New Accelerator on Innovations for Urban Living

Launched by Brown and RIHub in 2019, Innovations for Urban Living is an accelerator program for early-stage startups with solutions to make cities more intelligent, livable, and sustainable.

Innovations for Urban Living is a new accelerator program for early-stage startups with solutions to make cities more intelligent, livable, and sustainable. Brown University and RIHub have partnered with The CoWrks Foundry to launch this 24-week startup accelerator. IULA is designed to help entrepreneurs improve the urban infrastructure and systems in India and in other emerging economies by leveraging a combination of technology, policy and local ingenuity. Successful teams will receive up to $40,000 in seed capital, engage in an accelerator curriculum experience, and gain access to top Indian and global investors through the CoWrks network, targeted coaching and mentoring; and coworking space at RIHub (Providence, RI) and CoWrks (Bangalore, India). Travel costs to enable time in direct experience, collaboration and network engagement in Bangalore are also covered.

Deadline: January 31, 2020.

More information:
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Van Wickle Ventures made its first investment in 305 Fitness!

Van Wickle Ventures made its first investment in 305 Fitness!

Van Wickle Ventures (VWV), Brown’s first student run-venture fund, is excited to announce their first investment in 305 Fitness. 305 Fitness is a dance-cardio fitness brand founded by Sadie Kurzban ‘12, who began teaching the classes out of the OMAC here at Brown. She won the Brown Entrepreneurship Program’s Venture Pitch competition in 2008 and launched 305 in New York with the $25K cash earnings from the competition. Today, 305 Fitness offers over 500 classes a week across 6 studios and 3 pop-ups in major U.S. cities.

Sadie’s story is the perfect example of the kind of founder VWV was created to support – one who follows the entrepreneurship process and had close ties to the Brown community. VWV will be participating in 305’s Series A alongside world-class investors such as Founders Fund, RiverPark VC, and Healthyish Ventures, as well as earlier angels including Tiesto and Kevin Durant.

VWV is also delighted to announce the students comprising the second cohort. Chosen from over one hundred applicants, there were nine that blew the team away with their curiosity, intellect, and creativity. The group includes founders of 3 non-profits in addition to sports tech and hair care ventures, crypto enthusiasts, and a medical school student – and ask them about their gap years! You can learn more about the team here. If you know a Brown- or RISD-affiliated founder, please send them to

Congrats to the 2019 WE@Brown Pitch Night and Innovation Dojo awardees!

We are excited to announce that the WE@Brown incubator winner was Lucia Tian ‘23 (picture above, top) with her venture FortePiezo and the runner-up was Alexandria Miller Ph.D. ‘24 (picture above, bottom). Alexandre Wurzmann ‘23 and Kia Uusitalo ‘24 (pictured below), co-founders of Trim, won at the Dojo pitch night. Both programs are offered through the Brown Entrepreneurship Program (EP), the Nelson Center’s student club.

The WE@Brown Incubator is a semester-long program that supports women-identifying founders on their early-stage ideas, through lectures and workshops. This semester’s judges included Kim Anderson, co-founder of EverHope Capital; Kerlyne Jean-Baptiste ‘16, founder of KerlyGirl; Sophie Starck ‘20 VC at Van Wickle Ventures, and Joyce Sunday M.S. ‘18, co-founder of Eat Fresh Prep. Lucia’s winning idea, FortePiezo, is a device that makes it easier for blind and visually impaired folks to learn music. Runner-up Alexandria Miller Ph.D. ‘24 in Africana Studies, who started Bad Gyal U, a podcast focused on educating the Caribbean diaspora of their heritage, especially looking at how featuring Carribean women that have impacted history.


Innovation Dojo is a semester-long student-led workshop series designed to challenge first- and second-year students at Brown and RISD to think differently about entrepreneurship through weekly classes and design workshops. This year’s winner, Trim, is software for hair salons to ensure that they provide the hair services their customers want. This fall’s pitch judges were Charlie Kroll ’01, co-founder/COO of Ellevest; Stephen Siegel ScM ’83 PhD ’85, Managing Partner at CIV Consulting; Don Stanford ’72, MS ’77, Technology Fellow at IGT; and Karina Wood, Executive Director at Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses RI.

