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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. 

Boston Globe Article Features YEP! Young Entrepreneurs of Providence

Boston Globe Article Features YEP! Young Entrepreneurs of Providence

Ivy League, local high school students, look to close economic income gaps through entrepreneurship | A free incubator program for students in college towns, the Young Entrepreneurs Program has worked with 12 different Providence public schools, By Alexa Gagosz Globe Staff

Updated October 24, 2022, 6:00 a.m.

Since about 1980, the divergence of income between the wealthiest and the rest of society has widened for four straight decades, according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Income inequality in Ivy League university host cities is particularly stark, including in Providence, where 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line — almost double the national average of 12.8 percent.

Closing the income inequality gap is why three Brown University students — Audrey Shapiro, Lucia Winton, and Leah Lam — founded the Young Entrepreneurs Program in 2019. The program, also known as YEP, is a free semester-long entrepreneurship program for local high school students in college towns, and is led and facilitated by university students.

In three years, the program has worked with K-12 schools across Rhode Island, including more than 150 students from 12 different Providence public schools. Branches of YEP also launched in New Haven, Connecticut and Berkley, California in 2021. Alums of the program have gone on to launch affordable K-12 tutoring startups and freelance cosmetics businesses.

Each of the co-founders graduated last spring, but Will Yang, a Brown applied math and computer science senior from New Jersey, has taken over as program director. He is graduating in December.

Q: How does the YEP program work?

Yang: It’s a seven-to-eight week program that runs every fall and spring. We have weekly topics that include design thinking, bottom-up research, prototyping, business models, fundraising, and pitching. The program ends with a “pitch night,” where groups of [high school] students select a community issue and form a basis for a venture. Then they pitch it to a panel of judges, which are made up of industry experts and Brown faculty.

How does the program begin?

Entrepreneurship is a structured process for solving problems. The first two sessions are all about identifying problems and these high school students identify problems that they see in their personal lives, in their communities, and around the world.

What are the program’s goals?

One of our central goals for the program is to help students build confidence to pursue studying business, to work as an entrepreneur, or at a startup. But we also want them to become confident in themselves, their ideas, and as leaders. For some students, Brown might feel distanced even though the campus is physically close to where they may live. We want to create a bridge at YEP so local students can come to campus and believe it’s their space, too.

Where are these students from?

We have about 25 local high school students — from freshmen to seniors — involved in the program this year. They are from schools like The Met, Classical High [in Providence], Blackstone Academy Charter, Paul Cuffee, East Greenwich High School, Cumberland High School, La Salle, Village Green Virtual Charter, and Davies Career and Technical High School.

Many of those schools are private or charter schools. Or in Classical’s case, the best-performing public high school in Providence Public Schools. How is YEP trying to reach lower-performing high schools?

We do have a school engagement team that is evolving and trying really hard to reach those schools. We’re hosting information sessions where we are reaching out to school counselors and teachers and have student ambassadors that try to reach their own networks. But we really want a diverse cohort and to reach the people that would benefit the most from it. But there are a lot of restraints. Those schools that have less resources have teachers and counselors who are overwhelmed and don’t have the time to talk about this program. There’s also tremendous [high school] students out there that are working multiple jobs and we are trying harder to reach out to them to work for their schedule.

What other challenges does the program face?

YEP could very much use financial help for our expansion and sustainability. Our co-founder Audrey has been looking at funding for a full-time position to help expand YEP in schools all across the country, so financial support would go a long way in achieving our long-term mission. It’d also be really helpful for us in supporting our students after the program. We are trying to find a way for transportation to not be a problem or a barrier in them participating in the program.

What kind of experience do you bring to YEP in order to mentor high school students?

Both of my parents are immigrants. My mom is from Taiwan and is a teacher and my dad, who grew up in Brazil, is an entrepreneur, and always encouraged me to be one too. I took a class about the entrepreneurship process at Brown and founded a startup [called Belong Here] that connects immigrants [who were in the US for less than seven years] to a first or second-generation resident who serves as a mentor. I participated in Brown’s B-Lab accelerator program and was a social innovation fellow [which was sponsored by the Social Enterprise Greenhouse] where I was able to get training, mentorship, and funding to work at a local nonprofit and launch my own startup.

