Doug Stayman, Associate Dean, Cornell Tech<br/>Faculty director, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA

Mar 24 2017

Startup Studio Spurs Deep Innovation at Cornell Tech

Doug Stayman, Associate Dean, Cornell Tech
Faculty director, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA

This spring, cross-functional teams of Cornell Tech students are busy developing raw business concepts into working models. The teams recently completed the first of several “Sprints” in the Startup Studio course, and some will go on to enter their concepts in the Startup Competition in May. 

The winning teams will receive a pre-seed funding package valued at $100,000, including $80,000 in financing and $20,000 worth of co-working space to continue development of their concept.

“Deep Innovation” is a core pillar of the Cornell Tech program, and many of the ideas being developed have the potential to be truly transformative.
The team known as TwoPlusTwo includes two Johnson Cornell Tech MBAs and two Master of Engineering in Computer Science students. Jaldeep Acharya, Ruth Sylvia, Jaya Birch-Desai, and Constantin Scholl are using machine learning to analyze the patterns in Internet traffic from connected devices, with the goal of alerting users to potential hacks into their home networks.

During the first Sprint, a 24-hour intensive working session held February 23 and 24, TwoPlusTwo made substantial progress in crystalizing the company’s vision and developing cohesive messaging. The team received helpful feedback from the presentation that closed the Sprint and are now focusing on building the best product possible.

Another Startup Studio team, Charlie’s Angels, is tackling the $1.26 trillion international tourism industry by creating a digital platform to streamline the value-added tax (VAT) refund process for travelers. 

“We will partner with merchants, payment providers, credit card companies, and governments to ensure refunds are made fairly, safely, and quickly, all while presenting end users with a seamless and simple experience,” says Liz Weber, LLM ’17. 

Charlie’s Angels also includes three Master of Engineering in Computer Science candidates, KJ Anand, Avash Rao, and Charlie LaBarge. 

“Our first Sprint was an incredibly positive experience,” Weber says. “We have a set system of checks and balances to ensure that we stay on target with our goals, and we definitely keep each other accountable.”

In Startup Studio, success is measured based on a team’s ability to make rapid, iterative progress on the underlying technology, as well as the potential value of the idea itself, and how well the team articulates its vision through presentation.

“Building a startup can be a scary and risky experience,” says Anna McGovern, Cornell Tech MBA ’17. “But having the Cornell Tech Startup Studio to teach you about the process while actually doing it is just an incredibly unique experience.”

In addition to McGovern, Team Lil includes Sonia Sen, Health Tech ’17, and Gabe Ruttner, Master of Engineering in Computer Science ’17. Their concept is an online solution that will allow sick people to order customized packages of over-the counter medications and their preferred “comfort foods” on-demand. 

“Through our research, we gleaned two main insights,” McGovern says. “People know when they’re sick and they know their routines in dealing with it. Our mission is to provide a high level of care by bringing people the products they need to feel better.”

Look for more on the Startup Studio course and the upcoming Startup Competition, which takes place on May 9, 2017.

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