Even during such an unpredictable and challenging year, 2020 brought many highlights that make us grateful for the work we do. This is all thanks to our entire Nelson Center community, which continues to make the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship the hub for entrepreneurship at Brown where students are engaged, inspired, and empowered to change the world one solution at a time.
To celebrate and wrap up the year, we present a few of our highlights from 2020!
Happy New Year!
– Nelson Center Team
Despite the struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, student and alumni ventures made significant progress. From Jayna Zweiman’s ‘01 Masks for Humanity, to Chuck Isgar ‘21, Megan Kasselberg ‘20 and David Lu’s ‘20 venture Intern From Home, to Max Goldman ‘21, Aidan Reilly ‘21, Ben Collier ‘21, and recent alum, Will Collier’s ‘20 The Farmlink Project, our community continues to develop new solutions for the problems that developed as a result of the pandemic.
We launched our new Entrepreneurship Certificate in May. The certificate provides a curricular structure for undergraduate students who wish to make entrepreneurship an important part of their intellectual journey at Brown. Learn more here.
Student and alumni ventures raised significant funds this year including Alex Zhuk, Jack Roswell, and David Schurman’s Cloud Agronomics (left), which raised $6M from SineWave Ventures as the lead investor, and Robbie Felton ‘21, Alexander Rothberg ‘21, Samuel Prado ‘21, and Evan Jackson’s ‘21 Intus Care (right), which raised a total of $600K in funding over two rounds.
Under the leadership of Chuck Isgar ‘20.5 and Grace Parker ‘21, the Brown Entrepreneurship Program (EP), the Nelson Center’s student-led club, grew larger than ever this year, launched a new partnership with Spelman College, and partnered with the Amplify Speaker Series. Read more about their year here.
Professor Jennifer Nazareno (left) and Professor Don Stanford ‘72 ScM ’77 (right) were this year’s recipients of the Hazeltine Mentoring in Entrepreneurship Award. Over 100 people tuned in from all over the country for the award ceremony. Read more here.
YEP! (Young Entrepreneurs of Providence), the Nelson Center- and EP-sponsored program for Providence high school students, virtually hosted its third cohort. Watch a recording of their 2020 Pitch Night here and read more about their semester here.
Van Wickle Ventures, the Nelson Center’s student-run venture capital fund, announced investments in Projector, co-founded by Trevor O’Brien ‘10, and a company in stealth mode. Read more about Van Wickle Ventures in News from Brown here.
The 2020 Brown Venture Prize friendly competition went virtual! This did not stop students from presenting their best venture pitches, leading to Intus Care winning first place, Intimately winning second place, and Resuscitech winning third place. Read more here.
The NCE building will have a new neighbor on Thayer street, once it’s safe to return! We are excited to welcome Warby Parker, who is opening its very first store here in Providence, Rhode Island, on Thayer St. Founded by Andy Hunt ‘04, Jeff Raider, Neil Blumenthal, and Dave Gilboa, Warby Parker’s mission is to inspire and impact the world with vision, purpose, and style. (Read more about the move in the Brown Daily Herald.)
Andy Hunt graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a Bachelor’s in Economics and History. He then earned his MBA in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to work in investment banking. Hunt later began to do research into the eyewear industry, motivated by his frustration with the high costs that came with buying and replacing his glasses. This frustration and research soon led to the launch of Warby Parker in 2010. Read more about his journey in this Brown Alumni Magazine article.
The company was started with the goal of proving that a business can scale, be profitable, and do good in the world—without charging a premium for it. From the very beginning, for every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, a pair has been distributed to someone in need. To date, over seven million pairs have been distributed—but amidst COVID-19, they have needed to largely pause the program. Now, as of April 1, 2020, they are temporarily shifting the focus so that for the majority of glasses sold, personal protective equipment and preventative health supplies are distributed to healthcare workers and communities in need. Learn more about their efforts, here.
The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship (NCE) collaborated early in April 2020 to launch a new pilot program: the Pop–UpChallenge, a creative initiative for Brown students to come together to connect, collaborate and have some fun. As our lives temporarily shift to a virtual world, that doesn’t mean we have to stop making art or innovating on everyday challenges! BAI and NCE aim to provide an outlet for artists and entrepreneurs to continue working together creatively, while we are away from Brown’s campus.
The first Pop–UpChallenge was April 2-3. A prompt was announced on April 2 and students had 24 hours to come up with a submission or proposed solution. The virtual event concluded with a Pop–upChallenge Debrief, moderated by Deb Mills-Scofield ’82, Mentoring Maven with the NCE, on Friday, April 3. Over 50 students expressed interest in joining the challenge. A total of 14 students ended up submitting 6 projects. Continue reading below to learn more about the submissions and visit the Google Slide submission link here to watch videos that show the creative process and strategy behind the student projects.