What’s next for you after graduation?

I have an interview for Ventures for America in Detroit. I want to continue working with startups, but I’m also considering economy research positions.

The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at

Accessibility, health equity and community take center state in student B-Lab ventures

Accessibility, health equity and community take center state in student B-Lab ventures

Accessibility, health equity and community take center stage in student B-Lab ventures
News from Brown,Maggie Spear, September 30, 2022

The work of the 2022 cohort of the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship’s student venture accelerator culminated in presentations and a community celebration, topped off with the surprise announcement of the Jason Harry B-Lab Leadership Award.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Dozens of student entrepreneurs celebrated the fruits of an intensive eight-week Brown summer program in entrepreneurial innovation during a showcase and closing ceremony for the 2022 Breakthrough Lab on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Sayles Hall.

The B-Lab students, who worked in small groups on 12 ventures ranging from connecting opioid use disorder patients with reliable transportation for treatments, to creating artificial intelligence-driven software to aid law firms with client intake, were welcomed to the showcase by Jason Harry, B-Lab director and a Brown professor of the practice in engineering, technology and entrepreneurship.

“Because we operate in an institution of higher learning, of course we want the ventures to make progress and be successful as businesses, but we also hold dear the progress of the individuals,” Harry said as he welcomed students and attendees. “We are of course working on the ventures, but we are also working on the professional development of the students.”

B-Lab is a student venture accelerator run by Brown’s Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship. Each summer, a cohort of aspiring student entrepreneurs spends eight weeks learning from mentors and educators, attending workshops and collaborating with peer venture founders, all within a co-working space at the center. Eligible participants receive a $4,000 scholarly award, which makes the experience more focused and accessible, Harry said.

Rather than a pitch competition in which the students compete for funding — like the Brown Venture Prize — the showcase is an opportunity to culminate the eight-week experience and detail the development of their ventures in front of an enthusiastic audience of community members, potential investors, students, faculty, staff and Nelson Center entrepreneurs-in-residence.

Though each venture is unique, many were focused on the use of cutting-edge AI technology to advance accessibility, equity and community.

RideRx, for example, aims to solve the persistent issue of reliable transportation for patients trying to access treatment for opioid use disorder. Faster and more reliable than public transportation and more affordable than ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, RideRx proposes a ride-share service for patients in which the drivers are peer recovery specialists.

“(The drivers) are individuals that know the struggle of addiction,” said co-founder Otto Olafsson, a Brown senior concentrating in public health. “They also understand that treatment options exist and that recovery is possible. We hope that they will serve as peers and mentors for the patients that choose to ride with us.”

Many ventures were focused on health and medicine, from medication adherence startup CoAd — a winner of this year’s Brown Venture Prize — to automated long-term cardiac monitoring tech Kardio Status, and FootStep, which aims to develop a discreet way to ease freezing of gait — a common and serious symptom of Parkinson’s disease that makes walking difficult.

Accessibility is the crux of Hos-fit-all (like “hospital”), an innovative design of a moveable modular negative pressure isolation room that serves as a timely response to the challenges of health care infrastructure. With a simple change of room settings, Hos-fit-all can be converted to food banks to address food insecurity, classrooms to address educational hardships resulting from remote learning, libraries to bridge the digital divide, and temporary housing units as a response to homelessness.

The groups Codified Health and Bonafide developed AI software, respectively, to streamline administrative medical-coding work for private-practice physicians and to facilitate smooth client intake processes for law firms. Sift, a browser extension designed to promote sustainability through secondhand shopping, automatically scans images and keywords on a webpage to find the most similar secondhand alternatives available for sale online.

In other ventures, Cinemates is a platform dedicated to community-based media recommendations. As history of art and architecture concentrator Tatiana Mandis noted in her presentation, the team’s market research determined that only 28% of users trust movie or TV recommendations from an algorithm, while 93% trust recommendations from their friends and family.

