Attention Brown Alumni!
Looking to network within the Brown entrepreneurial community?
Miss the intellectual discussions you had as a student at Brown?
Want to talk with others who are passionate about entrepreneurship?
Introducing…Alumni Entrepreneurship Circles
Creating a virtual discussion space for Brown Alumni to talk entrepreneurship and network
Co-Sponsored by Brown Alumni Relations and The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship
● 1 hour long discussions
15 minute crash-course from a Brown alum on an entrepreneurial topic
30 minutes of discussion amongst the participants + introductions and wrap-up
● Conducted via Zoom so you can participate from anywhere
● Discussions will be limited to 10 alumni
● The same cohort will meet virtually for a three-part series
If interested, please complete this form.
If you have questions, reach out to Chuck Isgar ’21 at email@example.com
The Better Pop is the only kombucha and fruit popsicle. It’s an alternative and enjoyable way to get probiotics into your diet. The distinctive shape has been designed to change the way you eat a popsicle. It allows for better sharing, biting, and an overall different eating experience. Many people have sensitive teeth when biting into cold foods, but this problem was solved by designing a geometric shape that allows each piece to come off easily. Unlike other popsicles, it’s made with no added sugar or fruit concentrate, just whole fruit and kombucha. The whole fruit provides fiber, unlike fruit juice, and the kombucha provides the probiotics.
The idea started when Ruby watched her mother struggle with her digestive health. After numerous doctor appointments, her mother became tired of continually being told to take probiotic pills. She was already taking a lot of pills, and had no interest in taking any more. Ruby began to wonder if there was a more attractive way to consume probiotics. Knowing that kombucha is packed with probiotics, she encouraged her mom to try it. However, her mom was uncomfortable with the idea of drinking fermented tea.
Earlier that summer, Ruby had stumbled upon a popsicle recipe after playing around in the kitchen. Coincidentally, popsicles are one of the only foods that didn’t upset her mother’s stomach. Could popsicles be the medium through which kombucha is consumed? Ruby decided to put this idea into fruition and The Better Pop was born.
After B-Lab, Ruby launched in New York City receiving orders online and personally delivering popsicles door to door after participating in B-Lab. She is now selling The Better Pop at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, an outdoor food market that is held every Saturday and Sunday that attracts 20,000 – 30,000 people each day. Interested in attending Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg? Read about what they have to offer (in addition to The Better Pop) !
On Saturday, March 9, the student-led Brown Entrepreneurship Program Women’s Entrepreneurship team hosted the 3rd Annual Women’s Empowerment Conference (WE@Brown). The conference had 300+ registrants, featured workshops, an industry panel, keynote remarks, and a pitch competition.
Haley Hoffman Smith ’18, author of Her Big Idea, opened the conference with remarks encouraging attendees to embrace uncertainty. Participants then attended workshops focused on the business of body language to supporting the mental health and wellness of changemakers. Jeanine Sinanan-Singh lead a discussion on how she raised over $2M for her startup Vitae Industries. Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, MD, founder of Saving Mothers, provided a hands on workshop on how to start a nonprofit organization. Female leaders also held an industry panel and facilitated conversations about their personal experiences which included a Brown alum founder who created a gender fluid makeup company to a startup focused on improving financial well-being for women.
Lisa Caputo ’86, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for The Travelers Companies, Inc., discussed the evolution of her career from serving as the Press Secretary for First Lady Hillary Clinton to founding and leading Citi’s Women & Co. business. After hearing her inspirational story, participants attended another round of workshops including a conversation on the history of diversity in entrepreneurship from a immigrant and racial/ethnic minority lens and business lessons learned from Beyonce.
Stephanie Kaplan-Lewis, founder of HerCampus Media, delivered closing remarks, sharing her story of creating a ground-breaking company while in college. For the first time the WE@Brown conference concluded with a pitch competition featuring female founders from the Brown undergraduate community. Maggie Bachenberg ’22, founder of Pointz, won $500 for her long-distance bicycling planning platform.
We are excited to announce the 2019 Brown Venture Founders, an award that motivates recent Brown graduates and young alumni entrepreneurs to launch and grow their startups in Rhode Island. A partnership between the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and the Slater Technology Fund, this initiative offers Brown startup founders grants of up to $50,000, dedicated mentorship, co-working space for their ventures, and other resources for growing their companies in Rhode Island. We are proud to announce that Kevin Eve ‘18, co-founder of Uproot, and Rishabh Singh ‘17, the founder of Gradly, have been named the 2019 Brown Venture Founders.
This award is part of Brown University’s strategic action plan: Brown and the Innovation Economy, spearheaded by Provost Richard M. Locke. In collaboration with community leaders and experts, the University is maximizing its impact on innovation, entrepreneurship, and job growth. The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, along with the Slater Technology Fund, are strategic partners in this effort.
Rishabh Singh ‘17, the founder of Gradly (left) and Kevin Eve ‘18, co-founder of Uproot (right).
Meet Rishabh Singh ‘17, the founder of Gradly
Gradly, a software concierge service that assists international students moving to the US, was founded to solve the complications that Singh and millions of other international students experience when studying abroad. In effect, Gradly is digitizing the immigration and relocation process by working with banks, insurance companies, real estate firms & others so that their users don’t have to.
