Brown Black Hairitage group hosts its first annual Black Hair Show

Brown Black Hairitage group hosts its first annual Black Hair Show

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 made its first investment in 305 Fitness!

Van Wickle Ventures made its first investment in 305 Fitness!

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 vwv@brown.edu.

Congrats to the 2019 WE@Brown Pitch Night and Innovation Dojo awardees!

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.

2019 MARCH LONDON SYNAPSE TRIP RECAP: From NET-A-PORTER to Parliament to the famous Lloyd’s of London

2019 MARCH LONDON SYNAPSE TRIP RECAP: From NET-A-PORTER to Parliament to the famous Lloyd’s of London

During spring break (March 2019), the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and BrownConnect took 6 students and 2 staff on an immersive Synapse trip to explore the startup culture in London, as a part of their international collaborative offerings. The five-day, all-expenses-paid trip was made possible through the generosity of a Brown alum. The trip provided students with the opportunity to visit companies that encompass a wide spectrum of entrepreneurial activity, as well as time to explore the city and its rich history.

The trip expanded the students’ professional networks and exposed them to nuanced perspectives from founders, private equity financiers, and CEOs. Max Easton ‘16, co-founder of Willie’s Superbrew, welcomed the cohort over dinner before their immersion days to provide them a unique perspective on the startup scene in London as well as provide the cohort with high tea recommendations. On Monday, the day started by walking through Kensington Garden and the Palace grounds, as they headed to our first stop at the Founders Factory (FF). Winnie Akadjo, Talent Community Manager at FF, guided the group through their mission to work with corporate sponsors and 60 of their own operators to help founders build companies. The group then headed to Leadenhall Market for lunch where the cohort explored the old and new architecture before heading into Lloyds of London to learn about the history of the world’s oldest insurance company and their innovation lab. The group ended the day with the founder of AebeZe Labs, where they discussed the nuances of startups, mental health, and technology.

Tuesday, the cohort’s day started off with an introduction to design thinking through the perspective of founders of Holition Charles Bonas ‘91 and Jonathan Chippindale. Then Rhea Kalogeropoulos ‘06 (pictured above in the center), founder of Prettly, provided the students with her personal narrative of what it means to be an entrepreneur and make entrepreneurship work for you. The students headed to the Net-a-Porter’s London headquarters to meet the president of the company, Alison Loehnis ‘92. She walked the students through her intrapreneurial journey from working in retail to the head of the company. They then headed to the Houses of Parliament to meet the Earl of Erroll for a roundtable discussion on international entrepreneurship. Students got to meet other students and professors from local universities and explore the historical building.  

On Wednesday the students had coffee with the founder of Searchlight Capital, Oliver Haarmann ‘90, an open discussion on women and entrepreneurship with Goya Gallagher ‘91 of Malaika Linens, Dafna Bonas of Indie Bay Snacks, Tamara Arbib ‘05 of Rebel Kitchen and Cynthia Kaufmann Gabay ‘92 of the Duet Group. The day ended with an alumni networking event hosted by Alla Bashenko ’98, AM’98 at a beautiful WeWork space, followed by dinner with Robin Doumar ’85, P’20, P’22, P’23 of Park Square Capital. 

Our immersive, educational, and life-changing Synapse trips from Barcelona, to London, to SF, are possible due to the generosity of alumni donors. We thank them for continuing to support entrepreneurial endeavors that take students off of College Hill and transport them to new cities and startup ecosystems.

If you are interested in getting involved please email us at entrepreneurship@brown.edu. Continue reading to learn more from the cohort and their own reflections on the trip.

Applications for London 2020 open in November. Check back here for more info. 

STUDENT HIGHLIGHTS

 

Dana Kurniawan ‘22, Environmental Science, I.C. in User Experience Design

If being an entrepreneur is partly determined by how creative and resourceful we can be, going to London and witnessing the startup ecosystem reconceptualized the types of creativity, resourcefulness, and philosophies we can infuse into our work.

Be it hearing from an early stage startup like Prettly, or a scaled organization like Net-a-Porter, London Synapse helped me realize the kind of team I want to work in: multidisciplinary; the work I want to do: interdisciplinary.

