences, wants to create 3-D hearts that could be used in transplants.

“Only 2,000 to 3,000 people get heart transplants every year, but there are 50,000 people who are in need of one,” she said. She’s motivated by summer work she did in a Stanford University program on cardiothoracic medicine and her own research into tissues and 3-D printing.

Beverly Wallenstein ’16 attended Camp Start-up at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management when she was 13, and the experience stuck with her. So much so that her big idea focuses on providing similar entrepreneurial support to young girls across the country. Her idea, Girls Mean Business, would offer eight-week, summer or weekend programs for middle or high school girls who want to explore entrepreneurship, whether they have a business idea, want to learn about funding or want to be part of an entrepreneurial team.

“I think it’s important to do this early because that makes a big difference in how they make their way through life,” Wallenstein said.

Danny Janeczko ’17 and Emily Wafler ’17 will present an idea for an app that would allow travelers to save leftover metro fares from cities across the globe and trade it in for metro cash in another city.

“In New York City alone, the MTA brings in $500 million in unused fares every year,” Janeczko said. “This would be useful for tourists in cities around the world.”

Jason Koski/University Photography
CALS students Danny Janeczko and Emily Wafler will enter the 2016 Big Idea Competition with their metro fares app.

Winners of the Big Idea earn $3,000, thanks to support from the Vijay, M.Eng. ’75, and Sita Vashee Promising Entrepreneur Award Endowment Fund.

Several other business competitions also culminate during the Celebration conference.

The Cornell Venture Challenge, sponsored by Johnson’s BR Venture Fund, attracted entries from 43 companies who hope to win the $25,000 first prize, which also includes an incorporation package worth $20,000 and matching money from the Center for Technology Licensing if the company is licensing Cornell technology.

Members of BR Venture Fund whittled that initial list of 43 to five companies, said Alexandra Jostrom, MBA ’15, fund coordinator and an organizer for the Venture Challenge. Teams are evaluated on their business team, the potential of their idea and the market size, she said. Winners will be announced April 14.

“Some of the finalists are already generating revenue and some of them just have ideas,” Jostrom said. “This is really about innovation and inspiring people.”

Entrepreneurship at Cornell will also honor one Cornell student business as the Student Business of the Year on April 15, an award that recognizes the students’ commitment to developing and operating a successful business while pursuing their education.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell. 

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