“The significance of Brown & the Nelson Center in my journey cannot be overstated: first, through a university scholarship that made it possible for me to attend Brown, to B-Lab where I worked on the first iteration of Gradly, and now, with Brown Venture Founders. Throughout, Brown and the Nelson Center’s support has been indispensable. As I work to expand Gradly, I am excited to continue to be a part of the Rhode Island tech ecosystem which, in my experience, has time and again proven to be uniquely positioned to support early-stage companies and emerging founders like me.”
Meet Kevin Eve ‘18, co-founder of Uproot
Uproot was founded to make healthy, sustainable plant-based milks accessible to everyone. Its first products allow cafeterias to efficiently serve a variety of plant-based milks from a single unit for the first time. The Brown Venture Founders resource will be instrumental in allowing Uproot to transition from a student venture idea into a sustainable startup.
“The Brown Venture Founder Prize has given me the support and confidence to launch Uproot in Rhode Island. The backing has been crucial as we scale production, build a team and seek investment. Launching an early stage venture has been an incredibly challenging and exciting experience. I am grateful to have the support of Brown University and the Slater Technology Fund.” Kevin and his co-founder Philip Mathieu ‘17 were participants in the 2018 Breakthrough Lab. They have now successfully launched in dining halls at Johnson & Wales University and Brown University, with more to come.
“Students in our universities will solve the great problems of our time – environmental, medical, societal,” said Thorne Sparkman (pictured to the left), managing director of the Slater Fund. “Through the Nelson Center, Brown University is at the forefront of preparing its students for these challenges with entrepreneurship courses, programs, and venture support resources. We are proud to work alongside the university to support its efforts. Through the Brown Venture Founders program and beyond, Slater is excited to invest in the next generation of Rhode Island’s entrepreneurial leaders emerging from Brown.”
Celebrating Entrepreneurship in Rhode Island – Sushi Networking Event
April 25 / 6:00 – 9:00 PM / REGISTER HERE
There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in Rhode Island! Innovation, inspiration, interconnectivity, investment—all are accelerating here, driven by a growing community committed to supporting the development of promising new ventures.
Join the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, Slater Technology Fund, and Venture Café Providence for a special sushi networking event to celebrate entrepreneurship in our state.
By Chuck Isgar ‘20.5
On March 6, 2019, The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and Brown EP proudly hosted Laura Thompson ‘09 for a roundtable discussion as part of the Roundtable Discussion Series moderated by Chuck Isgar ‘20.5. Thompson shared lessons learned through her journey leading the growth of Google X.
An early non-engineering hire at Google X
When Thompson first came to Brown, she thought she would concentrate in applied mathematics. She approached her time at Brown as a way to take engaging classes, and many of these courses lay in the realm of entrepreneurship. She ultimately graduated with a degree in public policy, but not before successfully launching Runa, a tea company with a social mission of providing opportunities for Amazonian farmers.
After doing some work in London with Google’s budding consumer electronics group, Thompson joined Google X, Google’s “moonshot factory”. Thompson was a unique addition to Google X as she represented an early non-engineering hire for the team. When she joined, there were four projects in the works under the Google X umbrella: one being self-driving cars. And you’re probably wondering about those other three? Well, as much of her work at Google X, it was secretive.
So, what was a public policy major doing as one of the few non-engineers on a team trying to solve complex technical problems, ranging from combating climate change to the future of robots? Thompson shared that the fact she wasn’t an engineer is actually what made her so valuable at Google X. For example, Thompson helped teams think about the human consequences of their work and what it would take for projects to land successfully in the real world.
Leading Google X through the years
There is a growing need in technology to prioritize human-centered design and Thompson is pleased to see this movement progressing. Along these lines, Thompson explained that they thought about sustainability at every level of the project and ideation process in her time at Google X.
The goal at Google X is to create a culture of innovation that leads to development of ideas for the future. At first, Google X thought that the way to achieve the most success would be to have everyone together. Over time, they realized that this model wasn’t sustainable. Thompson was part of the transformation from the ‘everyone-in-a-garage-mentality’ to a more sustainable model where each project gets spun off and has its own business model, while still being under the Google X umbrella.
Analyzing ideas at Google X
To the budding venture capitalists in the room, Thompson shared a framework that they commonly utilized at Google X when deciding which new projects to undertake. For each potential project, they would make a list of all the reasons the project would be an epic failure. As the team worked on the project and overcame the challenges, they would cross them off the list. If a project could overcome one quarter of their challenges, the project would likely be a go, as the team had proven they have the ability to overcome the difficulties that will surely present themselves along the way.
Thompson explained another rule of thumb used at Google X when evaluating new projects: “is this going to affect one billion people in a meaningful way?” This message resonates closely with the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship’s mantra: create solution with impact.
Despite the best intentions, many successful innovations come from random, happy experiments. It is for this reason that while they had rubrics in place, they also saw it was important to let teams run loose.
The innovators in the room were curious to get Thompson’s thoughts on what’s next in terms of innovative technology. Thompson explained that, for one, it is good to see a growing skepticism surrounding technology. She is excited that the next generation appears to be focused on technology being good for humanity.
Thompson thinks there are opportunities for disruption in the fields of personal finance, logistics of shipping and transportation, and sustainability. And her personal favorite, dog-related startups, too.
As the discussion neared an end, Thompson left students with some words of wisdom: “you’re only going to be great at something if you’re excited about it.” Along these lines, Thompson stressed the importance of pursuing things you’re excited about with people you respect and who you have shared values with and enjoy working with.