Entrepreneur participants deliver presentations at the Rev: Ithaca Startup Work’s Hardware Accelerator Demo Day in 2017 in downtown Ithaca.

Bevy of incubators and resources bolster startup culture

Potential entrepreneurs looking to commercialize their inventions, applications of their research, or Cornell technologies have multiple paths and resources available to them across the university’s campuses.

In addition to the McGovern and Praxis centers, the Weill Cornell Medicine BioVenture eLab and the Cornell Tech Runway Startup Postdocs program, there are:

• student-focused competitive programs like the Cornell eLab, which is run as an actual course, and student-run organizations such as Life Changing Labs;

• discipline-focused resources like the Food Processing Development Laboratory and the Cornell Food Venture Center within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship within the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business’ School of Hotel Administration;

• technology-focused resources like the Cornell Center for Advanced Technology in Life Science Enterprise, the university’s Center for Technology Licensing and the W.E. Cornell program , a Center for Regional Economic Advancement-supported program that helps women in STEM commercialize their innovations; and

Cornell Food Venture Center

• local community-focused incubators and workspaces like Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, which was created through a partnership between Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins-Cortland Community College, and eHub – 15,000 square feet of co-working space exclusively for students (5,000 in Kennedy Hall on the Ithaca campus and an additional 10,000 in Collegetown).

Even university facilities that are not technically incubators, such as the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF), have long and successful track records of helping launch startup companies in New York state. Since its founding in 1977, CNF has helped scientists and engineers from both academia and industry conduct micro- and nanoscale research. At least 34 startups have launched with the help of CNF in the past four decades and continue to use its services, with 14 forming in just the past 10 years. These companies annually generate about $1.4 billion in funding and revenue.

Also crucial to the university’s startup culture is the vast Entrepreneurship at Cornell program, which fosters entrepreneurial spirit across all Cornell colleges and schools; hosts events, competitions and internships; and is governed by a dozen deans and an advisory council of more than 100 members. Entrepreneurship at Cornell manages the eHub facilities and also maintains an online entrepreneurship ecosystem map, listing dozens of other entrepreneurship program resources.

Sean Bellefeuille, a first-year student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, plans to launch a startup that produces anatomical models of animals with a 3D printer.

Individual stories abound within the university’s colleges as well. For example, at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Sean Bellefeuille, who arrived at Cornell with a biomedical engineering undergraduate degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a passion for 3D printing, met Jorge Colón ’92, D.V.M. ’95, a senior lecturer with the college’s Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship. Colón connected him with the center’s resources and introduced him to other CVM veterinary entrepreneurs.

Physical location matters. A technology-focused incubator like the Praxis Center for Venture Development benefits from being on the Ithaca campus, with close proximity to three major National Science Foundation-supported research and development laboratories: CNF, the PARADIM (Platform for the Accelerated Realization, Analysis and Discovery of Interface Materials) Labs, and portions of the Cornell Center for Materials Research.

These entrepreneurial resources work together as engines of economic development, part of the university’s founding land-grant mission.

This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Ezra magazine.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli