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Entrepreneurs talk about disruption, growth and the power of AI

“The network that will make the greatest impact in your career is around you, not above you.”

“Make it a priority to work with people who can teach you something.”

“Try to move products or people around in your company to optimize where they might grow best.”

“Look for the right problem to solve.”

“So many of the things I wanted to build 10 years ago just weren’t possible. But with AI, now they are.”

Those were just a few of the words of wisdom shared by Cornell entrepreneurs during Eclectic Convergence 2023, a Nov. 3 conference at Cornell Tech in New York City hosted by Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

Barry J. Beck ’90, founder of Bluemercury and CEO of Evenly Technologies, talked about entrepreneurs as disrupters, those people who see targets that no one can, and have the business savvy to move their ideas forward.

“Especially with AI and the information superhighway right at your fingertips, it really levels the playing field,” he said. “I feel like people think entrepreneurs are these mythological creatures, but they’re just exceedingly good risk managers.”

Jennifer Dulski ’93, MBA ’99, CEO and founder of Rising Team, led participants through an exercise using her product, which allows managers to leverage AI and other tools to develop and support their employees.

“Anyone can learn prompting and work with AI to create things that weren’t possible before,” she said. “In order to be a good leader, you need to understand what motivates people, what their long-term career hopes are, what skills they want to be using more,” she said. Her product can provide personalized coaching strategies for managers based on each team member’s needs.

Participants talk during networking time at the Eclectic Convergence conference.

But, Dulski admits, AI can’t help you during real life conversations. “You can use AI to write your initial script, but once you start the conversation, you don’t know where it might go. AI can only help us start the conversation, but not complete the conversation.”

Reggie Fils-Aimé ’83, retired president and chief operating officer for Nintendo of America, shared stories of the products he helped to launch for Nintendo, Proctor & Gamble and other companies. Some of those products included Crisco shortening in stick form, the Nintendo DS, the Wii and the Nintendo Switch.

“I was able to drive the core strategies about how we launch these products and the offer some key insights into the software we launched to help drive this level of growth,” he said.

He advised Nintendo to launch the DS in the Americas on Black Friday rather than in Japan, where most of the company’s previous product launches had taken place. He also urged the company to expand its video game offerings to target older consumers, efforts that helped expand the number of people playing video games from 30 percent in 2004 to 80 percent playing today.

Also at the conference, Cornell Tech graduate student Samantha Lee MEng ‘21 won $5,000 during a pitch contest among Cornell startups. Lee’s business, Meili Technologies, helps detect health emergencies in commercial vehicles like tractor trailers and then helps to stop the truck, turn on hazard lights and alert emergency squads or fleet managers.

“About 1/3 of drivers have pre-existing conditions that put them at risk of having a health event behind the wheel,” Lee said. Using existing sensors in the vehicle, Meili’s software detects changes that indicate that someone is having a health event.

Lee is pursuing a graduate degree in computer science at Cornell Tech and is also a certified New York State emergency medical technician.

“The mixture of attendees — from students who travel on early-morning buses from Ithaca to entrepreneurs and investors from both New York City and the West Coast — always makes this event a highlight of our year,” said Zach Shulman’87 J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “The connections made at this event help many startups take their next steps.”

The conference was livestreamed and a recording of that livestream is available to view here.

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