Attended by representatives of more than 40 companies, the University’s first annual Startup Career Fair on Wednesday provided tech-savvy students the opportunity to network with startup business professionals.
The Star Wars-themed event was held two months after Cornell won its bid to build a tech campus in New York City.
Ami Stuart, employer relations and recruiting coordinator for the College of Engineering, emphasized the need for startup businesses as a career option for students.
“Students need a variety of career paths to choose from, not just big companies or grad school,” Stuart said. “[They also need to] be exposed to an entrepreneurial path, whether it’s through starting their own company or working at smaller, early stage ones.”
Anthony Chen ’14 said the fair also showed the broad range of opportunities available at startups.
“I’ve always been interested in startups,” he said. “There are some really small ones with about two guys and then others like Facebook that are huge. So it was cool to see the dynamics between the different companies.”
Mateo Acebedo ’15 added that the fair was helpful given his goal of starting his own company.
“I’m very interested in the actual entrepreneurship,” said Acebedo, an information science major. “I’ve been going around asking CEOs about their experiences and they’ve all been really nice and helpful.”
Some of the companies featured were created by current students at Cornell. Richard Panzer ’13, CEO of Splat, a company he founded as an undergraduate, said that engineering students need to apply their skill set to the business world.
“Engineers really need to start looking at coding as an entrepreneurship exercise,” Panzer said. “It’s a [field] at Cornell that needs to grow a little bit, and so it’s really great that this fair is happening.”
Alumni from a range of startup companies were also present at the fair. Caitlin Strandberg ’10, associate director of development for Behance, a startup that designs products that aim to improve organizational skills and efficiency, said she was excited to return to Cornell as a representative for her company.
“The Cornell community helped me find a really great job and opened my eyes to different opportunities,” said Strandberg, who co-founded Slope Media Group at Cornell. “I know that there are a lot of students in [the College of] Arts and Sciences who want to do startups, but there aren’t a lot of resources.”
In April 2011, Stuart first began recruiting companies to attend. Along with Prof. Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of Computing and Information Science, she contacted multiple entrepreneurship groups on campus throughout the year to help choose companies to invite to the event.
Additionally, Huttenlocher spoke to a number of startup companies he encountered through his work on the University’s New York City tech campus. Many of these companies expressed interest in attending the event, according to Jessica Traynor ’96, director of Development for CIS.
“Because of our efforts with the tech campus, Dean Huttenlocher had met with over 200 people as we were lobbying for it,” Traynor said. “A lot of those people were from the startup community and through our talks with them, we realized that they need this and they want this, and that’s when he came to [Stuart] with the idea.”
Jeremy Blum ’12, who helped coordinate the fair, has also worked with multiple startups. He said the event provided a different experience than those usually offered at University career fairs.
“I hope this is something that will happen frequently,” Blum said. “The startups benefit from [the fair] because they have an attentive audience of people who want to work for them. And all the students benefit because they’re getting a fresh perspective [of working at a new company].”
Jesse McElwain ’13, a member of Cornell University Sustainable Design who also assisted in coordinating the event, said he was pleased with the fair’s turnout.
He added that he hopes the University continues to focus on creating startups in the future.
“I think the excitement on campus … you’re seeing that in the students here,” McEwain said. “All of these people here are involved in different aspects of entrepreneurship on campus, and it’s nice to see them all here at the same time.”