Despite the challenges we all faced this past year, we are grateful that through the support of the Nelson Center community we can look back and find many moments of joy, learning, and growth. Whether virtually or in person, the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship brought us together so we could continue to work toward providing Brown students with the necessary tools to solve problems and make an impact. Even against all of the challenges we faced, we successfully hosted more events and programs than ever before, engaging our community from all over the world. Thank you to all who supported our work this past year and we look forward to what the next year will bring.
To celebrate and wrap up the year, here are a few of our highlights from 2021! You can also visit our YouTube channel to revisit some of our events and celebrations.
Happy New Year!
– Nelson Center Team
We celebrated our five-year anniversary! As part of that celebration, we launched the Nelson@5 short video series which provides a closer look at the Nelson Center’s first five years through the words and experiences of students, alums, and members of the Nelson team. And to top it off we also put together a fun timeline looking back on some of our biggest milestones.
Over 470 people from all over the world tuned in this year to participate virtually in the Brown Venture Prize (BVP) and Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) programs, which continue to provide critical education and venture support for student founders. The first place 2021 BVP winner MediCircle, for example, founded by Eliza Sternlicht ’22 and Jack Schaeffer ’22, recently raised a $1.2 million pre-seed round on the heels of their first place victory. The virtual B-Lab Showcase featured all 15 student ventures that participated in this summer’s B-Lab venture accelerator program. B-Lab teams ranged from an e-commerce platform for small businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, a hand-held electricity generator for use in remote areas, to a reimagined mentoring platform for BIPOC students. We look forward to seeing everyone back in-person in 2022 for both BVP and B-Lab!
Van Wickle Ventures continued its amazing momentum by raising $200,000 through the Van Wickle Ventures Challenge. This Challenge, created and supported by the Place family (Robert Place ’75 and Erna Place ’76) matched up to $100,000 in funding for all gifts of $20,000 or more to support VWV. This educational venture fund, started and run by Brown students, helps give members first-hand knowledge of early-stage venture financing. We want to send a huge thank you to all of those who worked hard to put this Challenge together and to the generosity of the Place family and our tremendous alumni donors who contributed.
We welcomed Tori Gilbert to our Nelson Center team as our Events & Operations Coordinator! Tori is an alum of Johnson & Wales University, where she studied Event Management and completed her Master’s in Business Administration. With ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector, she has been involved with planning events, customer engagement, and day-to-day operations. Meet Tori and the entire Nelson team here.
In June, our virtual research conference The Entrepreneurship You Don’t See: Bringing Visibility to New Majority Founders welcomed scholars from around the world to examine entrepreneurship at the intersection of women, refugees, immigrants, allyship, and anti-Black racism. The 2020-21 Hazeltine Graduate Research Grant recipients, Ashley Gomez, Ph.D. candidate in Public Health, and Ieva Zumbyte, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, also presented their research. Two inaugural scholarly awards were presented at the conference. The Emerging Scholar in Entrepreneurship Award was conferred to Courtney McCluney, Ph.D. and The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Juliet E.K. Walker, Ph.D.
Professor Barrett Hazeltine has been mentoring and inspiring Brown University students for decades. In honor of his dedication to student mentoring, and in particular, his mentorship of aspiring entrepreneurs, a group of alumni came together to start the Hazeltine Mentoring in Entrepreneurship Award. We are excited to announce that this year’s recipients are Hamzah Ansari PRIME ‘09 (left) and Troy Henikoff ‘86 (right).
Hamzah Ansari has been a tremendous resource to the Brown and local entrepreneurial community for years and in particular, the Nelson Center since we opened in fall 2016. It is common to find him mentoring student startups in various Nelson Center and Engineering programs, sponsoring independent studies for students focused on entrepreneurship, and often being asked to judge pitch competitions. He consistently raises his hand to mentor students. Hamzah currently teaches the technology commercialization and entrepreneurship course in the PRIME Masters Program, and students in his class consistently comment on his dedication to them and their venture ideas. This was especially true during the last summer when he served as our inaugural Entrepreneur in Residence for the 2020 Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) cohort, and met weekly with four venture teams, helping them all accelerate their ideas and take them to the next level.
Troy Henikoff has also been affiliated with the Nelson Center since the very beginning. First through mentoring students in office hours, speaking on campus back in 2016, and getting involved in the early stages of Van Wickle Ventures, the student-run venture fund, supported by the Nelson Center. From day one he was a teacher and mentor for the founding group of students as they launched the fund, and remains committed to working with the group as an Investment Committee Member.
They have both been generous with their time mentoring Brown students and have been instrumental in their success.
