Students who created Petal, a hydroponic indoor growing system for herbs and greens, show off their prototype during the Sept. 13 Entrepreneurship Kickoff event in eHub in Kennedy Hall.

Beehive monitoring company wins pitch at entrepreneurship kickoff contest

Santiago Alegria ’18, a team member of Petal, presents his pitch during a contest Sept. 13 at the Entrepreneurship Kickoff event in eHub in Kennedy Hall.

A company with a device to help beekeepers monitor the health of their hives took first place in a pitch contest, and more than 150 students explored Cornell’s resources for entrepreneurship at a Sept. 13 event at eHub in Kennedy Hall.

The Entrepreneurship Kickoff also featured a student startup showcase, networking time and presentations by directors of Cornell’s eLab student business accelerator and Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

“Our event gives new students a chance to connect to others who are already passionate about entrepreneurship,” said Zach Shulman '87, J.D. '90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell, a universitywide program that offers co-working spaces, business plan competitions, conferences, hackathons, and internship and mentorship programs. It also works closely with Student Agencies, the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship and other campus partners, and connects students to successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and off-campus financiers. “The energy in the eHub space is exciting, and the ideas shared and connections made during this event are wonderful to see,” Shulman said.

More than 20 student companies hosted tables during the networking portion of the event, including Prometheus, a company creating a keyboard with a touchscreen and customized keyboard layouts and buttons. The company, founded by undergrad students in engineering, computer science and business, spent the summer refining its product at downtown Ithaca’s Rev Hardware Accelerator, said Clara Walton ’20, the company’s chief financial officer.

Peter Cetale ’19, founder of Religio, presents his pitch during a contest Sept. 13 at the Entrepreneurship Kickoff event in eHub in Kennedy Hall. Religio provides enterprise software for churches.

The company is applying to eLab because of the opportunities for mentorship, company refinement and facilities, she said. eLab is accepting applications until Sept. 25.

As the winner of the pitch contest, Combplex, the beehive monitoring idea, gained immediate entry to eLab and $1,000.

“Honeybees are dying at an alarming rate, but beekeepers typically only are able to thoroughly inspect their hives manually about once a year,” said Nathan Oakes, a doctoral student in computational biology who is working with co-founder Hailey Scofield, a doctoral student in neurobiology and behavior. The company will provide real-time and remote statistics diagnostics on bee colonies to allow beekeepers to minimize their losses from colony collapse disorder.

After spending the summer at Rev’s Hardware Accelerator Program, Oakes said the company has already received interest from investors and beekeepers.

Second-place winner of $500 was Religio, founded by Peter Cetale ’19, which provides enterprise software for churches to help them gain, retain and serve members and build community. Cetale said the company already has churches on board, is hiring staff and hopes to raise a seed round of funding later this year.

Zach Shulman, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell, tells students about all of Cornell’s resources for entrepreneurs during the Entrepreneurship Kickoff event Sept. 13 at eHub in Kennedy Hall.

Justina Chen ’17, M.Eng. ’18, also pitched her business, Paircon, which offers software that uses machine learning to help researchers sift through multitudes of conference papers to find those relevant to their research.

“The company started as a course project last spring, and we’ve applied to be part of eLab,” Chen said. The company hopes to launch its product at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference in February.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

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