All of the ventures highlighted the importance of building and maintaining community.

Strictly Facts aims to empower those with Caribbean heritage through culturally relevant educational products that prioritize underrepresented voices and make learning about Caribbean history and culture engaging. Rocky’s Root Care, originally established as a sensitive-skin cosmetics brand, pivoted to focus on community gatherings designed to deepen meaningful connections to nature and share holistic healing practices. And technology company XTP aims to curate shared spaces for electoral participation, driving social experiences through art and design with the goal of reducing political polarization and increasing civic engagement.

Celebrating the impact of B-Lab and Jason Harry
Nelson Center Executive Director Danny Warshay took the stage once the pitches ended, thanking everyone for their work and speaking about Harry’s impact on the program as he marks his seventh and final year as director of B-Lab.

“It’s so hard to imagine B-Lab without him,” Warshay said. “I looked back at some of the data associated with B-Lab, and it’s really quite astounding.”

During Harry’s tenure, 233 students have gone through the program, representing 114 ventures, 30 of which are still active. Those ventures are now employing scores of people worldwide and generating tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, Warshay said. Seven B-Lab alumni have been named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30 List” of early-career business and industry figures, and two were included in Forbes’ “Next 1000” list of innovative entrepreneurs.

“An extraordinary track record over seven years of hard work by Jason,” Warshay said. “… And to make sure we don’t forget Jason, we will award the Jason Harry B-Lab Leadership Award to a deserving student every year that B-Lab continues to operate from here on out.”

Harry appeared utterly surprised by the announcement, as the crowd extended a raucous standing ovation.

Jason Harry Leadership Award bobblehead
The Jason Harry B-Lab Leadership Award itself is a bobblehead likeness of Harry.In establishing the award, the center acknowledged Harry’s impact and celebrated a student who embodies his bright, harmonious leadership style: Brown junior Estela Westphalen.
“Every once in a while, we cross paths with a person who can quietly anticipate what needs to be done, whose mere presence brings calm to the storm that sometimes erupts working with groups of people,” said Nelson Center Assistant Director Sheila Haggerty, who presented the award to Westphalen.

Westphalen currently serves as B-Lab’s programs and events assistant. In addition to always showing up, being consistently prepared and remaining undaunted by technical challenges, Westphalen “was like the gentle breeze that showed up right when all our brows were needing to be cooled,” Haggerty said.

Keeping in Nelson Center tradition, the award itself is a bobblehead figurine of Harry — a nod to the center’s Barrett Hazeltine Prize in Entrepreneurial Mentorship, a bobblehead of the eponymous professor emeritus of engineering known for his dedication to student mentorship, and in particular, for his mentorship of aspiring entrepreneurs.

In closing remarks, Harry said he couldn’t think of a better recipient of the prize, then assured the audience that although he’s stepping down as the program’s director, he’s not going anywhere.

“I will continue to be here at Brown University, doing the teaching thing in the School of Engineering, and I will still be heavily involved in the Nelson Center. The big difference,” he said, pausing to take in the scene, “is that I might just have a little bit more time in the summer.”

A Celebratory Return: 2022 Brown Venture Prize Pitch Night

A Celebratory Return: 2022 Brown Venture Prize Pitch Night

After two years online, the fifth annual Brown Venture Prize Pitch Night returned in full celebration for an in-person event held in Alumnae Hall. The Brown Venture Prize, designed to empower the most advanced entrepreneurial ventures by Brown students, received overwhelming support this year with a live audience of 250+ people that was standing room only. An electric atmosphere filled the room as each venture took the stage to pitch ventures focused on solving some of the world’s most difficult problems.

Danny Warshay ‘87, Executive Director of the Nelson Center, served as the official MC for the night, giving a warm welcome to the crowd before kicking off the event. The top seven ventures pitching this year were: aloud, AtomICs, Cinemates, COmmunity ADherence (COAD), Dream!N,, and Pointz Mobility, Inc. After each pitch, the founders answered questions from a lineup of impressive judges, which included Ben Chesler ‘15, Mary Pan ‘99, Sadie Kurzban ‘12, Melanie Whelan ‘99, Michael Song ‘89, Jessica Murphy ‘00, Richard Katzman ‘78, and Lisa Gelobter ‘91.

