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 email@example.com.
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.
The Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship received the award for Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center on Sept. 28, 2019, at the annual conference for The Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.
The Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers is a “global conference gathering the world’s leading minds in entrepreneurship,” its membership comprising over 225 university-based entrepreneurship centers. This year’s GCEC conference was hosted by the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship from Sept. 26-28 in Stockholm, Sweden. Over 300 representatives attended from institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to Associate Director of the Nelson Center Jonas Clark, who represented the Center at this year’s conference.
GCEC recognizes top university programs in entrepreneurship across eight categories, including Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center, which honors an entrepreneurship center that has been active for under five years. Centers self-nominate during a thorough application process and go through a selection committee of past winners. The Nelson Center was chosen for the award based on outstanding performance of selection criteria, including “campus and community engagement, [a] program portfolio, and metrics to date.”
Clark accepted the award on behalf of the Nelson Center in Stockholm on the last day of the conference. “The scale and scope of entrepreneurship education being taught around the world was much larger and more significant than I anticipated,” commented Clark. “To be a part of that group and to be specifically recognized for all of our hard work during the Nelson Center’s first three years was particularly gratifying. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but I came back even more convinced that we have something special here at Brown, and I’m more energized than ever to take our efforts to the next level.”
We are thrilled to announce that Laura Thompson ‘09 and Arnell Milhouse will be joining the Nelson Center as Entrepreneurs in Residence for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year. Both Laura and Arnell have been long-standing supporters of the Nelson Center, helping empower the next generation of entrepreneurs. As EIRs they will now have the ability to work with aspiring entrepreneurs in an even more robust way, helping them launch ideas and navigate the startup ecosystem on campus. Continue reading to learn more about next year’s EIRs.
From Runa Tea to Google X
Laura is certainly no stranger to entrepreneurship at Brown. Her own journey began in Danny Warshay’s class ENGN 1010: The Entrepreneurial Process, where she worked on the original business plan for Runa Tea. She then went on to Google where she started as an Associate Product Marketing Manager and rose through the ranks to become a Product Manager for the Google X “moonshot factory”. She worked on secret, unreleased Google X products that leveraged breakthrough technology aimed at changing the lives of at least 1 billion people over the next 10 years. She helped launch projects including the smart contact lens and delivery drones. In addition to her work at Google X she delivered 100+ speeches, including a talk featuring Marc Andreessen and Sheryl Sandberg. You can learn more about Laura’s career through her Google X talk here and a feature of her in Forbes and her blog in Medium. Laura is now an advisor at Project Wayfinder and is pursuing her own entrepreneurial endeavors.
‘Silicon Rhode’ and a passion for Computer Science
Arnell is a Providence local and graduate of Johnson and Wales University, where he discovered a passion for computer science. In 2015, he brought together his love of education and innovation by founding IntraCity Geeks, a K-12 STEM education non-profit organization. He is also CEO and co-founder of CareerDevs Computer Science University, which teaches adolescents and adults computer science and entrepreneurship skills, which enables them to find 21st-century skills-based employment. Over the past few years many of his students have also collaborated with teams here at the Nelson Center. Arnell was a 2017 TEDx Speaker, gave a talk at Google, received a 2018 American Innovation Award, co-founded HackRI, and coined the term ‘Silicon Rhode’.
Over the course of the semester, Laura and Arnell will be working with aspiring entrepreneurs and offering mentorship and support. We couldn’t be more excited to have them as part of the Nelson Center team – stay tuned for more information about their availability and office hours in the fall.
Thank you to Jessica Kim ‘00, our inaugural Entrepreneur in Residence
On behalf of the Nelson Center and the entrepreneurial community at Brown we are so grateful for the time and energy Jessica has put forth this past year as our inaugural Entrepreneur in Residence. Jessica has opened the 2018 B-Lab cohort with an inspiring workshop and lecture, keynoted the 2018 Startup@Brown conference (along with Arnell!) and held office hours throughout the year with dozens of students. She was a judge for the first ever Brown Venture Prize pitch competition and the 2018 WE@Brown Incubator. This past spring her efforts were recognized when she received the 2019 Barrett Hazeltine Mentoring in Entrepreneurship Award along with Kris Brown ‘89.
Throughout the year, students have gushed over her ability to empower them to take the path less traveled and to turn their ideas into a reality. Her kindness and contagious enthusiasm has been a tremendous resource to the entrepreneurial community and we are so grateful to work with an entrepreneur like Jessica. In fact, don’t just take it from us – this is what one of our students, who is a co-leader of the Brown Hack Health conference and participated in our highly competitive International Synapse trip to London, had to say about Jessica:
While I was sitting in the audience at Startup@Brown, I realized that I was going about the process of entrepreneurship a bit backwards. While I listened to Jessica Kim share stories about her ventures in baking, parenting, and healthcare, I realized how much emphasis she placed on helping people solve specific problems, which meant that the backstory had to come first, and the idea had to follow.
Not only did she help me grasp the idea of bottom-up research for the first time, she also showed me the importance of asking questions and helped me realize how many more resources are out there if I am brave enough to ask and persistent enough to learn. – Renny Ma ‘20
Although Jessica is stepping down as the inaugural EIR and passing the baton to Laura and Arnell, we promise we will continue to bring Jessica back to campus. Stay tuned for more updates about Jessica and her latest startup, Ianacare.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.