The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship (NCE) collaborated early in April 2020 to launch a new pilot program: the Pop–Up Challenge, a creative initiative for Brown students to come together to connect, collaborate and have some fun. As our lives temporarily shift to a virtual world, that doesn’t mean we have to stop making art or innovating on everyday challenges! BAI and NCE aim to provide an outlet for artists and entrepreneurs to continue working together creatively, while we are away from Brown’s campus.
The first Pop–Up Challenge was April 2-3. A prompt was announced on April 2 and students had 24 hours to come up with a submission or proposed solution. The virtual event concluded with a Pop–up Challenge Debrief, moderated by Deb Mills-Scofield ’82, Mentoring Maven with the NCE, on Friday, April 3. Over 50 students expressed interest in joining the challenge. A total of 14 students ended up submitting 6 projects. Continue reading below to learn more about the submissions and visit the Google Slide submission link here to watch videos that show the creative process and strategy behind the student projects.
Woo Nam Song is the artist behind the submission “Mis U”. “Mis U” is an acrylic painting with a base of spray paint in gold, silver, and red. This work features a hand on the left ‘hand’ side with text accompanied on the right.
“Social distancing has been a difficult change in lifestyle for myself. Regardless, through this work, I wanted to convey a sense of normality that of which I can look forward to as well as an optimistic view towards seclusion from society.”
We randomly assigned students to optional groups. Emma Butler, Diana Perkins, Jack Schaeffer, and Jie Zhou submitted VRtual, a basic virtual reality viewer made from a cardboard box supporting both Android and iOS that features VR map where people can “go out together”(e.g. walk on the Main Green or participate in a virtual commencement). Emma and Diana were acquainted with each other but the team collectively had not worked together before!
Grace Winburne submitted her project entitled: “Isolating without a Home”, examining the intersection of coronavirus and homelessness. Her concept is a contained home-environment with an adaptable base to accommodate existing hostile architecture
“I wanted to explore the overcrowding in homeless shelters and, given a loss of jobs due to shut-downs, how people are dealing with sudden homelessness during a health crisis. By combatting hostile architecture, the need to limit the number of people in a location is alleviated by creating temporary “homes” outside. Thus, people are allowed to maintain social distance while also having a place to live.
Mollie Redman, Steph Rempe, and Leyton Ho came together to create Bizzi, a website that acts as a centralizing force for free online activities. These include Zoom and Instagram Live activities like cooking and working out. Events can easily be added to personal google calendars. The main target demographic is ages 18-25, most likely to spread the virus by not following social distancing due to boredom or believing COVID-19 will not seriously harm them. Providing this group with a centralized reference full of at-home activities would incentivize them to practice social distancing.
Jessica Zhu, China Ang, Renny Ma formed a team to bring “Can’t Touch This”, a shirt design to help enforce social distancing. “To encourage social distancing, we designed a shirt that helps individuals understand how close is “too close.” The minimum font size for text viewed from 6 feet away is 16pt (Andy Brown Design, The Print Handbook). The text on our shirt is 15pt, indicating to viewers that if they can read the text, they are not abiding the “six feet apart” rule. The shirt serves both as a practical tool as well as a humorous reminder for people to practice social distancing.”
Dana Lee and Connie Liu formed a team to create “CAN Touch This”, a medium through which one may experience the replication of physical contact with loved ones; i.e. experience hugs, kisses, and hand-holding. Students brainstormed the idea to create accessories with haptic sensors, an attachment to phones or laptops for ease of access (i.e. for holding hands). The student group thought of solutions to expand off of the “thinking of you” watch/button project that already exists.
On March 7, 2020, over 100 young professionals gathered for the fourth annual WE@Brown conference, organized by the Women’s Empowerment team within the Brown Entrepreneurship Program (Brown EP) to celebrate and empower women in entrepreneurship. The theme of this year’s conference was Uplift, and the day began with keynote speaker Kristen Ransom, Boston Magazine’s Top 30 Rising Tech Star and founder of IncluDe Innovation, captivating the audience with her message of “dream big, be ambitious, and follow your purpose.” (See her on stage below).
Following the keynote speaker was the female founder pitch competition, where six student-founded ventures pitched their big ideas to attendees and a panel of judges to win $500 and $250 respectively to go towards their ventures. At the end of the day, the winners were announced. The first-place winner was LapSnap, co-founded by Diana Perkins ’20, Hannah Mintz ’20, and Chloe Rosenberg ’20. And the second-place winner was ResusciTech, co-founded by Abigail Kohler ’20 and Greg Fine ’20.