The companies the judges have built or led include tEQuitable, SoulCycle, TrueFit, Imperfect Foods, and 305 Fitness. They are creators, innovators, and investors from Certeris Capital, Madison Park Ventures, and Rustic Canyon Partners. For some, the event also served as a reunion as Danny pointed out that several of the judges, specifically Ben and Sadie, had once been students in his class ENGN 1010, The Entrepreneurial Process. Sadie wrote her business plan in Danny’s class and launched 305 Fitness on campus. Sadie then scaled 305 Fitness to major cities all over the country and pivoted during the pandemic to bring her classes virtually into people’s homes. Likewise, Ben took Danny’s course and developed Imperfect Foods,  scaling the business nationwide, raising over $100mm, and saving 139 million pounds of food from going to waste.

Every venture was met with a roar of applause from the audience after giving a clear, energetic, and engaging four-minute pitch for their idea. The judges had a difficult time deciding the top three winners. In the end, AtomICs, founded by Selahaddin Gumus PhD ’24, Dana Biechele-Speziale PhD ’24, Brenda Rubenstein, and Jacob Rosenstein, won 1st Place with $25,000; Dream!n, founded by Yuhan Zhang ’24, Yifei Wang ’23, Hanxuan Zhang, and Chufan Wu, won 2nd Place with $15,000; and COAD, founded by Bevan Bsharah ’22, Rose Engler ’22, Loan Anh Tran ’22, Sunny Li ’23, and Nicholas Simone ’21 took 3rd Place with $10,000.

Cinemates, founded by Tatiana Mandis ’23, won the Fan Favorite award of the night, determined by a vote from the audience. When considering what being a part of the top seven teams meant to her, Tatiana said “I was so honored that Cinemates was one of the top seven ventures. The Brown Venture Prize Pitch Competition gave Cinemates invaluable exposure to Brown Alums and local founders and investors. My pitch gave me the opportunity to garner the attention of mentors who continue to provide valuable insight and guidance.” Rose Engler ’22, who presented for COAD, reflected on the experience stating that she was “super proud of (her) team and everything (they had) accomplished.” Yifei Wang ’23, who presented for Dream!n, said “I’m so excited (to win the prize),” reflecting on how his team practiced “hundreds of times” for their pitch.

Overall, the night was a thrilling return of a beloved celebration among the Brown entrepreneurship community. Once the winners were announced, everyone gathered in the back of the room eager to reconnect after such a long period of mainly seeing one another virtually. One audience member Chinazo Onyema admitted that she originally “planned to stay for about 30 minutes or so because I had an assignment due but the show was too good to leave even a second early. I thought it was phenomenally executed and found all the pitches inspiring.” Chinazo further reflected on the event saying “Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed watching my ex-classmates on the podium because I witnessed their growth from our online entrepreneurship class to the venture prize show. I can’t wait to attend next year’s venture prize and possibly be on the podium one day!”

It was a celebratory evening that once again revealed the bright future of entrepreneurship at Brown, fueled by the students’ innovation and the support of alums, faculty, staff, and friends. We look forward to next year as another chance to celebrate this growing entrepreneurship community at Brown and the work we are all doing to create more solutions with impact.

Recognition of the Nelson Center Staff is also in order. The event could not have been possible without the impressive organizational and planning skills of Liz Malone, Tori Gilbert, and Sheila Haggerty. Jonas Clark spent hours coaching students to develop the incredible pitches for each venture. Danny Warshay led the event with ease and served as an unwavering source of support for the Nelson Center team. Often the technological aspects of the event go unnoticed, but we could not have hosted such a successful event without the expertise of New England Showtime Productions Inc., Brown University Media Services team under the leadership of Giovanna Gastaldi, and the Office of Communications’ Events Management team.

