To facilitate better engagement between local businesses, campus groups and students, Pavvilion — an app that has been in the works since 2021 — was launched this past August to the entire Cornell community. This semester, Pavvilion began partnering with local businesses and Student Agencies, Inc. in an effort to bridge the information gap on Cornell’s campus.
The app was born out of the Cornell Tech Policy Institute — part of the Brooks School of Public Policy that studies the relationship between emerging technologies and policy.
Team lead Nina Miller ’23 described the app as a mix between CampusGroups and Instagram or Pinterest, with hints of Craigslist.
“Pavvilion is a hyperlocal online campus community designed to help you find new events and opportunities, join clubs and interact with your peers,” reads the app’s welcome message.
Co-lead Max Hadden ’23 said the developers of Pavvilion all came together at the Tech Policy Institute from different pathways, with each member bringing a unique perspective to the team.
Originally led by Prof. Sarah Kreps, government, the team began creating what was originally intended to be a COVID-19 tracking app. But the team switched concepts quickly as the pandemic waned, forming the Pavvilion team in February 2021 with the goal of bridging the information gap between businesses, clubs and students on college campuses.
“We branched off and did our own thing because we felt like it addressed a greater need on campus and would get more traction,” Miller said.
The group used the past two summers to develop the app, beginning beta testing in January 2022. According to Miller, the team worked on Pavvilion almost nonstop.
The team launched its first iteration last August, but the app might have been available much earlier had the group not become entangled in the question of intellectual property. Cornell University Policy 1.5 on ‘Inventions and Related Property Rights’ sets strict rules on inventions made using Cornell resources.
“It was months and months of discussions with the Cornell Tech Licensing Office. And we finally reached an agreement where Cornell got a slice of our equity, but we got all of the intellectual property rights back,” Hadden said. “That gave us the ability to go and post [Pavvilion] on the App Store without having to worry about complying with whatever Cornell wanted.”
Hadden also felt that the University’s policies around intellectual property might hinder similar student startups.
“[The University policy] very easily could have ended any student company right there, because [it takes] an incredible amount of work to find a way around [the policy],” Hadden said.
Nevertheless, with an app officially available, Pavvilion was finally able to get in the hands of Cornellians.
“This past semester, we focused a lot more on local businesses, job opportunities and other things we think are valuable to students, but also help us engage more of that community,” Miller said. “That’s given us a lot of traction.”
But recruiting students and organizations, like clubs or businesses, is not without its challenges.
“You obviously want both [students and organizations] on [Pavvilion], because you want them both to interact, and start feeding off each other, and not be out of balance,” said Meredith Morgan ’23, who works on business development at Pavvilion.
Pavvilion officially spun out of the Tech Policy Institute last summer, incorporating as Pavvilion Inc., a C corporation out of Wilmington, Delaware. The team includes students from a diverse array of majors, from art history to government.
Miller also noted that Pavvilion has dreams of growing beyond Cornell and that the app’s recent partnership with Student Agencies will help in this expansion.
Pavvilion doesn’t charge businesses to post on the app, but allows businesses to pay for account management. When lacking other sources of funding, the group has even put their own money into Pavvilion. The app team recently hosted in-person events, including a summer job fair at eHub Collegetown, and hopes to be a digital marketing platform for Student Agencies and businesses to use.
“A lot of other businesses feel disconnected from students or aren’t quite sure how to reach them and tap into a really big market here,” Miller said.
But with the whole team graduating this May, the new app already finds itself in the position of looking for new leadership.
“We obviously are going to stay involved to a certain extent after we graduate … But a lot of us have other stuff going on in our lives and can’t do it full time,” Miller said. “All of us plan to stay on in an advisory role, always stay connected to [Pavvilion] and help whoever’s working on it next out — but those plans are currently in the works.”
Iskander Khan ’26 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].