April 17, 2016

Cornell Hosts Conference Celebrating Entrepreneurship

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Over 450 people attended the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration — a two-day university-wide conference featuring competitions, discussion panels and networking sessions  — this past weekend.

Entrepreneurship at Cornell is “an innovative, university-wide program supported by every school and college at Cornell University and a dedicated core of faculty, staff and alumni,” according to the event website.

Zach Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell, said the celebration has been an annual event for over a decade and was originally created “to celebrate all the entrepreneurship activity occurring at Cornell.”

This year’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration included panels focused on topics, such as artificial intelligence, healthcare, climate change, sustainability and mobile app technology, according to the event website.

Shulman said each panel was planned by a small group of students from different Cornell colleges and programs.

At a panel entitled “The Sustainable Dinner Plate: The changing landscape of food entrepreneurship,” panelists discussed the divide between ecological and profit incentives.

“There is a price sustainability tradeoff,” Steve Gal ’88, a senior lecturer of management in the Johnson School, said. “Oftentimes businesses won’t go sustainable until the customers demand it.”

Chris Kirby ’15, founder and president of Ithaca Hummus, discussed his business experience and how it influenced his decision-making. “We found that who you are as a company matters,” he said. “You need to figure out where you are in the competitive landscape, how you are different from competitors and convey it quickly to consumers.”

Kirby attributed his company’s success to early customer engagement in the business cycle.

“We brought our customers into the picture early on in product development stage, made changes to the product, made our customers feel important in the process and part of product,” he said.

The conference closed with the final round of the “BIG Idea Competition,” where twelve student entrepreneurial teams competed for $10,000 in prizes.

Beverly Wallenstein’s ’16 idea for Girls Rule Business, an entrepreneurship network for teenage girls, won first place in the non-profit segment of the competition.

“I really enjoyed the competition, and the mentorship we were provided was extremely helpful,” she said. “It was fun to be able to pitch in front of an audience and also to hear about the ideas that my peers had come up with.”