Nelson Center’s 2021 Year in Review

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.

Under the leadership of Michael Wang ‘22 and Isabella (Isa) Espinosa ‘22, the Brown Entrepreneurship Program (EP), welcomed 80+ students to the Nelson Center’s student-led club, hosted the fourth annual WE@Brown Conference and Pitch Competition, and launched the first-ever virtual EP Synapse trips to East Asia and East Africa to learn more about their entrepreneurial ecosystems.




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!

In collaboration with the Center for Race and Ethnicity (CSREA), we launched Venture Grants for Innovative Solutions: Addressing Anti-Black and Systemic Racism to bring together students from across the University to create solutions that address anti-Black and systemic racism. Together, we have funded teams working on a range of solutions, from giving educators better tools to discuss systemic racism with their students, to building better medical devices that provide more accurate readings across a range of skin tones. Learn more and apply here.

Through both curricular and venture support, we continue to support students who want to use entrepreneurship tools to address the challenge of Climate Change. This year we welcomed Alice Nichols to our instructional team, and she taught a new course Eco-Entrepreneurship, which gave students the opportunity to develop an eco-entrepreneurship idea and put it on the path to becoming a real, viable venture. And of course we continue to support these teams outside of the classroom as well, including those like Cloud Agronomics (2018 BVP Alum), one of the recipients of our dedicated Climate Change Grants. Now, the Boulder, Colorado-based company has raised $6M from SineWave Ventures as the lead investor. We also hosted sustainability focused events such as, How Brown Alumni Are Creating Sustainable Solutions in the Fashion & Retail Industry, and we supported the Echoing Green Social Entrepreneurship Internships in conjunction with BrownConnect.

We were thrilled to welcome new Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) and Peer Entrepreneurs in Residence (PEIRs) to the Nelson Center. Our EIRs are Ben Chesler ’15, Riche Holmes Grant ’99, and Lorine Pendleton ’91. Our new PEIRs included Justin Kim ‘21, Maggie Bachenberg ’22, Ally Zhu ’22, Jack Schaeffer ’22, and Robbie Felton ’22. Learn more about the EIRs here and all the PEIRs here.

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.


In honor of Professor Barrett Hazeltine’s dedication to mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, a group of alumni came together in 2018 to start the Hazeltine Mentoring in Entrepreneurship Award. This year we raised a glass from home to honor the recipients of the Hazeltine Mentoring in Entrepreneurship Award, Hamzah Ansari PRIME ‘09 and Troy Henikoff ‘86.

Fall 2021 Venture Update: Startups Raise Capital, Hit Major Retailers, and much more!

As another interesting year comes to an end, we want to recognize the perseverance of students and alums who continue to identify problems and develop solutions with impact. Although not a comprehensive list, here are a few Nelson Center entrepreneurs who in the past six months have recently reached impressive milestones, including raising capital, launching new products, and garnering recognition from the press.

The diversity of ventures and founders, many of whom are alums of Breakthrough Lab and past Brown Venture Prize winners, featured below reflects how these students have embraced Brown’s emphasis on interdisciplinary study while also applying the structured entrepreneurship process we teach at the Nelson Center. To learn more about how the Nelson Center serves as a resource for students at Brown, we invite you to watch the third video in our Nelson@5 series, with a special appearance from Jonathan M. Nelson ’77, P’07, P’09.

We are so proud of the incredible work done by these students and alums. Continue reading to learn more about these exciting new updates, and keep a lookout as we continue to share stories from the Nelson Center!