As a buzzword, entrepreneurship has connotations of risk, burnout, and an all-consuming nature that eclipses the nuances and diverse personalities that define it. Without a doubt, there is no trend, no consistent relationship, or sure-fire way of charting a path in entrepreneurship. What I took away from the intimate nature of the roundtables we had the privilege of participating in was this — if we do not keep teasing out the meaning for why we do what we do, as you evolve as a person, you will lose the reason for grit and resilience.

Especially in building something from the ground up, the practice of entrepreneurship advocates that you live and breathe your idea. But the co-founders and alums offered an additional nuance, that you will be defined not by the results of your work, but how you do it. In a place where early-stage funding is more difficult to secure and patents require a more rigorous level of definition than the US, there is also the relief of knowing you do not have to start now. Work experience, active listening, and witnessing is integral. In many ways, London Synapse was an opportunity for us to do just that.
Xinru Li ‘22, Music and Economics

The London Synapse was a wonderful experience that it is difficult to define the most impactful part for me, but the highlight was definitely the amazing people I got to meet and know — both from our site visits as well as the students and staff in the London Synapse cohort. The memories, advice, and inspiration I received will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Before going on this trip, I had a vision of an entrepreneur as someone starting a business out of their college dorm, perhaps dropping out of college to pursue their passions. This trip really made me rethink what it means to be an entrepreneur.

We met entrepreneurs who started right out of college as well as entrepreneurs who didn’t start a company until they were in their forties. We’d talked to “intrapreneurs” who started their ventures within a larger organization, which was not something I’d thought about before this trip. But even with this diversity in entrepreneurial experiences, a major trend I noticed throughout the visits was that entrepreneurship was a team effort. The myth of a single entrepreneur starting a multi-million dollar company out of their garage was quickly debunked throughout our trip as we spoke to founders or leaders of companies in various industries and spaces, of various sizes, and with various backgrounds.

Apart from all the lessons I learned about entrepreneurship, I also received amazing life advice. I learned it’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life and that it’s okay to pursue your current passions even if it doesn’t seem practical. It really reminded me that not everything I want to get done needs to be done in college, I should embrace spontaneity and really enjoy the remaining three years of my time here at Brown. During our free time in London, I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1 at the Palace Theatre with George and Julian. Watching the beautiful choreography and the magic of the story come to life on stage made London seem like a place of endless creativity and possibilities.

 

Renny Ma ‘20, Public Health

Being in London was an incredible experience; not only was I in complete awe the entire train ride from the airport to our hotel and nearly every moment afterwards, it was extremely refreshing to meet such a wide range of companies, such kind and welcoming Brown alums, and to spend time with such an insightful and interesting cohort.

I think one of the most important lessons I learned through this experience was echoed by Brown alums Alison Loehnis at Net-A-Porter and Tamara Arbib at Rebel Kitchen — that entrepreneurship is not just limited to starting companies; there is a lot of room for innovation from within organizations as well.

As someone who hasn’t actually started a company, it was encouraging to recognize that there are actually more entry points to entrepreneurship than I expected.

Another memorable moment from the trip took place while eating ramen with the cohort at Kanada-Ya, where I had an opportunity to share about challenges I’d been experiencing in linking my concentration and career interests. Even though we had only met a couple days before, I felt a lot of support from my peers, and was surprised by how easily they helped me pinpoint the things I was most passionate about back on campus, including mental health and working at the CareerLAB. In thinking about the lessons I learned from Alison and Tamara, and in reflecting on the advice I’d received from many of the entrepreneurs and my peers, I was inspired to think about my academic path in a way that was much more open, flexible, and true to my interests and strengths.

I am so grateful to have been a part of London Synapse. Being in such an entrepreneurial city was rejuvenating and eye-opening, and it led me to people I probably never would have met otherwise. I am so excited to channel this energy into the rest of my studies, to keep building upon my relationships, and to continue pursuing my ideas.

 

Julian Vallyeason ‘20, Chemical Engineering, Applied Math-Economics

The breadth of organizations and people we met – from Brown alums launching small businesses to venture capitalists investing in new ideas – showed me the sheer diversity in the venture community in London. As a college student, I have had a skewed perception of “entrepreneurship.” I had seen other college students building products from their dorm and launching companies immediately after graduation. But over the five-day program, I saw that simply wasn’t always the case. We met Brown alum and private equity financier Oliver Haarmann, who worked in the financial industry for decades launching Searchlight Capital. We met external advisors, like Lmarks, who worked on short-term projects to promote new practices in large, established companies like Lloyds of London. And we met many “textbook” entrepreneurs, who were looking to raise capital and grow their businesses.

