Courtesy of Claire Pan

ORIGIN Co-Founders' Zoom Meeting

May 10, 2020

Cornellians Create Virtual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for College Students

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After observing the impact COVID-19 had on college students nationwide by slashing many of their highly anticipated summer opportunities, two Cornell alumni — Claire Pan ’20 and Lyana Geng ’20 — and an undergraduate student, Jessica Chen ’21, collaborated to found ORIGIN, a free eight-week virtual bootcamp set to start this summer.

The program is designed to provide a comprehensive curriculum for students interested in entrepreneurship that includes hands-on projects and coaching by professionals from companies such as Google, Bank of America, Apple and Barclays.

The three co-creators first conceived the idea of ORIGIN in March, but as coronavirus cases began to exponentially grow, the founders hit the ground running, working overtime with volunteer Cornell students to get the program ready in time for the summer.

Pan, Geng and Chen self-funded ORIGIN, with the help of partnerships from Symba, an internship management platform, Online Career Fair and Zach Shulman, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. The bootcamp’s webinar series plans to tap into Cornell entrepreneurship network.

To provide some flexibility for students who may already have other time commitments this summer, ORIGIN is offering two separate tracks that participants can choose from: Time Venture and Passion Project. Time Venture is designed for students who want the “full experience” of 40 hours per week — one in which they “will build a robust and comprehensive business plan with a user-tested software prototype” and have “weekly check-ins with a coach who can provide feedback,” said Geng. Passion Project, on the other hand, only requires that students work five hours per week and “still involves a business plan and product design component, [but] it requires less time and offers more flexibility,” Geng said.

Once the participants are placed into teams of four to five students, each group will choose from four possible prompts — adapted from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal — to base their solutions on: work and economic growth, good health and well being, zero hunger and quality education. The business plans and software that the teams will later build and execute will be geared towards helping solve their chosen global issue.

A sample curriculum of ORIGIN’s eight-week program includes topics like pitch deck and software architecture, financial projections and prototyping, marketing strategy and promotion and business model canvas and user interface. The bootcamp culminates in a pitch competition during the eighth week after which participants receive a reflection report and feedback survey.

Chen spoke to the lessons that students could take away from the program, including valuable soft skills such as interpersonal and communication skills, strong teamwork and leadership skills as well as hard skills including “business acumen from their mentors” and “how to implement industry practices in creating secure and robust software and designing impactful, user-friendly products.”

By offering the program for free to any college student “that isn’t based on an individual’s personal network or past accomplishments” like it is for many summer internships, Geng and the other creators of ORIGIN hope to aid in closing the access gap in the realm of professional opportunities. Applicants will be judged solely based on their expressed commitment to the program.

Although ORIGIN is still a fairly new venture, Pan envisions the bootcamp to be a “recurring summer program that provides students with the tools and resources they need to challenge themselves and their thinking.”