– NCE Team

Brown Students & Alums Raise Significant Funding


MediCircle Raises $1.2M in Pre-Seed Round of Funding

MediCircle (2021 BVP First Place Winner), founded by Eliza Sternlicht ’22 and Jack Schaeffer ’22, improves access to healthcare by redistributing unopened and unexpired pharmaceuticals, $5 billion of which is wasted annually. By collecting medications that would otherwise be discarded from long-term care facilities and redistributing them to safety-net hospitals, MediCircle provides free medicine to those who need it. MediCircle raised a $1.2 million pre-seed round, with Brown student-led Van Wickle Ventures as an investor, and will be moving forward with several of the many hospitals interested in partnering with them. To read more about MediCircle, read this feature in the Brown Alumni Magazine


Pointz Raises Pre-Seed Round of Funding

Pointz (2020 B-Lab and 2021 Community Lab Venture), founded by Maggie Bachenberg ’22 and Trisha Ballakur ’22, is a mobile app that helps bicyclists find the safest route to their destination. This “waze for bikes” determines these routes by using road data and crowdsourced route information. Pointz recently raised a pre-seed round of funding in September 2021 and was featured in the Providence Business Journal


Founder of Healthy Roots Dolls Yelitsa Jean-Charles RISD ’16 Raises $1M in Seed Funding

Yelitsa Jean-Charles RISD ’16, founder of Healthy Roots Dolls (​​2015 B-Lab Alum and Former Swearer Center Social Innovation Fellow), raised $1M in seed funding earlier this year and is focused on expanding the company’s brand and product line. Healthy Roots is a toy company that creates dolls and storybooks that empower young girls and better represent the beauty of our diversity. Recently, Healthy Roots Dolls became available in 1,200 Target stores nationwide after selling out online in just a few days in February. Read more in Crunchbase


Founder of Omena Francesca Raoelison ’22 Raises Over $15,000 

Francesca Raoelison ’22, founder of Omena (BVP 2021 finalist and 2019 B-Lab Alum), recently raised over $15,000 from over 110 donors in their first-ever fundraiser. Omena is a non-profit organization committed to increasing awareness of emotional abuse in Madagascar’s educational system by providing tools for students to combat and stand up to abuse. Francesca quickly scaled Omena and currently has 100+ volunteers around the world (13 countries and counting), and its work has been recognized by MTV, supported by the Clinton Foundation, as well as Forbes Under 30. Omena was also featured in The Boston Globe earlier this year. 


Pangea, Founded by Adam Alpert ’17 and John Tambunting ’17, Closes a $2M Seed Round

Pangea (B-Lab 2017 Alums) is a platform that matches companies to students for freelance projects in marketing and graphic design. Pangea, founded by Adam Alpert ’17 and John Tambunting ’17, joined the winter cohort of Y Combinator, which provides seed funding for startups by investing $125K in a large number of companies twice a year. After graduating from Y Combinator earlier this year, Pangea set out to secure $1.5 million and wound up raising more. Read more here


Bolden Therapeutics Receives $500,000 from the National Institute on Aging  

Bolden Therapeutics (2021 Brown Venture Prize Finalist), co-founded by Johnny Page ’24, Justin Fallon, Professor of Neuroscience, and Ashley Webb, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, recently received a $500,000 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. Bolden Therapeutics is a biotechnology startup developing therapeutics to treat central nervous system diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and ischemic stroke. Read here to learn more about Bolden Therapeutics and the work the STTR grant will support.


Brown Students & Alums Meet Notable Milestones


Emma Butler ‘20 Featured in Forbes and Announces Product Launch Date

Intimately (2018 B-Lab Alum and 2020 BVP Second Place Winner), founded by Emma Butler ’20, is an online retailer that sells undergarments and lingerie for women with disabilities. Intimately believes all women deserve to have access to comfortable undergarments that they can easily put on and makes the shopping experience more inclusive for women everywhere. Intimately just announced that February would be the launch date for its first line of intimates. Emma was also recently featured in Forbes for her work with Intimately.


ResusciTech Pitches to Apple CEO Tim Cook and is Featured in Brown Alumni Magazine 

Abigail Kohler ’20 and Greg Fine ’20, co-founders of ResusciTech (2020 BVP Winner and 2019 B-Lab Alum), were recently selected as one of a handful of companies to pitch to Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, during the Silicon Slopes Summit in Salt Lake City. ResusciTech’s app, SMART Certification, offers convenient, smartphone-based CPR training that provides compression practice with real-time feedback. Read more here. To learn more about ResusciTech’s work, read their recent feature in the Brown Alumni Magazine.