It was the conversations and interactions that we had with the people we met and the places they worked, that struck me as fascinating. Many of the founders we spoke to had worked in large companies before entering the venture space; a clear consequence of this was a more measured and practical approach in the way they built companies, as well as a strong air of professionalism in their offices. Many of them shared stories of how their background, both through their prior work and the people they met along the way, helped them grow to where they were now. I hope to take a similarly measured pace as I consider my post-Brown career, rather than rushing toward a goal.

London is a beautiful city, but having the opportunity to experience it with the Synapse cohort added a new dimension to our experience. On the first day, a group of us went to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, followed by an organ recital at Westminster Abbey.

As we walked around the city, we noticed that the city mixed very old, historic architecture, with brand-new 21st-century offices in a seamless way. Walking through the city seemed almost like straddling 1000 years on a timeline.

And of course, walking between companies and exploring the city was made infinitely better by the friendships everyone in the program made with one another.


Natalie Feinstein ‘20, Chemistry

For me, the most impactful moment of London Synapse came when we sat down with Rhea Kalogeropoulos ’06, founder of mobile beauty services startup Prettly. Rhea spoke candidly about having to figure things out as you go, for example when she had to make the difficult decision to end a marketing campaign and sacrifice growth for revenue contrary to the Facebook model of first growth, then profitability. She also shared with us what it was like to pitch to a room full of venture capitalists while visibly pregnant (VCs become uncomfortable to say the least). In other words, Rhea made the life of a founder feel tangible in a way it never has before. It was also eye-opening to hear Rhea say that being a founder is the best possible job for a new mother, a sentiment echoed by the wonderful Brown alumnae we met at the Women-Owned Ventures Luncheon.

Popular wisdom would have it that to be successful, a founder must sacrifice several years of their life, but actually, being a founder allows you to set your own hours and arrange your life alongside your other commitments.

In addition to meeting cool founders, there was London itself. Hyde Park on a sunny spring day is paradise. Even though none of us knew each other before the trip, bumbling around the city together made it feel like we had been friends for years. Thank you to everyone at the Nelson Center, CareerLAB, and beyond who made this trip possible. And finally, thank you to Liz Malone of the Nelson Center and the aforementioned Matt Donato of CareerLAB, our “chaperones”, who with their humor and sense of adventure, made London Synapse what it was.


George Lee ‘21, Computer Science

Without a doubt, the London Synapse Trip has been one of the highlights of my time at Brown so far. In just a short few days, I learned so much about the cultural beauty of London, the various different forms entrepreneurship can take, what it takes to be successful, and just how many different paths one can take in their career. I had the immense pleasure to meet and speak with so many amazing people, not just the entrepreneurs we met, but also the other members of the cohort. Some of my fondest memories were our nightly dinners where we unpacked the day’s events or the small conversations we had on our way from destination to destination.

London was absolutely amazing, a true cultural melding of old and new. Centuries-old taverns stood proudly alongside gleaming skyscrapers while ancient cathedrals sat next to towers of steel and glass. I had a blast visiting ancient wonders in the British Museum, listening to an organ concert in Westminster Abbey, and a true highlight, getting to experience the magic of Harry Potter first hand by catching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the historic Palace Theatre in London’s West End. I could go on and on about how amazing that play was and how we just showed up with no tickets and managed to snag some right at the door, but alas, as fun as the sight-seeing was, that was not the true purpose of the visit.

Visiting startups and companies from all different stages and industries really opened my eyes to just how many opportunities for innovation there is in the world. Entrepreneurs can come from any background, from any place, with any idea. You can start right here on Brown’s campus-like Max Easton did with Farmer Willie’s or you can start in your 40’s and build a successful private equity firm like Oliver Haarmann. You can decide to move to Egypt, fail to create a magazine company, learn from it, and develop a thriving linen empire like Goya Gallagher or work your way up from the security of a large company and innovate from within like Alison Loehnis of Net-a-Porter. You can find innovation from 300-year-old insurance companies trying to support inventions with an internal incubator like Lloyds or help early-stage startups build from the ground up like Founders Factory.

Entrepreneurship defies definition, and as long as someone wants to make something happen in the world, with enough drive, resilience to failure, and perseverance, they can do it!

