Twelve Cornell alumni were named in November to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, an annual compilation of 600 of the “brightest young entrepreneurs, leaders and stars” in the U.S., according to Forbes.
The Sun recently had the chance to talk to three of these pioneers.
Jake Reisch ’15
Inspired by silent discos, college partying and not wanting to get a typical summer internship, Jake Reisch ’15 said he and his colleagues met one summer as undergraduates and formed “Party Headphones,” a company that sells equipment for silent disco. “Party Headphones” has worked with clients ranging from the Museum of Modern Art to Red Bull to host parties.
Soon after launching Party Headphones, Reisch found another use for his product in a completely different direction — senior living communities.
Working with Cornell’s eLab and co-founders Devin Jameson ’16 and Matt Reiners, Reisch later formed Eversound, a company that partners with senior living homes to address hearing loss and help activity directors better engage their residents.
“We were a little unsure at first, but we ended up realizing that we both had loved ones, my co-founder and I, moving into senior living at the time and and we realized it was a major problem,” he said. “So at that point we decided to raise some funding and try to solve a totally different problem for a completely different population.”
Reisch, who is himself currently on the advising council for entrepreneurship at Cornell, noted the role Cornell entrepreneurship played in getting the company started.
“eLab was the kickstart to us actually becoming a real company,” he said. “The network they brought in for us and the people they surrounded us with to help us do the right things, I couldn’t say enough great things.”
His advice to Cornell entrepreneurs during an interview with The Sun was to try to join eLab, but even more so, he encouraged students to “make sure you are in it for the right reasons and you are passionate about what you’re doing.”
“At some point you’ll be looking up at that peak and how far away you feel from success and if you are not really intent on succeeding and helping the people you are aiming to help, you are going to give up,” he stated.
Iyore Olaye ’16
When Iyore Olaye ’16 heard her phone go off at 5 a.m., she at first thought it was her alarm going off — instead, it was her sister calling to tell her that she had been listed on Forbes’ 30 for 30.
“You don’t necessarily expect that on a random day in November,” she said. “Having her be the person delivering the news honestly put me in tears as well.”
Olaye was recognized for her role as the lead product development engineer at Walker and Company, a tech company that “makes health and beauty simple for people of color,” according to its website.
“Coming out of college, and being able to work and contribute, and utilize the grit and grind that I learned while studying at Cornell has been extremely awesome,” she said.
Olaye, who studied chemical engineering at Cornell, stated that her experience with the Kessler Fellows Program helped her combine entrepreneurship with engineering, and allowed her to work over the summer with Walker and Company instead of a traditional engineering internship.
“My sister and I were listening to a podcast, where we heard about the company, and I essentially felt really compelled to reach out,” she said. “It was my performance that summer and working throughout the year that allowed me to come back in and lead such a big project.”
Her advice to future entrepreneurs, as well as to students who want to try something new is to “step out on faith.”
“Especially if you’re at Cornell, where you have the resources, you have the support, even the alumni system outside of Cornell,” she said. “Know that the Cornell family and the people you surround yourself with will catch you either way.”
Micah Green ’18
Micah Green ’18 says he was sitting in Mews 323B when he came up with the idea to form Maidbot, a company that creates robots aimed at helping hotel workers clean rooms faster, safer and more effectively.
Green, who attended the School of Hotel Administration before dropping out after a year, came up with idea for Maidbot after working in The Statler Hotel.
“Without that experience, Maidbot likely wouldn’t exist,” he said. “Working in the Statler was the key step that opened my eyes to issues in hospitality and housekeeping.”
Maidbot is hoping to deploy over a thousand robots to hotels by the end of this year, and has created over 21 jobs, according to the company’s website.
Green, who has guest lectured in courses in the Samuel Curtis Johnson School of Management and in the School of Industrial Labor Relations, said he enjoys coming back to talk to students.
“I still think it’s crazy professors ask me to speak,” he said. “But it’s really nice to be able to tell such a recent story that hopefully gets students excited and pushes some over the edge to start their own ventures.”