Students in 20 businesses pitched their ideas to 150 Cornell alumni, investors and friends during the eLab pitch night Nov. 11 at Cornell Tech in New York City.
The night gave students one of the first opportunities to share their ideas since they were chosen for eLab in September. Their ideas ranged from home monitoring to nursing shortage solutions to astronomical tourism.
“I think the companies here are reflective of the diversity of the amazing curriculum at Cornell,” said Andrea Ippolito ’06 MEng ‘07, a lecturer in the College of Engineering and a member of the eLab teaching team. “In this cohort, you saw fashion tech, hospitality tech, real estate tech, traditional tech and environmental tech, as well as amazing things in aerospace. Entrepreneurship is becoming more ingrained across all of the university.”
During the event, each team offered a three-minute pitch of their company, which included an “ask” for members of the audience, for connections, advice or backing.
Jackie Linevsky, a PhD student studying astronomy who is also an MBA student at Johnson, is working on Terrestrial Astrotours, a company that would connect tourists with travel experiences at astronomical observatories across the world.
“I came up with this business idea while working as a systems engineer at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory,” she said. “I was part of JPL’s public day, where we open our doors to the public. 20,000 tickets were gone in the first 15 minutes.”
Linevsky said the tours would attract people looking for educational vacations, but also help observatories bring in extra funding and provide public outreach experiences, which are often required by research grants received by these observatories.
“I believe that space should be accessible to everyone,” she said.
Rishi Malhotra ’23, a computer science major in the College of Engineering and a founder of CodeBozu, said his company is “the Tik Tok for coding,” offering bite-sized coding tutorials for high school students.
The platform would provide tutorials as well as quizzes and other tools to help students master coding, a skill Malhotra said is only offered in about 50 percent of U.S. high schools today.
“We believe that coding is a language like any other — English or Spanish — and we envision coding as the second language of America.” Melhotra said 100 high school students will start to pilot the program on Dec. 1.
Alec Dinwiddie ’22 and Nnaemeka Nwankpu ’22, both economics majors in the College of Arts & Sciences, are working on an app to help people to reduce their food waste. ColdStaxx (“your refrigerator secretary”) provides users with reminders of when produce is going bad.
Using research that shows the average American family wastes about $1,600 worth of produce a year, the duo’s product scans grocery receipts for produce items, generates expiration dates and sends reminders.
“We’re looking for people in the food, storage and grocery industries who are also passionate about the problem of food waste,” they said.
Jasheah Howard MEng ’22 and Kayla Foley, MBA ‘22 developed the idea for Staff on Tap, a business that addresses the nursing shortage in nursing homes. Their platform connects nursing homes to temporary nurses in the area, allowing nurses to choose hours on a flexible basis.
“With your help and with eLab, we want to ensure our loved ones are receiving the quality of care they deserve,” said Howard, who is a registered nurse.
After the pitch event, many of the students stayed on campus to attend the Eclectic Convergence conference the next day at Cornell Tech, sponsored by Entrepreneurship at Cornell. When they return to campus, they’ll continue working on their ideas through the rest of the academic year.
Launched in 2008, eLab is a collaboration between the Student Agencies Foundation and Entrepreneurship at Cornell. eLab students complete entrepreneurship bootcamps, engage in customer discovery, refine their business plans, and obtain valuable mentorship from eLab alumni and accomplished executives all while earning college credit.
“After a very competitive application process, these students are already pitching their business ideas and we are directly connecting them to the Cornell alumni network,” said Ken Rother, managing director of eLab and lecturer at the Cornell S.C. Johnson College of Business. “eLab leverages and connects alumni mentors to our eLab students—the mentors help them refine their business plans so the students can successfully launch their businesses.”
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