Although there is no denying that building a company is hard, extremely hard, the people we visited are proof that it can be done. I felt like I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship as a possible career move, but after this trip my interest has only grown. So if you have an idea and need a Software Developer or are interested in my Beef Wellington recipe (I was inspired to make it shortly after not being able to actually taste it in London) hit me up at george_lee@brown.edu!

 

B-Lab 2019 Students Pitch at Third Annual “Bear’s Lair”

B-Lab 2019 Students Pitch at Third Annual “Bear’s Lair”

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. 

 

B-Lab 2019

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.

 

Bear’s Lair

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)

Humans of B-Lab: Meet our 2019 Breakthrough Lab cohort!

Humans of B-Lab: Meet our 2019 Breakthrough Lab cohort!

The Nelson Center’s Breakthrough Lab cohort of summer 2019 comprises thirty students and graduates of various institutions working on fourteen early-stage ventures. “Humans of B-Lab” was an ongoing social media campaign aiming to capture the passion and individuality of each of these founders. 

You can find contact information for the ventures here.

Not pictured: Primitive Labs, founded by Noa Machover ’19.5 and Viirj Kan ’17, Master’s in Media Arts and Sciences

Photographs and interviews by Dana Kurniawan, with additional work by Vicky Phan

 

“Art to Reduce Mental Health Stigma (ARMS) is a Rhode Island-based nonprofit whose mission is to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness, using art as a forum for self-expression, healing, and dialogue. We want to empower artists to share their narratives and their art, but also for the general community – people who are not familiar with mental health to have really vulnerable, honest conversations about the mental health stigma.

We’re not here as therapists, educators, or to target a specific mental health community. We’re really here to give everyone equal accessibility for starting conversations. We want to open doors for people who don’t know how to talk about mental health.

We’re currently working on a mobile app to track instances of externalized versus internalized stigma, and how their perception of mental illness changes after our events. So hopefully, this will contribute to research being done nationally and also give our organization the opportunity to tailor events to ways that are most effective for our audience. During B-Lab we’re going to build a more cohesive framework for ARMS.”

Art to Reduce Mental Health Stigma (ARMS)
Left: Beth Pollard ’21, Contemplative Studies
Right: Bella Roberts ’20, Literary Arts and Public Policy

 


“​We met coincidentally through an interdisciplinary exhibition. We spent hours talking about children’s education and how important it is to provide design and engineering skills to the children of today. Megan loves making children’s books and Fernanda and Rosinda Fuentes [co-founder currently based in Poland] are very passionate about teaching and have been looking for someone as creative as Megan to join the BASA team. After having our first sit-down conversation about the venture outside of the RISD library at the beginning of the spring, we thought, “Wow.” We all want to unleash kids’ potential and we share principal values, let’s do something together! 

Since then we have really connected. It feels like we’ve known each other for much longer. BASA is on a mission to empower the next generation of innovators by designing creative learning opportunities for the children of today. We aim to prepare children and teens for the challenges of the 21st century and build a lifelong community of learners passionate in STEAM, by offering a variety of playful educational resources.

We believe that all children, no matter who they are, where they are from, or the communities they are engaged in, deserve the opportunity to develop the skills they need to build a creative, meaningful life. As we design BASA, we are making conscious decisions to ensure every kid will have access to our resources.”

BASA
Left: Fernanda Bolaños, PhD ’19.5
Right: Megan Molina, RISD ’19, Illustration
Not pictured: Rosinda Fuentes, University of Edinburgh PhD ’18

 

“We met in the capstone course for Biomedical Engineering Design and Innovation. Doctors came and pitched a need, and we formed a group around doctors for cardiovascular surgery. Basically during surgeries there is a risk of brain damage due to complications, which can be alleviated by collecting embolic debris. From there, we decided to create an embolic protection device, which involves collecting and retrieving embolic debris in the aorta during surgery. 

After shadowing doctors, looking through the procedure at each part, we tried to figure out the entire process by which the embolic debris gets to the brain and how other devices that people have tried have not succeeded in that. But a lot of people have had issues with trying to retrieve it once they’ve collected it around the aorta. We thought, “Let’s try to find a solution that way.” With Emily’s textiles expertise, we tried to find a potential solution for retrieval. We both got to watch open-heart surgery in real life. When I was there, I was like, ‘I’m in arts school. How did I get here?’ [Emily]

I think the networking from B-Lab will enable us to reach broader audiences to get more funding … Because it’s pricey! It’s not just people who have strokes for whom this is applicable, we can apply this to other types of surgeries as well. B-Lab will also help us develop our business skills, and hopefully bring our product up to scale.”

