Jordyn Goldzweig ‘20, left, and MBA student Benjamin Rashbaum ‘18, MBA ‘19, present their pitch for Strauss, an idea for online sales of life insurance, during a pitch competition as part of the Aug. 29 Entrepreneurship Kickoff event in eHub Collegetown.

Entrepreneurial students kick off year with Collegetown event

More than 300 students visited the eHub in Collegetown Aug. 29 for an Entrepreneurship Kickoff event, where they heard pitches from student businesses and learned more about resources at Cornell for entrepreneurial students.

“Student interest in entrepreneurship is amazingly strong and growing,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell, which sponsored the event.

Kyle Johnson MBA ‘19, left and Sam Leyens MBA ‘19, talk about their idea for Incite, a wearable device to help people manage their health conditions, medication, activity levels and health insurance.

Students milled about during the event’s first hour visiting more than 20 tables featuring centers, student clubs and organizations related to entrepreneurship. They then listened to six student companies pitch their ideas to gain automatic entrance to eLab, the student business accelerator run by Entrepreneurship at Cornell and Student Agencies Foundation.

Participants also had the chance to hear from four graduate students in the College of Engineering’s Commercialization Fellows program who are working to turn their research into viable businesses.

Pippa Thomas ’20, Christophe Gerlach ’20 and Pedro Bobrow ’20 took the first-place prize of $1,000 in the eLab pitch contest for their idea, Housekeeping & Efficiency, which improves the way housekeepers do their jobs by using smart devices to track when rooms need to be cleaned and create a more efficient cleaning route.

“We came up with a different variation of this idea during last year’s hospitality hackathon,” Thomas said, adding that the team won first place in that contest. During the summer, the trio had internships in three different cities, so they took the opportunity to speak with hotel managers and refine their idea.

“Managers said they are spending excessive amounts of time scheduling the daily routes for their housekeepers,” Gerlach said.

The team is excited about the opportunity to enter eLab and further explore the challenges for their customers.

“We are looking for teams obsessed with their problems,” said Ken Rother, managing director of eLab and visiting lecturer of management at Johnson. “We want students who have talked to a lot of people with the problem and know what their customers look like.”

The second place prize of $500 went to graduate students Neha Navre and Paulina Villacreces, whose business would create a monitoring system to aid in the prevention and care of pressure ulcers, which often afflict patients who are bedridden.

Among the doctoral engineering students sharing their ideas was Nicole Diamantides with Coll-Inks, a 3D printing system for living collagen squares, which has applications for tissue repair and tissue analogs for drug testing; and Kevin O’Brien, a former Air Force captain who is working on a robotic technology with potential applications for prosthetics.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

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