When it comes to getting their business ideas off the ground, female entrepreneurs face significant barriers – limited access to venture capital, a short supply of experienced mentors and implicit biases, research shows.
To help combat these challenges, W.E. Cornell, a campus program that aims to even the playing field by providing members with networking, mentoring and training opportunities, has accepted 40 new participants – nearly double the size of last year’s cohort – and expanded to include faculty and staff as well as students.
“The response to the program has been fantastic,” said program founder Andrea Ippolito ’06, M.Eng. ’07, executive director of Cornell’s Engineering Management Program. “We opened it up to university personnel because we were so inspired by their passion and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. I think we’ll continue to evolve to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs as we grow.”
Funded by a grant from the President’s Council of Cornell Women, W.E. Cornell was founded last year to empower and train women-identified and nonbinary members of Cornell’s STEM community.
“At a stage when a mere 2% of startups led solely by women receive venture capital funding, we need to tackle both the systematic and everyday obstacles to reduce inertia for female founders,” Ippolito said.
Many W.E. Cornellians from the program’s first year were accepted into other entrepreneurship initiatives to advance their business ideas. Students progressed to Cornell’s student accelerator eLab, the Napkin-to-Prototype Hardware Accelerator at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, and the nationally ranked Y Combinator Startup School. One student won first place at Cornell’s Life Changing Labs summer incubator.
In addition to programs such as eLab and the hardware accelerator, students who wish to continue to develop their ideas upon completion of the program have the opportunity to participate in the National Science Foundation I-Corps program or become Commercialization Fellows.
The newest W.E. Cornell cohort: Adriana Morales Gomez, lab technician; Alice Yan, M.Eng. ’20; Allison Latham, MBA ’20; Anna Issac, M.S. ’20; doctoral student Anthonia Carter; Chendan Luo ’22; doctoral student Cong Chen; postdoctoral researcher Deeksha Sharma; Ella King ’21; Erika LaCasse ’20; Gauri Jain ’20; Grace Diida, LLM ’20; Gracie Jing ’22; Hannah Lee, M.S. ’21; Hayoung Ryu ’20; Iliana Paleva, M.S. ’20; Jenny Cao ’21; Jessica Tao ’20; Jessica Lott, MHA ’20; Juliana Bain ’20; Katarina Jankov ’20; Kelsey Coolahan, MBA ’20; Khyalee Tewari, MPA ’20; Lauren Gergel, MBA ’21; Lillian Ruiz ’20; Linda Alexander, M.Eng. ’20; Maiko Minami, MBA ’21; Margaret Timmons, MBA ’14; Nandini Nayar, M.S. ’20; Neethu Pottackal ’20; Nitika Thakral, M.S. ’20; Pranavi Pancharathi, M.Eng. ’20; Rossie Luo, M.S. ’20; Saloni Gandhi, M.S. ’21; Sarah Reyes, Ph.D. ’19; Shrinedhi Rajan Sundharam, M.Eng. ’20; Sneha Kumar ’20; Soumya Mahalakshmi Ananthakrishnan, M.S. ’20; Tammy Freeman, M.Eng. ’21; Tiyani Majoko, LLM ’20; Ziyue Yao, M.Eng. ’20.
Casey Verderosa is a writer for the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.