Woo Nam Song is the artist behind the submission “Mis U”. “Mis U” is an acrylic painting with a base of spray paint in gold, silver, and red. This work features a hand on the left ‘hand’ side with text accompanied on the right.
“Social distancing has been a difficult change in lifestyle for myself. Regardless, through this work, I wanted to convey a sense of normality that of which I can look forward to as well as an optimistic view towards seclusion from society.”
We randomly assigned students to optional groups. Emma Butler, Diana Perkins, Jack Schaeffer, and Jie Zhou submittedVRtual, a basic virtual reality viewer made from a cardboard box supporting both Android and iOS that features VR map where people can “go out together”(e.g. walk on the Main Green or participate in a virtual commencement). Emma and Diana were acquainted with each other but the team collectively had not worked together before!
Grace Winburne submitted her project entitled: “Isolating without a Home”, examining the intersection of coronavirus and homelessness. Her concept is a contained home-environment with an adaptable base to accommodate existing hostile architecture
“I wanted to explore the overcrowding in homeless shelters and, given a loss of jobs due to shut-downs, how people are dealing with sudden homelessness during a health crisis. By combatting hostile architecture, the need to limit the number of people in a location is alleviated by creating temporary “homes” outside. Thus, people are allowed to maintain social distance while also having a place to live.
Mollie Redman, Steph Rempe, and Leyton Ho came together to create Bizzi, a website that acts as a centralizing force for free online activities. These include Zoom and Instagram Live activities like cooking and working out. Events can easily be added to personal google calendars. The main target demographic is ages 18-25, most likely to spread the virus by not following social distancing due to boredom or believing COVID-19 will not seriously harm them. Providing this group with a centralized reference full of at-home activities would incentivize them to practice social distancing.
Jessica Zhu, China Ang, Renny Ma formed a team to bring “Can’t Touch This”, a shirt design to help enforce social distancing. “To encourage social distancing, we designed a shirt that helps individuals understand how close is “too close.” The minimum font size for text viewed from 6 feet away is 16pt (Andy Brown Design, The Print Handbook).The text on our shirt is 15pt, indicating to viewers that if they can read the text, they are not abiding the “six feet apart” rule. The shirt serves both as a practical tool as well as a humorous reminder for people to practice social distancing.”
Dana Lee and Connie Liu formed a team to create “CAN Touch This”, a medium through which one may experience the replication of physical contact with loved ones; i.e. experience hugs, kisses, and hand-holding. Students brainstormed the idea to create accessories with haptic sensors, an attachment to phones or laptops for ease of access (i.e. for holding hands). The student group thought of solutions to expand off of the “thinking of you” watch/button project that already exists.
We are excited to continue Brown EP’s (our student club) #MakeItHappen tradition, with a story from Brown EP leaders! Chuck Isgar ‘21, Megan Kasselberg ‘20 and David Lu ‘20 came together this past week and came up with a solution to help keep students and startups connected. These students recognized that early-stage startups might be restricted in hiring or having difficulty completing projects. They started Intern From Home, connecting students to virtual internships during COVID-19.
Continue reading to learn more about program and message from the student leaders:
During this uncertain time, we know that your company may be restricted in hiring and having difficulty completing tasks that you’ve had on your agenda for the upcoming weeks. We have a solution for you!
Intern From Home presents an opportunity for you to offer project-specific virtual internships to highly skilled college students who are a strong fit for the role within 24 hours of the role being posted. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and any length of time. Intern From Home has hundreds of students from Brown, Harvard, and many more top schools, seeking internships. To submit a role, please fill out this form and the role will be posted shortly thereafter. Feel free to submit more than one role; simply fill out a form for each role you are offering: https://forms.gle/b4xonZsyAgMpBThE8.
How Intern From Home works:
1.) You fill out this form with details about the role.
2.) The role gets posted on Intern From Home’s website and sent to candidates who might be a strong fit; candidates apply.
3.) Intern From Home vets all of the applications and sends the top 5 matches to you within 24 hours of the role being posted.
4.) Conduct your process for interviewing and make an offer to the best-fit candidate(s).
Please note that Intern From Home charges no commission from you or the student intern. This free platform is all about helping you fill roles and complete tasks that might otherwise be challenging during this time, as well as offering accomplished college students the opportunity to gain valuable experience and effectively use their newfound free time following their school’s shift to virtual classes.
Thank you very much for considering submitting a role. If you’re passionate about what we’re trying to do, we ask that you please share the link with anyone whom you think might benefit from it (ie: other startups you know, etc.). If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to email@example.com.
The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship wants to learn about your creative ideas, your startups, and your solutions on how we can stay connected.We will use inspiring hashtag #MakeItHappen, and we encourage you to use it as well. Fill out this short form and we will do our best to share via our various communication platforms.