EmboNet
Left: Emily Holtzman, RISD ’18, Textiles
Right: Gian Ignacio ’18, MD’22
Not pictured: Celina Hsieh ’18, MD’22; Ileana Pirozzi ’18, Stanford University PhD ’22

 

“I’m interested in developing products for the elderly population that don’t seem cold or clinical, but instead speak to higher-level needs — self-actualization, self-expression, personal style. We all have those needs throughout our lives. But for some reason, products designed for the elderly seem to address function alone. I had a very stylish grandmother, and she absolutely hated using canes and walkers because of the way they looked, and the way they made her feel. I think all of us have someone in our lives who is dealing with the physical challenges of aging. It’s quite universal.

Right now my focus is on canes, which are near and dear to my heart. I am also pursuing cane accessories and accessible clothing closures — buttons, snaps, and zippers — which are pretty difficult to use if you have limited manual dexterity. Particularly in the elderly population, there is a high incidence of arthritis which affects fine motor skills. I’m making things that are accessible but still fun and exciting to look at, an augmentation rather than something to hide.

The closures in particular are a great example of universal design. So much of clothing is not designed for ease of dressing, whether or not you have any physical challenges. And so by creating closures that work for people with arthritis, you’re also making something that makes dressing easier for a ton of other use cases — people wearing winter gloves, for example, or firefighters in a high-stress situation, or children. Designing for inclusivity is a business opportunity.”

GRAND
Julia Lemle, RISD Master’s ’19, Industrial Design

 

“Intus Care is a mobile platform that connects homecare providers to patients, providing an organized, high-quality, cost-effective way for home healthcare companies to manage and monitor care providers, patients, and appointments.

We’re at a point where we want to start testing out product, so being together in Providence is good for being in close contact to work on it as things change. We’re hoping to gain some mentors who are experienced in this field and meet other co-founders who are in similarly related fields.

By end of B-Lab, we want to get through testing and encryption, making sure we’re HIPAA compliant to be responsible for people’s data and finances.”

Intus Care
Left: Robbie Felton ’21, Public Health
Center: Teo Tsivranidis ’20, Computer Science
Right: Samuel Prado ’21, Economics and Public Health

 

“We are a mobile crêpe vendor and supplier, La Pâte! Locally, there are no options for hot desserts on Brown’s campus that can be made fresh quickly and taken to-go. Very few stores around have convenient, eco-friendly packaging for this purpose. By serving crêpes, we address the first issue with a hot dessert that’s made in front of the customer within minutes. With people constantly commuting somewhere on college campuses, the faster and closer the food option is, the better. 

We serve our crêpes in recycled cardboard cones, which avoid the styrofoam packaging or plastic utensils of many competing products around. We bought our first crêpe maker in September of 2018, and we’ve been working on logistics like food safety guidelines, as well as our batter and menu.

Food is a social activity, you enjoy it. We also get to fundraise, for example donating 15% of our proceeds to the gun safety movement, March for Our Lives, and promoting their Rhode Island rally. It’s important for any food business to be involved with its community.”

La Pâte
Left: Ian Chiquier ’21, Applied Mathematics
Right: Lucas Fried ’21, Public Policy and Economics

 


“The original idea for the venture started when I was traveling in Western China. We stopped by the side of the road and these farmers were selling black goji berries — they dropped some in my water and it was incredible. Over winter break, I shared this with Dan and we decided to start this venture.

We learned more about the people who work in those farms. It’s a very disadvantaged part of China, there are school-age children working in those fields, and they’re not paid well. It made us feel a sense of urgency to build this venture. Specifically, we’re working with suppliers and farms who are paying people fair wages.

Lila enables tea newcomers and daily tea drinkers alike to discover novel flavors, healing experiences, and beautifully shareable moments through a wide array of loose-leaf, zero-waste teas from across the world, starting in China’s remote Ningxia province.”

