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.
During Fall 2018, Rhymes with Reason was featured with Bloomberg’s Social Media Content Outlet “Tic-Toc.” The feature visits Rhymes with Reason CEO and founder, Austin Martin ‘17 at a school where the program is in use—Hackensack High School in New Jersey. Watch the video here.
Rhymes is presently working on adding more extensive (and current) content for Fall 2019, including brand new vocabulary enrichment exercises, teacher instructional materials and more with the help of their team of School of Education Harvard Graduates.
Rhymes is also slated for use in new cities for the 2019 school year, and are working on International expansion. Hip-Hop and American pop music is a firmly established global phenomenon, and it is growing every day. What better way to participate in this growth than to allow it to be used as a mechanism for learning! Learn more here.
Thank you to everyone who attended the 2nd annual Brown Venture Prize pitch night! It was completely sold out with 250+ in attendance, and many alumni and friends of the center watched remotely from around the world. Congratulations to the 8 finalists who pitched their ideas to 7 alumni judges. The ventures ranged from a mobile technology to fight addiction, to an app that provides on-demand in-home care for the elderly and disabled. If you missed the event, we will soon share a link to the recording on our YouTube channel.
Formally, 1st Prize: $25,000 winner
Left to right: Benjamin Murphy ‘19, Diane Mutako ‘20, Amelie Vavrovsky ’18, and Noah Picard ‘18, Sc.M ‘19.
Formally empowers applicants and attorneys by making immigration and legal forms easy.
goTeff, 2nd Prize: $15,000 winner
From left to right: Abenezer Simon Mechale ‘21 (UPenn) and Saron Simon Mechale ‘19.
goTeff is a mission-driven nutrition brand using teff grain
—a superfood from Ethiopia, with a vision to provide superior nutrition to
US consumers while empowering Ethiopian small-holder farmer
EmboNet, 3rd Prize: $10,000 winner
From left to right: Berke Buyukkucak Sc.B. ’18, M.Sc., ’19, Emily Holtzman ‘18 (RISD), Gian Christian Ignacio ’18, M.D. ‘22, and Celina Hsieh ‘18, M.D. ‘22.
EmboNet is developing a double-layered, pocketed mesh designed to securely capture and remove embolic debris from blood, reducing stroke risk and cerebral injury associated with cardiac bypass surgeries.
Thank you to our alumni judges!
The Brown Venture Prize is possible thanks to the co-founders of Casper, Neil Parikh ’11 and Luke Sherwin ’12. Because of their generous gift, we can continue supporting and empowering students to create solutions with impact and make their ventures a reality.
Our alumni judges had the difficult task of first selecting the top 8 ventures to pitch on March 6, and then selecting the top 3 ventures to win $50k in prize money. Judges present last night included:
Rufus Griscom ’91, CEO and co-founder, The Next Big Idea Club
Liz Hamburg ’86, founder, Upstart Ventures
Rajiv Kumar ’05 MD ’09, President and Chief Medical Officer, Virgin Pulse
Luke Sherwin ’12, co-founder of Casper
Laura Thompson ’09, Advisor, Project Wayfinder
Adam Vitarello ’05, President and co-founder of Optoro
Jayna Zweiman ’01, Activist, Artist, and co-founder, Pussy Hat Project
Ben Chesler ’15, Chief Innovation Officer of Imperfect Produce and Heidi Messer ’92, co-founder of Collective[i] were unable to attend the night of, but were instrumental in the selection of the top 8 and mentoring these students.
Mollie West Duffy has co-authored No Hard Feelings, which will be released on February 5. The book is a visual exploration of how to embrace emotion at work and become more authentic and fulfilled while staying professional.
When it comes to emotions at work, there’s rarely a happy medium. In some offices, your boss might send snaps of her weekend getaway in Vegas, or your coworker might send twenty texts about how Susan ate his clearly labeled lunch…again. Other offices are buttoned-up emotional deserts, where crying is only allowed in the bathroom and you suspect your coworkers might be robots. Either extreme hurts employee health and productivity.
Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy take a charming and deeply researched look at how emotions affect our professional lives and how we can navigate emotions at work. The modern workplace can be an emotional minefield (Do I shake my boss’s hand or give her a hug? Did I forget to mute my phone on the conference call?) filled with unwritten rules. As our jobs become more collaborative, complex, and stressful, effectively embracing emotion is more important than ever.
The book combines practical advice and scientific research to give you the tools you need. A sample:
* Forget “unemotional” decisions; there are none. In fact, rational decisions require you to acknowledge and examine your emotions. For instance, fear often indicates anticipated future regret.
* Real, valuable feedback is not going to feel like a gift. Realize that negative feedback often means the criticizer cares about helping you improve and is willing to bear the awkwardness of a difficult conversation.
* Stop letting someone else’s bad mood ruin your day. Emotions are viral– we catch the feelings of those around us. If you’re stuck next to a constant complainer, mentally remove yourself from the situation.
* Learn to communicate and interpret digital messages. That “totally normal” email you sent may be seen as hostile because you didn’t explicitly state your positive emotions (e.g., “I love what you did here!”).
Thanks to Fosslien’s sharply funny two-color illustrations, No Hard Feelings is a romp through behavioral economics, psychology, and organizational design.
From breaking ground on our new home on Thayer Street, to the launch of new programs, 2018 was a big year for the Nelson Center and entrepreneurship at Brown. We took some time to reflect on the top ten highlights of 2018. Enjoy!
Happy New Year!
-Nelson Center Team
Top 10 Highlights
1. Due to a generous donation from the co-founders of Casper, Luke Sherwin ‘12 and Neil Parikh ‘11, we started the Brown Venture Prize. Three ventures took home $50k in total prizes: Trang Duong ‘18 from Penta; Jack Roswell ‘18, Julian Vallyeason ‘18, and Alex Zhuk ‘18 from Cloud Agronomics; and Michelle Petersen ‘18 from Textup.In case you missed it, watch the evening of pitches.
2. We broke ground on our new center building. Watch the live progress!
3. In conjunction with the Slater Fund, we awarded $50k to our first ever Brown Venture Founder to Michelle Petersen ‘18, co-founder of Textup.
4. Hosted our inaugural Entrepreneur in Residence, Jessica Kim ‘00, co-founder of Ianacare. She also was the keynote at this year’s Startup@Brown Conference, hosted by our student club, EP.
5. Founder Fridays made a splash this year! Among others, we hosted Michael Slaby ‘01; Chuck Davis ‘83; and co-founders of Dogfish Head, Mariah Calagione ’93 and Sam Calagione. We even partnered with the Watson Institute for a podcast with Slaby.
6. Assistant Professor Jennifer Nazzareno joins the Nelson Center team and the School of Public Health for a dual appointment, offering new classes for students. She also leads the Nelson Center’s Entrepreneurship Research Seminars.
7. Launched the first ever International Synapse in Barcelona over spring break. Students had so much fun, we’re going to Barcelona again in 2019 and added a new trip to London. We also have other international programs, where students can get internships in Israel, Sweden, and Germany.
8. Brown University student ventures continue to thrive in 2018. Join us in cheering on Textup (RI Biz Plan Competition Winner); Cloud Agronomics(Collegiate Inventors Competition and Impact Challenge); ReliaBra (Get Started RI Pitch Competition); Formally (EMRG) and goTeff (Hult Prize). Also, be on the lookout for the winners of the RI Elevator pitch competition.
9. Welcomed 14 ventures into the 2018 Breakthrough Lab Accelerator. These ventures tackled everything from low-cost prosthetics, to immigration form accessibility, to supermarket inventory optimization. Watch the pitches here.
10. Students enrolled in new entrepreneurship courses! Howard Anderson’s course ENGN 1931Q: Entrepreneurial Management in Adversity and Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan’s course, ENGN 1931N: Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems for Economic Inclusion. ENGN 1931N was such a success that the Venture Capital Inclusion Lab spun out of the course. Dr. Ozkazanc-Pan received funding from the Kauffman Foundation and the lab will continue into spring 2019.