LapSnap has designed a grocery shopping bag for wheelchair users. Currently, shopping for food is a major hassle for people who use wheelchairs, and there is no affordable solution that works for all chairs. The LapSnap bag was designed in collaboration with real wheelchair users, and the hope is that it will improve lives by giving people a tool for greater independence.
ResusciTech has created a real-time CPR feedback app to help responders perform higher quality compressions and save more lives. There are 400,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests annually, and 90% of those result in death. The ResusciTech app will give people the confidence and capability to act in these emergencies by giving real-time feedback on the rate and depth of chest compressions, allowing people to adjust to proper CPR protocols.
During lunch, attendees were joined by 19 inspiring female-identifying entrepreneurs and industry professionals, who hosted roundtable discussions to further uplift and connect the attendees through the topics they are most passionate about.
The afternoon workshops this year were led by senior IDEO Co-Lab designer Shuya Gong on “Designing the Unseeable”, CEO and founder of Cheryl Overton Communications, Cheryl Overton on “Beyonce Taught Me: Five Killer Business Lessons from the Queen Bee Herself”, Brown Persuasive Communication professor Barbara Tannenbaum on “Powerful Communication”, and founder of The Art of Fate Jackelyn Decanay on “How to Make Space for All Womxn – In Business & Beyond”.
The day ended with the announcement of the pitch competition winners, as wells as an ice-cream social + startup fair.
WE@Brown 2020 is brought to you by the Women’s Empowerment Team at Brown EP, led by Maggie Bachenberg, Xinru Li, Claire Heiden, Emily Kompelien, Mali Dandridge, Thin Su San, Karolyn Lee, Liz Wells, Kerry Harrington, Serena McDermott, Trisha Ballakur, Amanda Levy, and Ashley Chon. This year our sponsors included: 305 Fitness, Yerba Mate, Health-Ade Kombucha, Gracie’s, Hint, Shake Shack, Ceremony, Canva, Kabob and Curry, Brown University Bookstore, PVDonuts, Chobani, Sticker Giant, Blue State Coffee, Avon Theatre, and The Flex Company. Supported by the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and Brown EP.
Written by Lauren Brown ’22
On February 23, the Brown Black Hairitage group hosted its first annual Black Hair Show. Club leaders Alexis Newell ’20, Pauline Wakudumo ’20, Lauren Brown ’22, Abigail Wesson ’23, and Kira Dubose ’22 invited students, faculty, stylists, and community members to celebrate the societal impact of Black hair. The five hour show featured roundtable discussions with local hair influencers, stylist demonstrations, and personal hair consultations for students.
Brown Black Hairitage was founded in 2017 by Alexis Newell ’20. The organization’s mission was and is to create space for discussion and collaboration around the topics of how Black hair is integrated into the fabric of the workplace, academia, and popular culture. The group meets twice a month to hold roundtable discussions, hair workshops, and screenings for media centered around hair.
The roundtable discussion featured Shahidah Ali, Rodlyne Louis, and Kerlyne Jean-Baptiste ’16. Ali is the former owner of Mixx Beauty hair salon which now focuses its efforts on producing various hair and beard products for salons and individuals. Louis runs the BeauEssence salon on North Main Street, catering to natural hair. Along with the salon, BeauEssence has hair products for natural, textured hair. Jean-Baptiste ’16 is the founder of KerlyGirl: a hair care line that aims to make plant based products for natural hair more accessible and affordable. During the session, these hair entrepreneurs discussed their own journeys through the business side of the beauty industry. Attendees asked these hair experts for advice regarding their own hair during the Q&A portion of the discussion.
The remainder of the event featured Kyle Pereira from DaPoint barber shop and Miguelina Liberato from 1263 Salon. Students received complimentary haircuts and blowout styles from these stylists and Jasmine Cardichon ’22 provided students with cornrow styles as well. Attendees left the event with a bundle of free samples from natural haircare brands including the Traces Ellis-Ross ’94 line Pattern Beauty.
To learn more about Brown Black Hairitage read this Brown Alumni Magazine’s article and fill out this interest form to see what you can do to expand BBH’s impact on campus and around in the world!
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.
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)