Roundtable Recap: Tom First ’89 and Tom Scott ’89, Co-Founders of Nantucket Nectars, Discuss how their Partnership and Passion Enabled their Disruption of the Food and Beverage Industry

Roundtable Recap: Tom First ’89 and Tom Scott ’89, Co-Founders of Nantucket Nectars, Discuss how their Partnership and Passion Enabled their Disruption of the Food and Beverage Industry

By Chuck Isgar ‘21 

On November 7, 2019, The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and Brown EP proudly hosted Tom First ‘89 and Tom Scott ‘89 for a roundtable discussion as part of the Roundtable Discussion Series moderated by Chuck Isgar ’21. First and Scott shared lessons learned from founding and developing Nantucket Nectars, ranging from managing partnerships to navigating challenging times. 

A mindset to making the most of partnerships

First and Scott went through their fair share of challenges in building Nantucket Nectars, a premium juice beverage company. Along these lines, Scott stressed the importance of learning through moments of pain. He emphasized that your career is going to have great and bad times, and it is in the bad times that you have the opportunity to learn a lot. 

First and Scott are a one-of-a-kind partnership. They acknowledged that there is luck to partnerships. Scott shared that he has only one person in his life who can finish his sentences: Tom First. While both Scott and First deeply appreciate their partnership, they do not recommend trying to find the perfect co-founder. 

They shared that there is a 100% chance of disagreement with your partner and 100% chance of crucial, anxiety-ridden situations. Tensions will run high, and it will be important to determine how you resolve conflict. First shared that whenever he disagreed with Scott, he wanted to know about why they were disagreeing. 

The importance of letting your product work harder than you

First and Scott revealed details about a pivotal moment in the process of trying to grow Nantucket Nectars. In 1995, they were getting outsold by AriZona Iced Tea like crazy. As explained by First and Scott, the two of them were working much harder than Nantucket Nectar’s packaging and bottling were working for the brand. First and Scott knew they needed to flip this. Over the course of the next six to eight months, they were really focused on getting things right. 

After deciding to revise their packaging strategy, they received quotes from approximately eleven packaging firms. They ended up taking a crazy high quote from one of the firms, but didn’t regret the decision. 

Over the following years, the company experienced tremendous growth. Nantucket Nectars was included on Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 500” list of fastest-growing U.S. companies for five years in a row. In 2002, Nantucket Nectars was acquired by Cadbury Schweppes, now Dr. Pepper Snapple (NYSE: DPS). 

First’s view on investing in the food and beverage industry and Scott’s passion for the neighborhood

Following the sale of Nantucket Nectars, First founded and developed a number of startups, including Owater and Eleven Technologies, which was purchased by Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) in 2005. First is currently an Operating Partner at Castanea Partners and the Founding Partner at TF Ventures, a venture firm concentrated on food and beverage. 

Several venture capital-minded students at the discussion were curious to hear First’s perspective on the food and beverage investing landscape. He explained that it is not too difficult to receive money these days to start a company in the food and beverage business, which has resulted in crowded shelves. First shared that nowadays younger people are making purchasing decisions with the intent of remaking stores so that they feature products with simple ingredients. 

First explained his main criteria when evaluating emerging companies: 1. Are you creating a product in a large category? 2. Are you human beings that First wants to bet on? He made it clear that he values competitive founders with immense passion for what they are building. 

Since selling Nantucket Nectars, Scott has focused his time on developing films and exploring the neighborhood. He is the founder and visionary of Neighborhood, which was developed from the nine-year-long Nantucket Project. His award-winning films have previously been shown at Cannes and Sundance. 

Keys to success: setting benchmarks extremely high and creating products that appeal to many people

Scott and First discussed what it takes to be successful. They shared that winning requires 97 (on a theoretical 0 to 100 scale). 94 gets you nothing, thus increasing the importance of getting to 97. In terms of how to get to 97, they recommended reminding people what a 97 is: to Scott and First, a 97 means that you have created a differentiated business with impressive growth. 

To all of the aspiring entrepreneurs in the room, First and Scott shared yet another important piece of advice: “if you want to make something of scale, you have to make something average.” As explained by First and Scott, a lot of people want apple juice, but not as many people want to buy pianos. Safe to say, First and Scott not only created something for a lot of people through Nantucket Nectars, but they also helped to reinvent the food and beverage business.