Emma Hoarty / Sun File Photo

Students competing for entrance into the eLabs startup accelerator in 2017.

September 14, 2017

Student Entrepreneurs Compete for Entrance Into Start-up Accelerator eLab

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Cornell students and alumni showcased their start-ups and competed for the sought-after admission into eLab, Cornell’s prestigious startup accelerator, at the Entrepreneurship Kick Off sponsored by Entrepreneurship at Cornell on Wednesday.

The winning project, Combplex, focused on using an online platform to help beekeepers manage their honeybees and protect the species.

MilesAhead member speaks to students at Entrepreneurship Kick Off.

Yisu Zheng / Sun Staff Photographer

MilesAhead member speaks to students at Entrepreneurship Kick Off.

Nathan Oakes, grad, co-founder of Combplex, said the most important thing he learned through this program is how to think like an entrepreneur. As a graduate student in computational biology, he said that type of thinking does not come naturally to him.

“The way that I perform engineering is that I’ll find an interesting thing, and I would just dive into it … but the end result might not be something that customers like,” he said. “So the most valuable thing that I learned is that the important component is customer feedback.”

Oakes hopes that he can continue the scientific research part of his project after it advanced into eLab. He also plans to work with people with marketing and business backgrounds so that their product could generate revenue, part of which he could use to fund his research.

About a dozen other projects — covering a wide variety of sectors from travel agencies to grocery retail management to revitalization of churches to a skateboard company — were showcased at the event as well.

Lisa Condoluci ’17, a member of Petal, a project designing hydroponic devices for plants, acknowledged the help EaC has provided for her team by introducing their project to a local startup hub in Ithaca called Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.

Besides the progress her team has made on the project, Condoluci said she also learned a lot about teamwork through her entrepreneurship experience.

“We really learned how to come together to a consensus about what’s the best way to show what we’ve done, to show off our product, because it’s something that we’re so proud of.” she said.

Generation StartUp member speaks to students at Entrepreneurship Kick Off in eHub Kenndy Hall on Sept.13.2017 by Yisu Zheng

Yisu Zheng / Sun Staff Photographer

Generation StartUp member speaks to students.

Of all the projects presented at the event, five participated in the pitch-off competition and the winning team was awarded $1,000 and accepted into the eLab.

“We call [eLab] an accelerator program, and it’s for students who are looking to launch a business as they’re finishing their academic careers,” said Ken Rother, managing director of eLab. “The goal is really to help them move their ideas along and get them out the door.”

Rother also addressed the importance of having students from diverse backgrounds behind projects. He said the program especially welcomes non-business majors.

“It works best when students come from different disciplines,” he said.

Many of the students participating in the event are not fully committed to starting their own businesses, either.

“Most of them here aren’t going to start a company, not in their days at school, but that’s okay,” Rother said. “EaC is really here to help everybody to get an exposure [of entrepreneurship].”

Zachary Schulman ’87, director of the program, hopes that the participating students can take away the courage to take risks, try something new and be creative.

“We want our students to take risks, and we want that to translate into the real world, that’s really important,” he said. “Don’t be happy with the status quo. Just because Harvard, Yale and Princeton did [it] doesn’t mean I have to do it. That’s something to keep in mind.”

Correction: a previous version of this article misspelled the name of the winning project Combplex.