Entrepreneurs will gather to hear fireside chats with top business leaders, enjoy multiple networking and engagement opportunities and hear startup pitches Nov. 3 at Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Eclectic Convergence 2023.
The conference, which takes place at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, will feature speakers sharing their personal stories and perspectives about the ways they built their brands and organizations. It will also include startup pitches from five companies with ties to Cornell or Cornell technology. Registration is still open.
Moderating the day will be Scott Belsky ’02, an entrepreneur, author and investor who is chief strategy officer and executive vice president of design and emerging products at Adobe; Greg Morrisett, the Jack and Rilla Neafsey Dean and Vice Provost at Cornell Tech; and Zach Shulman ’87, JD ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell.
“Our speakers come from a broad range of businesses and industries, and they always share amazing entrepreneurial insights,” Shulman said. “The connections made at Eclectic Convergence have helped our attendees in countless ways, both professionally and personally.”
One of the featured speakers will be Heather Friedland ’99, chief product officer at Ancestry. Friedland said she plans to highlight the importance of hiring a strong leadership team, as well as creating “a culture and company environment steeped in psychological safety,” she said. “Enable each team member to ‘bring their whole selves’ to work, and the results will follow.”
Friedland, who was a communications major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has more than two decades of experience in product management at iconic companies including Glassdoor, eBay and Microsoft. She joined Ancestry in June 2019 as vice president of product for AncestryHealth, responsible for the health product vision and strategy.
Over the years, Friedland said she’s discovered that the best product thinking comes from a team of cross-functional contributors.
“The PM’s job is to create a collaborative environment where the best ideas can surface,” she said. “They don’t have to invent all of the ideas themselves, but they do need to identify the right ideas to work on based on all the inputs they receive. The best PM’s are humble enough to know this.”
Friedland was named one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Women of Influence for 2015.
Susan Sarich ’91, founder and CEO of SusieCakes, will also share her story at the event. She opened SusieCakes in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2006 with products based on some of her grandmother’s recipes. The bakery became a neighborhood favorite, and gathered a large celebrity following, steadily expanding throughout California and now Texas.
“We marry the systems, process and procedures of a large organization with an unparalleled personalized level of service and heart one would receive at an independent, neighborhood bakery,” Sarich said about her shops, which bake on site, from scratch daily and have open kitchens so that customers can see the ingredients used in their products.
Sarich has been honored for creating a better environment for women in hospitality.
“We have days and hours of operation different than most other retail, foodservice or hospitality companies,” she said. “This was important to me because I saw many intelligent, competent and talented women leave the business around the age of 30 because it was too difficult to even imagine starting a family with the hours required of the industry.”
Sarich made the 2022 Forbes 50 over 50 list and won the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the hospitality category in Greater Los Angeles as well as the Junior League of Los Angeles Community Achievement Award.
Other speakers include:
- Barry J. Beck ’90, founder of Bluemercury and the 2023 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year. He is also the founder and current CEO of Evenly, a telemedicine orthodontic platform and was a founder of Tower Systems, now U.S. Maintenance, a contract services business serving national retail chains.
- Jim Cavalieri ’91, senior vice president, Salesforce, who supports the office of Salesforce’s chair and CEO, driving the development of the annual strategic plan, quarterly operational reviews, and semi-annual global management meetings. Before joining Salesforce in 1999, Cavalieri held various technical and management roles at Oracle and engineering roles at Electronic Data Systems.
- Jennifer Dulski ’93, MBA ’99, CEO and founder of Rising Team. She’s also held leadership roles at Facebook, Google, Change.org and Yahoo!, and she was the CEO and co-founder of The Dealmap, which she sold to Google in 2011.
- Reggie Fils-Aimé ’83, retired president and COO, Nintendo of America (NOA), the largest division of the Japanese entertainment company Nintendo Co., Ltd. (NCL). Fils-Aimé was the first American and African American to be President of NOA, and the first American and African American named as an executive officer of NCL. His book, “Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo,” was published by HarperCollins Leadership in 2022 and became a Wall Street Journal bestseller.