Students from five companies in the eLab business accelerator will cap off a year of business development by presenting their work during Virtual Demo Day, an hourlong event scheduled for 3 p.m. April 28.
The 18 teams in eLab have been working on their projects from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, all teams would present at a live Demo Day event, but this year five of those teams will pitch their businesses online and respond to questions and comments live during the virtual event.
Pitches from the 13 other eLab companies will also be posted for viewing on the eLab website.
“This year’s Demo Day may be virtual, but our eLab students are still putting in the hard work of perfecting their business pitches and prepping for feedback from our audience at home,” said Ken Rother, eLab director. “We’re all looking forward to next week’s event. For the student entrepreneurs, this is one more step in their journey.”
A collaboration of Student Agencies Foundation and Entrepreneurship at Cornell, eLab empowers and trains student participants to launch scalable businesses. Student teams spend a year developing their business plans, speaking with potential customers, pitching to investors and preparing for launch.
eLab students earn up to 5.5 credits for two semesters of classes. They also receive: a $5,000 investment; full-day “bootcamp” experiences; legal consultation services; one-on-one mentorship from successful entrepreneurs; access to software; guidance on applying for business competitions and pitch events; a co-working space in Cornell’s eHub; and access to Cornell’s network of alumni entrepreneurs.
Milik Dawkins ‘20, who founded VeriBuy after losing $1,200 by purchasing a pair of counterfeit shoes online, said the eLab process helped him refine and change his business to meet customers’ needs.
“It happened through lots of conversations critiquing the business and the model with my friends, peers and eLab mentors,” he said, noting the biggest benefits came from “learning from actual successful entrepreneurs who are going to be brutally honest with you.”
Delia Hughes ’14, MBA ’20, said she and Lindsay Simon ’14 started candy company Tazzy to create a healthier product people could use to satisfy their sweet tooth. They started by producing a better-for-you lollipop.
Their advice to other entrepreneurs?
“Be ready to adapt and listen to the consumer,” said Hughes, also a member of Big Red Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund operated entirely by a team of MBA students at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. “Just because you think you have an idea doesn’t mean that’s what is right for the consumer. Also, don’t be afraid to test and learn.”
Jordyn Goldzweig ’21 co-founded Zing, a product that helps professors connect their students, whether they’re attending classes in person or in a remote-learning environment. She and partners Sam Brickman ’21 and Alisa Lai ’22 also created Quarantine Buddy, an offshoot of Zing, which matches people who are sheltering in place based on their diversity instead of their commonality.
Goldzweig said she is grateful for Cornell’s supportive entrepreneurial community.
“Between the teaching team and countless programs and opportunities that Cornell has to offer, we have been able to grow our business to where it is today,” she said. “Everyone goes above and beyond to help fellow members of the eship community here.”
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.