Join us on Thursday, May 6 at 4:00 pm ET for a virtual happy hour to celebrate the recipients of the award, as well as get a chance to say hello to Professor Hazeltine. We invite you to join us and raise a glass from your home to honor the winners. RSVP here. A Zoom link will be sent to you.
Read more about the recipients below.
TROY HENIKOFF ‘86 Troy is Managing Director of MATH Venture Partners. He was a Co-founder of Excelerate Labs, which became Techstars Chicago in 2013 where he was Managing Director through 2016. Troy also helps manage the FireStarter Fund, teaches Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, and is on the board of the Chicago-land Entrepreneurial Center. Prior to Techstars Chicago, Troy was the CEO of OneWed.com, President of Amacai, and co-founder and CEO of SurePayroll.com. Troy built the technology for Jellyvision (creators of “You Don’t Know Jack!”), was the President of Systemetrics, and his first company was Specialized Systems and Software. Troy has an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Brown University and a Masters Degree in Project Management from Northwestern.
HAMZAH ANSARI ’09 Hamzah is a Lecturer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Brown, as well as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the School of Engineering. In these roles, Hamzah mentors, coaches, and advises student and alumni ventures on topics such as strategy and due diligence; as well as on the development of soft skills such as effective communication, critical thinking, and professional networking. He also teaches highly intensive and experiential undergraduate and graduate-level classes on Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship within the BEO and PRIME programs, where students use lean venturing methods to take their business ideas from drawing board to marketplace. Finally, he also served as a B-Lab Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Nelson Center, this past summer in 2020.
Outside of Brown, Hamzah serves as a Senior Advisor with Rhode Island-based innovation group “The Innovation Scout”. Previously, Hamzah started Accelereach, a developer of health and wellness coaching software, right after graduating from Brown in 2009. Accelereach’s software has helped thousands of people around the country lead healthier and more fulfilled lives. He advised the Rhode Island Health Insurance Exchange on developing new lines of business, growth strategies, and additional sources of revenue. Finally, he has advised United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on legislative policy governing immigration reform, economic development and funding for small businesses.
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.
We are thrilled to welcome Hamzah Ansari (Brown/ PRIME ’09) to the B-Lab team this summer! He has been supporting B-Lab ventures as an informal mentor from the beginning of B-Lab, back in 2015 and we are happy to officially welcome him to the B-Lab staff for this summer. He will be one of our lead in house mentors, along side Jason Harry, B-Lab director and Jonas Clark, Associate Directer at the NCE.
In addition to being the 2020 B-Lab Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Hamzah is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Brown’s School of Engineering, and a Lecturer in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. As EIR, Hamzah coaches student, faculty, and alumni ventures on business development, product development, lean methodologies, fundraising, and capitalization. He teaches a class in technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in the PRIME Masters Program. Outside of Brown, Hamzah serves as a Senior Advisor with Rhode Island-based innovation group “The Innovation Scout”, as well as a Partner in real estate private equity firm Denwood Capital.
Previously, Hamzah started Accelereach, an angel-funded developer of health and wellness coaching software, in 2009. The company’s software helped thousands of people around the country lead to healthier and more fulfilled lives. He advised the Rhode Island Health Insurance Exchange on developing new lines of business, growth strategies, and additional sources of revenue. Finally, he has advised United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on legislative policy governing immigration reform, economic development, and funding for small businesses.
Want to get in touch? Email Hamzah at email@example.com.
We are proud to announce that Jennifer Nazareno, Assistant Professor of Public Health & Entrepreneurship, is the recipient of all the 2019-2020 awards listed below. We congratulate Professor Jennifer Nazareno on all of her success!
The Dean’s Excellence Awards recognizes faculty leaders in the School of Public Health who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in teaching, mentoring, and research collaboration that goes above and beyond the usual call of duty. Professor Nazareno was awarded the 2020 Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award and she is the first faculty member to win this award in two consecutive years.
The Hazeltine Mentorship in Entrepreneurship Award recognizes someone who embodies the leadership and commitment to entrepreneurship that Professor Hazeltine has exemplified for so many years at Brown. Professor Nazareno and Professor Don Stanford ‘72 ScM ’77 were recipients of the award this year.
The Primary Care-Population Medicine (PC-PM) Research Mentor Award from the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown (voted by 4th-year PC-PM medical students). The Primary Care-Population Medicine (PC-PM) program is an innovative, dual-degree curriculum that prepares students for a career in medicine while providing comprehensive, longitudinal training in population medicine. Graduates are awarded both an MD degree and a Master of Science in Population Medicine.
