Breaking Records: 2023 Brown Venture Prize Pitch Night
Last week, over 400 guests entered Sayles Hall for the sixth annual Brown Venture Pitch Prize. This number marks the Nelson Center’s largest audience yet. Designed to highlight and empower Brown startups, the Brown Venture Prize welcomed eight finalists from a pool of over 30. This year’s top ventures were Codex, Codified Health, Ecoform, Elythea, Marian, Notable Narratives, Sessio, and Uconomy. Collectively, the eight finalists addressed challenges in a diverse range of sectors, from healthcare to automotive manufacturing to post-mortem estate planning.
Danny Warshay ‘87, Executive Director of the Nelson Center, kicked off the event with a warm welcome. After their pitches, ventures fielded questions from a panel of seven judges: Evan Jackson ‘21.5, Jessica Murphy ‘00, Lisa Gelobter ‘91, David Wellisch ‘92, Matt Jarvis ‘93, Jayna Zweiman ‘01, and Richard Katzman ‘78 P’14. Judges brought with them a wealth of experience as worldwide leaders and investors. Their support also highlighted Brown’s vibrant entrepreneurial community and the far-reaching impact of the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship. Jarvis, chairman of global creative agency 72andSunny, cites Brown’s liberal arts education and his participation at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship as a source of inspiration. Meanwhile, Jackson holds the distinction of being the first judge who was a previous winner himself—his venture, Intus Care, won the Brown Venture Prize in 2020.
Students, family members, and alumni cheered and celebrated after each startup took the stage. After much deliberation, judges selected Elythea, an ML/DL-Driven platform for obstetricians, as the first-place winner. Elythea, founded by Reetam Ganguli ’23, Dartmouth’s Rishik Lad ’23, and Dr. Stephen Wagner, took home the grand prize of $25,000. Notable Narratives, a mentorship nonprofit matching first-generation/low-income college applicants with current first-generation/low-income college students, scored second place. Founders Cecile Schreidah ‘24 and Brandon Avendano ‘23 took home $15,000. Third place (and $10,000) went to Marian, an automated investment app founded by Aaron Wang ‘23, Luke Primis ‘24, and Eshaan Mangat ‘24. Audience members voted Codified Health, a medical billing software startup, as their Fan Favorite. Codified Health was a member of the Summer ‘22 Breakthrough Lab cohort and counts Sophia Ghauri ‘24, Hailey Chen ‘24, Cindy Zheng ‘24, and Aditya Singh ‘25, as founders.
Associate Director Jonas Clark notes that past Brown Venture Prize winners from the previous five competitions have raised over $60 million in funding since their inception. Since the Brown Venture Prize’s inception, multiple finalists have been honored by Forbes 30 Under 30 for their impact. Last year, past winner Perennial was named by Time Magazine as Best Invention of 2022. Other winners have been profiled by Vogue, Business, Insider, the Boston Globe, and more.
Warshay ‘87 recalls when former students and Casper co-founders Luke Sherwin ‘12 and Neil Parikh ‘11 walked into his office shortly after the Nelson Center launched. Recalling how much of an impact similar competitions had on their own entrepreneurship trajectories, they offered to donate the first funds to support what became the Brown Venture Prize competition. “I’m not sure even Luke and Neil could have envisioned how extraordinary it has become. This year, over 400 attendees packed Sayles Hall and over 300 watched online from around the world.”
He also added, “Most of all, I am so impressed by the quality of ventures that our students are launching, addressing consequential problems with solutions that promise to have big impact at scale. And now, thanks to the ongoing generosity of Richard D. Katzman ’78, P’14 and Jane Dray Katzman ’81, P’14, BVP continues to thrive. At the Nelson Center, we motivate our students to learn the entrepreneurial process that we teach in and out of the Brown classroom. Venture support programs like the Brown Venture Prize competition empower them to go do it.”
This event could not have been possible without the expertise of New England Showtime Productions Inc., and the Brown University Media Services team. Last but not least, we are thankful for the infallible Sheila Haggerty, Tori Gilbert, and Katie Calabro for their organization and leadership.