1440 Media, Passes 1M Subscriber Milestone and Wins Platinum Award in 2021 MassChallenge Accelerator

Pierre Lipton 20 is the Co-Founder & COO of 1440 Media, a daily email newsletter with an emphasis on facts and data, not clickbait and talking heads. 1440 Media recently passed one million subscribers, making it one of the largest newsletters in the industry. It also won the $50,000 Platinum Award in this year’s MassChallenge accelerator. Read more about 1140 Media here


Co-Founder of Brevitē Brandon Kim RISD ’18 Goes Viral on TikTok 

Brevitē (2017 B-Lab Alum), co-founded by Brandon Kim RISD ’18 with his brothers Dylan Kim and Elliot Kim, is a direct-to-consumer startup that offers quality and functional backpacks that reflect how people live and work today. Now a multi-million dollar brand, Brevitē was the most talked-about backpack on TikTok and has expanded from their initial photography-focused backpacks into everyday backpacks as well. Learn more here.


2021 MassChallenge Cohort Includes Brown Students and Alums

MassChallenge, a global network for innovators, announced the startups invited to participate in this year’s accelerator. Among those chosen were: AsianFeed, founded by Justin Kim ’21 (2021 PEIR, 2020 B-Lab) and Michael Lai ’20; KerlyGirl, founded by Kerlyne Jean-Baptiste ’16; MediCircle, founded by Eliza Sternlicht ’22 and Jack Schaeffer ’22 (both 2021 BVP First Place Winners); Omena, founded by Francesca Raoelison ’22 (2019 B-Lab, 2021 BVP Finalist); Pointz, founded by Maggie Bachenburg ’22 (2020 B-Lab) and Trisha Ballakur ’22; 1440 Media, founded by Pierre Lipton ’20. Read more about MassChallenge and the 2021 U.S. cohort here


RI Business Competition Pitch Contest WinnersAre All Brown Students

The RI Business Competition announced the three winners of its 2021 Elevator Pitch Contest, which awarded a total of $1,000 in cash prizes. First place was Alison Veintimilla, founder of Burbujita Mandhu, which has a curated, patented solution to treat burn wounds. In second place was Jessica Chiu MS ’22, whose company, Regenaxion, is a venture looking to change the way the world thinks about biotechnology. Third place was Faith Keller whose company, Century Tree Therapeutics, aims to commercialize a novel nucleic acid therapy that treats a variety of cancers using a genetically targeted approach. 


Uproot, Co-founded by Kevin Eve ’18, Brings Cartons to Tech Companies and Universities

Kevin Eve ’18, winner of the 2019 Brown Venture Founder award, co-founded Uproot (2018 B-Lab Alum) in 2018 with the goal of making it easier for food services to provide healthy, sustainable plant-based milk. Since then, its oat milk and chocolate pea milk cartons have become available in leading tech companies (Facebook), financial institutions, and colleges around the country (including Brown!). It also has cemented relationships with leading distribution and food service management companies like US Foods, Sysco, and Compass Group. To fund this growth, the company is raising a pre-seed round from angel investors which it plans to complete by the end of the year.

In the News


H2Ok (2019 Brown Venture Prize Alum) Featured in 2021 Forbes 30 under 30. Learn more here.

EmpowerU (2020 B-Lab Alum and 2021 BVP Winner) Featured in News From Brown and Brown Daily Herald. Read the News from Brown article here and the Brown Daily Herald feature here.

Perkies (2018 Brown Venture Prize Finalist and B-Lab 2018 Alum) Featured in Forbes. Read the article here.

Brown Alums and Students Named Rhode Island Inno’s 5 Under 25. Read the article here.

Social Media app Emit featured in Brown Daily Herald. Read more here. (Fall 2021 Community Lab (Co-Lab) Cohort) Featured in Rhode Island Inno. Read the article here.

The Reem Company (2021 B-Lab Alum) Featured in News from Brown Read the News from Brown article here.