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Celebration draws Cornellian business leaders April 14-15

Huang and Zhu
Patrick Shanahan/University Photography
Engineering students Catherine Huang, left, and Cynthia Zhu will be presenting their business, DAKA, at the 2016 eLab Demo Day.

Being a successful entrepreneur is like surviving a Tough Mudder race pretty much every day. Adam Slutsky ’85 should know.

Slutsky has fond memories of his Cornell days selling T-shirts as a Student Agencies entrepreneur. Today, he’s president of Tough Mudder, a company that hosts more than 60 obstacle course races each year across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany and Australia, attracting more than 2 million people. And he’s run a couple other companies between those two. He’ll be a keynote speaker during Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Celebration event, April 14-15.

Slutsky founded Moviefone in 1989, which offers movie show times and tickets. AOL purchased the company in 1999, and Slutsky stayed with AOL until 2005, when he became CEO of Mimeo, a company that offers online printing and distribution services. He joined Tough Mudder in 2013.

Being successful as an entrepreneur “is a combination of who you are, what your idea is and what ability you have to build a team around your idea,” he said. “You have to believe deeply in yourself, think that no actually means yes, and be willing to never give up.”

Slutsky’s appearance will be one highlight of the two-day Celebration conference, which features:

  • symposia on topics including family business, social entrepreneurship and health administration;
  • a new business and emerging technologies showcase by Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing;
  • recognition ceremonies for the 2016 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year, Leland C. Pillsbury ’69, founder and chairman of Thayer Lodging Group;
  • networking opportunities; and
  • the finals of several business idea competitions, announcement of the Student Business of the Year, and Demo Day featuring members of the eLab student business accelerator.


eLab companies prepare demos

Catherine Huang ’18, a student in the School of Hotel Administration, and Cynthia Zhu, a master’s student in the field of engineering, are working feverishly to prepare their product for the eLab Demo Day event. Their business, DAKA, offers up-to-date information for international students who want to study in U.S. high schools.

Huang and Zhu experienced challenges trying to find a high school abroad because there aren’t sources of trusted or accurate information on U.S. schools, they said. Huang, for instance, ended up attending a New Zealand high school that didn’t have the preparation courses she needed for the SATs.

“I was taught that education is the pathway to changing my fate and realizing my dreams,” Huang said. “But I felt desperate there.” Her family helped her find another spot in a rural school in Ohio that worked out well for her.

DAKA will gather profile information on U.S. high schools that accept international students, focusing on academics, safety and acceptance rates for students into Ivy League schools. All of the information will be translated into Chinese and, eventually, into other languages. Many U.S. schools are interested in taking international students, Zhu said, because they can charge those students higher tuition rates.

The pair said they’re thankful for the mentors in eLab, who pushed them to do more customer discovery last semester and helped them find team members. This semester, the pair have been meeting with mentor Brad Treat, MBA ’02, founder of Mezmeriz, who helped them refine their platform and encouraged them to attend an educational technology conference to network and meet potential partners and customers.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

Media Contact

Melissa Osgood