Professor Barrett Hazeltine has been mentoring and inspiring Brown University students for decades. In honor of his dedication to student mentoring, and in particular, his mentorship of aspiring entrepreneurs, a group of alumni came together to start the Hazeltine Mentoring in Entrepreneurship Award.
We are excited to announce that Professor Jennifer Nazareno (left) and Professor Don Stanford ‘72 ScM ’77 (right) are this year’s recipients. Professor Nazareno has been affiliated with the Nelson Center since we opened in fall 2016. She currently has a dual appointment with the School of Public Health and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, where she teaches UNIV 1089: Global Dynamics and Critical Perspectives on Immigrant Entrepreneurship in the United States. The students in her class raved about her generous mentoring, dedication to inclusivity and her steadfast commitment to Brown’s entrepreneurial mission. Outside the classroom, you will find her hosting faculty-led discussions and mentoring student entrepreneurs on their ventures, among many other responsibilities.
Professor Don Stanford has been teaching and mentoring students for decades. Barrett Hazeltine was one of the first members of the faculty that Professor Stanford met when he came to Brown in 1968 as a first-year. And I have been friends ever since. Clearly, Professor Hazeltine’s love and passion for mentorship inspired him. Professor Stanford has been teaching computer science for decades and mentoring student entrepreneurs. He has been on the Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) selection committee for 4 years, and always volunteers to mentor student applicants. Many of whom have gone on to win the Brown Venture Prize and raise significant capital. They have both been generous with their time mentoring Brown students and have been instrumental in those students’ success.
Join us on Thursday, April 30 at 4:00 PM for a virtual happy hour to celebrate the recipients of the award, as well as get a chance to say hello to Professor Hazeltine. We invite your to join us and raise a glass from your home to honor the winners. RSVP here. A Zoom link will be sent to you.
Read more about the recipients below.
Professor Jennifer Nazareno is an Assistant Professor of Public Health & Entrepreneurship. She has a dual appointment at the Center and in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences in the School of Public Health. Jennifer’s specialty areas include medical sociology and health; qualitative methodology; women’s migration, labor and entrepreneurship. She received her PhD from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in 2015 and was an AHRQ and Presidential Diversity Post Doctoral Fellow at Brown. Her dissertation won the UCSF Anselm Strauss Award for Most Distinguished Qualitative Dissertation and was the first study to examine the lived experiences of immigrant Filipino women who emerged as owners of health and long-term service-related businesses.
Jennifer is currently completing her book manuscript, Hidden Health Care: Immigrant Filipina Nurses Building Businesses in the Shadows of the U.S. Long-Term Care Industry. It’s the first book to examine the emergence of immigrant Filipino women entrepreneurs in the United States starting as early as the 1970’s.
Jennifer organized the Center’s first one-day conference, “Entrepreneurship at the Intersection of Diversity and Inequality.” Her vision for the conference engaged the intersectionality of race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, differently-abled bodies, and immigrant status, and how these different social statuses shaped the pursuit of entrepreneurship. Jennifer’s peer-reviewed publications can be found in the International Journal of Health Services, Social Science & Medicine, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Medical Care, and the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research.
– PHP 1680U Intersectionality and Health Inequities
– UNIV 1089 Global Dynamics and Critical Perspectives on Immigrant Entrepreneurship in the United States
Professor Don Stanford ‘72 ScM ’77 is a founding member of GTECH and began working for GTECH’s founders in 1979 as Manager of Software Development. Over 30 years, he has held every technical leadership position, including Vice President of Advanced Development and Chief Technology Officer. Don guided the growth of GTECH’s technology organization from a software staff of four in 1979 to its current worldwide deployment of over 1000 technology professionals. From 1986 until 1989 Don served on the GTECH Corporation Board. Under Don’s leadership GTECH advanced the state of the art in both transaction processing and wireless communications which enabled it to dominate its industry worldwide and install systems on 6 continents. Don earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations in 1972 and a Master’s in Computer Science/Applied Mathematics in 1977 from Brown. Don serves on several boards including Times Squared Academy Charter School, Spectra Systems and the Business Innovation Factory. He is also a member of the R.I. Science and Technology Advisory Council.
In 2001 Don was appointed Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brown and has been teaching undergraduates since 2002. He is also an Adjunct in the School of Engineering and and is an instructor in the Program in Innovation, Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME). He serves on the Brown advisory councils to the President and the School of Engineering.
In 1999 Don received the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Professional Achievement. In 1999 he also received the Honorable Thurgood Marshall award for community service from the NAACP. In 2002 he received the Brown Graduate School’s Distinguished Graduate award and the R.I. Professional Engineer’s award for Community Service. Don and his wife Jane live in Pawtucket, R.I. and St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.