One panel of Bear’s Lair judges. Pictured L to R: Arnell Milhouse, Aneesha Mehta ’14, Bob Place ’75, Marcia Hooper ’77
Breakthrough Lab, the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship’s eight-week accelerator for student ventures, concluded July 26 with Bear’s Lair, a pitch event similar to Shark Tank. Fourteen ventures presented to a revolving panel of four judges, receiving critical feedback and an “in or out” vote.
The B-Lab cohort of summer 2019 includes a total of thirty students and graduates from Brown and RISD, as well as institutions like UPenn and MIT. Academic disciplines span the breadth of the University’s offerings, and the ventures’ sector spaces display a similar diversity, running the gamut from food and beverage to surgical devices to mental health awareness. (Contact information for our students can be found here.)
Their eight weeks of preparation leading up to Bear’s Lair comprised workshops and presentations from industry professionals on topics like venture financing, consumer marketing, early-stage team building, and customer acquisition; office hours with Nelson Center staff and guest advisors; ample time for working on their ventures in dedicated workspaces in our new building; and weekly sessions on crafting and delivering the elevator pitch.
“Bear’s Lair was a test of everything we had learned up to that point,” commented Quentin Altemose MS’20, co-founder of Quark Labs. “It taught us that while we have made substantial progress, there is always something to learn.” Karina Bao ’22, co-founder of Lila, echoed this sentiment: “It really felt like the culmination of our whole summers, where we could apply what we learned about public speaking, market sizing, patents, teams, fundraising, and marketing to summarize our progress at B-Lab.”
Altemose and Khobi Williamson MS’20 pitch Quark Labs, a venture aiming to produce lab-grown, sustainable leather.
Victoria Yin ’22 and Bao pitch Lila, a superfood brand aiming to popularize Goji berries in food and beverage.
The first panel of judges included Charlie Kroll ’01, co-founder and president of Ellevest; Karina Wood, executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at the Community College of Rhode Island; Thorne Sparkman, managing director of the Slater Technology Fund; and Paulash Mohsen ’95, chief business officer at Yumanity Therapeutics.
The second panel included Bob Place ’75, managing director of the Clean Energy Venture Group; Marcia Hooper ’77, senior advisor at Bowside Capital; Aneesha Mehta ’14, principal at Bain Capital; and Arnell Milhouse, co-founder and CEO of CareerDevs Computer Science Academy and one of the Nelson Center’s incoming Entrepreneurs in Residence.
During feedback rounds, the judges offered help in forming influential connections and searching for investors, as well as delivered some high praise for the ventures’ early-stage growth. “The most important aspect of any startup is the team,” commented Milhouse, “and the primordial mix of interdisciplinary academic thought-leaders within the B-Lab teams is powerful.”
Julia Lemle, RISD MA’19 pitches Grand, a venture that creates elegant products for the elderly. One judge deemed her mission and eye for user design “Jobsian.”
“Presenting in front of the Bears was both fulfilling because it validated all the hard work we had been putting into [our venture] the last two months and informative because of the wonderful feedback and advice we were able to receive in that short 10-minute window,” said Megan Molina, RISD ’19, co-founder of BASA. “It was a positive experience and one I am excited to repeat at the showcase in September!”
The cohort will return to the Nelson Center on September 25 for the B-Lab Showcase event open to the public.
Fernanda Bolaños, PhD’19.5 and Molina pitch BASA, a venture that designs STEAM curricula for underprivileged students.
ARMS: Bella Roberts ’20 (Not pictured: Beth Pollard ’21)
EmboNet: Gian Ignacio ’18 MD ’22 (Not pictured: Emily Holtzman, RISD ’18)
Intus Care: Samuel Prado ’21 and Robbie Felton ’21 (Not pictured: Teo Tsivranidis ’20)
La Pâte: Lucas Fried ’21 (Not pictured: Ian Chiquier ’21)
Mobile-Med Data Solutions: Sai Kaushik Yeturu ’21 (Not pictured: Mayank Mishra, University of Pennsylvania ’21)
Omena: Francesca Raoelison ’22
Pillar: Oscar Newman ’21, John Bitar ’21, Ben Gershuny 21
Primitive Labs: Noa Machover ’19.5 and Viirj Kan MA’17
ResusciTech: Abigail Kohler ’20 and Greg Fine ’20
SelectEd: Amy Wang MA’19 (Not pictured: Jessica Wang ’22 and Santiago Ibañez, MIT Sloan ’13)
On June 26, 2019, Prof. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, chaired by Senator Marco Rubio. The hearing focused on the reauthorization of the Small Business Act, which includes the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, where Prof. Ozkazanc-Pan contributed her expertise on women and minority investors and entrepreneurs. Her testimony focused on the ways the program can be restructured to provide on-ramps for more women and minority fund managers, as well as ways that such funds can support women- and minority-led ventures. Watch a recording of her testimony (See her present at 02:12). You can also read more about the hearing here.
In addition to this accomplishment, Prof. Ozkazanc-Pan and her colleague Prof. Susan Clark Muntean of the University of North Carolina, Asheville have recently signed a book contract with Cambridge University Press. Their new book will focus on entrepreneurial ecosystems through a gender perspective and examine the socio-cultural, organizational, and institutional structures that can potentially limit opportunities for women-led businesses. The book will provide policy makers ideas for building ecosystems that can foster inclusive economic development at a time when income inequality is on the rise in the United States. It will be available in 2020 but her recent book, Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work: Transmigrants, Hybrids and Cosmopolitans will be available September of this year from Bristol University Press.
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.
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.
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.
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.