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Entrepreneurial spirit celebrated at Johnson at Cornell University

11/15/2011

The collaborative & inspirational MBA environment of Johnson proves ideal for unique needs of future entrepreneurs


This week may be Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), but at Cornell University, every week is entrepreneurship week. Johnson at Cornell University, along with its partners at the university, have embraced the clear need of the economy to grow entrepreneurs and innovators – and therefore to create jobs and opportunities -- by targeting its most entrepreneurial students and expanding their skill base. Through a series of events and specific opportunities, Johnson is not only helping students hone their pitches, products and ideas, but is directly addressing the needs of the entrepreneurial spirit itself to thrive and to focus its passion. By celebrating the unique entrepreneurial mind set while developing the functional skills to succeed in building a business, Johnson is a leader among top MBA programs in targeting tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are our best shot at pulling the current economy from the doldrums, as the excitement and massive participation in this week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week clearly reflects," said Rhett Weiss, Executive Director of Johnson’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (EII).

Rhett Weiss

Rhett Weiss

"Many of the biggest companies in the market place were not in existence prior to 1975, and many companies that are reshaping consumer behavior were startups recently. We in the higher education space have a responsibility to commit to the growth and training of tomorrow’s entrepreneurs for both their own prospects and the global economy’s prospects. We do this by providing our students, faculty, and alumni interested in entrepreneurship or innovation with valuable knowledge, high-impact networking, and real-world real-deal opportunities."

The flurry of activity focused on entrepreneurs is taking place throughout the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, it satellite campuses, and in other critical arenas for entrepreneurs such as New York City.  This fall, members of BR Venture Fund (BRV) – the EII supported, student run seed-stage venture capital fund – frequently network in New York City and will extend Cornell’s entrepreneurial footprint there by participating in two significant entrepreneur networking events in the city,  Fortune’s Term Sheet Liquidity Event and HackNY’s Raise Cache.  Such events are, according to BRV Fund Manager and COO Aaron Holiday, vital for Cornell and Johnson to “position itself as a player in the NYC venture capital and entrepreneurial ecosystem." Further, Fund Manager Chris Kurdziel said, “I’m a big believer in the power of events like these as they go a long way in supporting our awesome alumni base that is engaged in early stage tech in NYC. In the end, it's about connecting the dots as much as we can between what is going on at the university and what is going on in the streets of New York City."

Back on campus, the entrepreneurial spirit was kicked off this year in part through the first speaker for EII’s seminar series, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, founder of Sycamore networks, Cascade Communications and the Deshpande Foundation.  The series will continue throughout the year with talks on such topics as building teams, intellectual property, business formation, business operation, venture capital, and customer acquisition.


Connecting Johnson’s entrepreneurial know-how and talent back with the university, EII’s Weiss recently served as mentor and EII as a sponsor for this years’ 3-Day Startup Cornell (3DS), whose goal is for participants to start a technology company over the course of three days.  Sponsored in part by Facebook, this year’s program recruited more than 40 students, selected from almost 150, with a wide range of backgrounds who were charged with devising the best idea for a software start up over the course of a weekend. Vetted from an array of ideas, six ideas with real potential to create businesses were pitched by highly energetic teams in the final session.

Weiss along with leaders of BRV also hosted “Presentation2 (P2),” a seminar event to help students interested in starting a business that might require VC funding, hone their presentation and pitch skills.  The event was moderated by expert panelists including Weiss,  Alison Gerlach, Cornell University’s ’11-’12  entrepreneur-in-residence, Eric Young, co-founder and general partner of Canaan Partners, and Lucien Ruby, Managing Director of Quest Hospitality Ventures.

Arthur Soroken, MBA ’12, participated in both events – first developing his concept over 3DS then sharing and refining the pitch he gave there with the P2 audience and panelists.  His concept, that allows guests at bars and parties to control the music playing in the space via smart phone (no juke box needed), received an enthusiastic reception and myriad of questions.  About his participation at P2 Soroken said, "It was great to be able to get feedback from a group of real investors in a fun environment. There aren't many opportunities such as P2 to understand what an investor is thinking and today shed some light on the black box of venture capital."

These events and opportunities represent a mere slice of the entrepreneurship activity going on at Johnson and Cornell," said Weiss. "The interest in the entrepreneurship and innovation space is enjoying a momentum that is placing the school and the university in a superb position to be a leader in advancing new business growth and new technology commercialization across the global economy.  Every day I’m talking with and helping at least one student entrepreneur, founder team, or other member of this incredibly energized ecosystem."

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