André Hook, MBA/MHA '18, delivers his pitch for Guardian Health at Cornell eLab Pitch Night Dec. 1 in New York City.

eLab students pitch business ideas at NYC event

Anvita Khosla ‘19 pitches Ezra Box.

At this year’s eLab Pitch Night in New York City, 14 teams comprising 50 Cornell eLab students pitched their entrepreneurial ideas in hopes of securing mentors, advisers and supporters for their teams. The event, held Dec. 1 at Wilmer Hale’s World Trade Center offices, gathered Cornell students, alumni and those with an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Created in 2008 by Student Agencies Foundation and Entrepreneurship at Cornell, the eLab program provides mentorship and training for teams of students who want to explore and scale their startup ideas. Teams enroll in for-credit courses and workshops that teach them how to develop business models and discover customers. Instructors help connect them to alumni mentors and other resources to market their ideas. Teams marked completion of the first half of the program with pitch night.

After presenting their startup ideas and connecting with sponsors and mentors, the teams try to raise funding to launch their companies.

“We’ve had a number of successes in the past few years,” said Ken Rother, managing director of eLab. Alumni of the program have gone on to secure millions of dollars in funding and launch pilot programs in collaboration with major companies.

Highlights of the event:

  • Brynne Merkley ’20 and Colby Triolo ’19 presented My WanderList, an international network matching “wanderlusters” with partners with whom to travel the world. Internet users can search for travel companions by age group and gender. The students’ market surveys showed 82 percent of respondents would rather travel with a compatible stranger than not travel at all, and 90 percent of young people surveyed would choose a unique travel experience over acquiring material items.
  • Steven Lai ’19 devised Esta, which connects handymen, landscapers, plumbers and other contractors with potential customers via photo images and helps eliminate commuting time and missed appointments.
  • A team of four current and former students – Andre Hook ’18, Lana Strazhkova ’17, Quetrell Heyward ’17 and Seth Aschen ’18 – presented on Guardian Health, a platform to help families better manage medical care for their loved ones, particularly elderly parents. The students’ research found that communication among family members and caregivers is often poor, with much of the coordination falling to one of the ailing parent’s children. This creates a heavy burden of costly and exhausting travel.
  • Jason Goodman, Ph.D. ’20, made his pitch on behalf of a six-member team who aim to make healthy food taste – and sell – like junk food. Goodman admitted the task of Antithesis is counterintuitive for the food industry and consumers but said their products are receiving rave reviews in early field tests.
  • Natural food was a popular theme at the event: Jamie Kim ’19 and Katie Lee ’19 were an audience hit when they announced samples of their Bumble & Butter organic granola could be found under attendees’ seats.
  • Combplex, founded by doctoral students Hailey Scofield ’20 and Nathan Oakes ’20, helps commercial beekeepers monitor their colonies remotely to reduce losses.

To learn more or mentor an eLab team, email Ken Rother.

Jon Craig '80 is a writer based in New York City.

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