Combplex, a company that monitors honey bee colonies in real time, was announced as Cornell’s Student Business of the Year on April 20. Less than one month before, business creators Haley Scofield and Nathan Oakes, Ph.D. students in neurobiology and behavior and computational biology, respectively, competed against 13 other businesses nominated for the award.
The criteria for the award include the business’ success in areas like revenue generation, customer validation, creativity, uniqueness and scalability of the business model. After being chosen as the Student Business of the Year, the company receives $5,000 to improve and expand.
Judges for this year’s competition included Todd Edmonds, the creative director and founder of Iron Design, Greg Galvin, the president and CEO of Rheonix, Ryoko Nozawa, the principal at the Cayuga Venture Fund, and Sam Sotoodeh, the president of Acquisition Group.
This year, each of the 13 teams brought something new to the table. Businesses ranged from technological to physical platforms, with companies like Religio which is building software to better connect churches, competing against Bumble & Butter, a granola company that many students on campus have recently been introduced to. Other businesses include Dragon Catcher, a service to better understand e-commerce websites, Brella, an app that allows people to pick their outfits based on that day’s weather and Vita-Shoes, a socially and environmentally conscious shoe company.
Sponsored by Entrepreneurship at Cornell, the Student Business of the Year was announced almost one month after the initial competition, on April 20th at the annual Entrepreneurship at Cornell celebration.
The winners are prepared to enter a network of other prominent Cornell business owners such as the creators of Wo No Ni Cosmetics, Equine Design, Produce Pay Inc, and Worthy Jerky, who won the Student Business of the Year award in the past four years, respectively.
The deliberation for the winners of the award took so long in part to feature the student businesses at a larger event and to investigate how the businesses can play into 21st century business goals, including startup challenges, sustainability, the power of networking, and crypto-currency. Combplex is therefore prepared to be part of a more complex and socially mindful business world.
Combplex is especially devoted to social and environmental change. Bees are becoming increasingly threatened as a species and it is estimated that beekeepers lose millions of dollars from bee colony deaths. By creating devices that can monitor bee movement and colony reproduction, Combplex is using technology to improve both bee populations and beekeepers’ businesses. The company therefore is at the forefront of unifying environmental and social concerns with technological innovation.