Meagan McKeever ’14 would like everyone to feel a little less guilty about their sugar cravings.
To that end, she’s teamed with two Cornell classmates to create Spark Candy, one of several businesses featured at the Eclectic Convergence Entrepreneurship Summit, Nov. 8 in New York City, organized by Entrepreneurship at Cornell.
The annual event, formerly the Cornell Entrepreneurship Summit, drew more than 550 people to the Times Center. It featured TED-style talks and fireside chats from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists – including some Cornell alumni – and plenty of time for networking and connection.
“We were able to gain good feedback on our product and ideas for future directions,” said McKeever, who earned her bachelor’s in food science but also took a host of entrepreneurship classes at Cornell. Her partners in Spark Candy – currently in the testing phase – are Lindsay Simon ’14 and Delia Hughes ’14; both earned degrees in food science.
“We were set up next to Weill Cornell and professors there are trying to push out sugar from vending machines and banning candy,” McKeever said. “It has me thinking of new opportunities and directions (including marketing to health care organizations and individuals) and thinking that this is really possible.”
The event also included pitches from four Cornell-related startup companies, which were judged by a panel of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Halomine, which produces antimicrobial spray-on technologies to control diseases within the food and health care industries, won the $5,000 prize. The company is based on Cornell technology developed by Mingyu Qiao, a postdoctoral researcher and the company’s CTO; the CEO is Ted Eveleth, MBA ’90.
“[The] conference had a wonderful mix of diverse speakers who covered some incredibly interesting topics,” said Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell.
Lisa Skeete Tatum ’89, founder and CEO of career-planning platform Landit, said she started her company after spending a few years in finance and then wondering what to do next.
“Many times when we’re trying to navigate our careers, it seems like an impossible maze,” she said. “All you want people to do is come along with an eraser and get rid of some of that friction.”
Her platform puts the individual at the center and surrounds them with people and resources to help them figure out pathways to career success. Landit helps people develop their personal brands, encourages them to be driven by their missions, and aids them in finding others to act as coaches and mentors.
During her talk, Skeete Tatum shared a number of tips for personal and professional growth. Among them: accomplish five things every day; make quick decisions and move on; surround yourself with people who have high expectations of you; and don’t be worried about making mistakes, as those are the times when you learn the most.
Daniel Cane ’98, co-founder of Blackboard and now a co-founder and CEO of Modernizing Medicine, talked about how the idea for his first company came from one of his classes.
“We knew we were solving a real problem when more and more professors were coming to us asking for our help,” he said about the company, which provides class management websites where professors can share class materials with students, keep track of assignments and grades, and automate other class functions.
Eventually, as Cane was finishing up his Cornell degree, he ended up licensing his technology to other universities and raised capital by joining with another company. Blackboard went public in 2004 and was sold for $1.64 billion in 2011.
Cane conceived of his newest venture after a visit to a dermatologist’s office, when he discovered the lack of technology in medical practices.
“I was appalled that it was the year 2009 and everywhere I went, it was paper,” he said. The company now focuses on several specialty areas and offers health records management tailored to each specialty, as well as systems to help with billing, patient reminders and other office operations.
Other speakers included:
- Alexa von Tobel, founder and managing partner of Inspired Capital and founder and CEO of LearnVest;
- Stephan Paternot ’96 and Todd Krizelman ’96, who as Cornell undergrads founded theglobe.com, one of the world’s first social media websites. They now run Slated and MediaRadar, respectively;
- Rebecca Kaden, managing partner of Union Square Ventures;
- Gwen Whiting ’98, co-founder of The Laundress;
- Scott Belsky ’02, entrepreneur, author, investor and chief product officer of Adobe, who acted as emcee and moderator.
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.