Lila
Top left: Karina Bao ’22, Applied Mathematics-Computer Science
Top right: Dan Wang ’17, Applied Mathematics-Computer Science
Bottom left: Victoria Yin ’22, Economics and Psychology

 

“Last summer, I became an EMT, and I noticed that there was a huge need for better communication between ambulances and hospitals. I also saw this when I was shadowing and observing emergency medicine both here and abroad. There was always a lot of chaos, most often caused by a paper-based system, and I wondered how much it could be improved by technological advancements. So, I got together with my co-founder Mayank — we went to the same high school together in Colorado, and together we made a web application that allows ambulances to communicate with hospitals. 

[Ambulance care personnel] input information that’s necessary for the hospital to know into our program with their personal phones, which eliminates the need for extra infrastructure. By creating a low infrastructure solution, our service can be universally adopted with little extra cost. The hospital will receive the information, and be able to add any information they see fit for the patient’s care. Basically, Mobile-Med will improve patient care for emergency medical situations and reduce how long patients stay at the hospital.”

Mobile-Med Data Solutions
Sai Kaushik Yeturu ’21, Chemistry
Not pictured: Mayank Mishra, University of Pennsylvania ’21

 

”Back in my country, the only form of abuse that I could recognize was physical abuse. Once in America, I learned through my training as a [Sexual Assault] Peer Educator that violence often begins with emotional and psychological abuse, gradually increasing to violent physical abuse. Through my research, I discovered I was not the only one with a limited definition of abuse. It was such an eye-opener for me, and I started being passionate about the subject.

I have a vision of creating an interactive and fun educational platform that will teach school students ages 6-12 about what I believe is the opposite of abuse: emotional awareness, body safety, and healthy relationships. That’s how ‘Omena’ came about.

Omena is a Malagasy pun. ‘Omena’ means to ‘give’ or ‘provide.’ And ‘mena’ means ‘red,’ so in this context, to provide tools and education for students to help them spot red flags ahead of time. Red flags being signs that one is in an unhealthy relationship.

Omena ultimately aims to promote healthier relationships and communities in Madagascar.”

Omena
Francesca Raoelison ’22, Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations

 

“At Pillar, we are attempting to build a platform to connect people to causes and charities they care about.

People’s charitable giving, especially when we look at younger generations, is completely disorganized. We give, but we do so reactively – when we see a friend organizing a fundraiser for their birthday or when we get solicited on the street. This leaves us with a scattered sense of our impact on causes around us.

We want to help people to give proactively, so that their giving can reflect their identity. Instead of the money being dispersed randomly, people should be able to distribute their money towards causes and charities that reflect their values, thereby making a real impact on what is important to them.

This all started during freshman year, when we started meeting in the basement of our dorm and brainstorming ideas together. Since then we have cycled through various projects, which have forced us to learn numerous lessons, which we credit for bringing us to where we are now.”

Pillar
Left: John Bitar ’21, Computer Science
Center: Ben Gershuny ’21, Computer Science
Right: Oscar Newman ’21, Computer Science

 

“The production of leather and fur around the world results in substantial pollution, and many people consider the ranching and slaughtering of animals to be cruel and unethical. From this need, we are developing laboratory leather, a modern approach to materials for animal lovers.

Our mentor Professor Harry suggested we connect to be able to help each other and see what we can do in terms of research and development. I’m very interested in business, but particularly towards startups and entrepreneurship. I can’t imagine a better place than Brown to do that. [Khobi]

I have a lot of scientific background, but I was looking more for the business aspect and the benefit of being able to work on a project I’m passionate about. What we’re aiming to do is use humane, reverse stem cell engineering techniques to grow real animal skin and furs in a lab. [Quentin]”

Quark Labs
Left: Quentin Altemose ’20, Master’s Biomedical Engineering
Right: Khobi Williamson ’20, Master’s PRIME

 

“We met in ENGN 0030 in freshman year, starting a club together called H-Tech, which is a humanitarian engineering club. The first idea for our startup came from a class, ENGN 2910G where I had planned on making a pressure-sensing surgical table for a project. So we started off thinking about doing that, and then moved on from pressure-sensing to CPR. 

Currently, CPR only has a 40% success rate, primarily because of failure to follow CPR guidelines. Rescuers are often stressed and become fatigued as they are performing CPR, making it difficult to maintain the required compression depth and frequency.

By developing a wearable CPR device, ResusciTech aims to improve CPR outcomes by using a proprietary design and simple user interface that is streamlined for rescuers to use in emergency situations. This will result in higher rescuer confidence in their performance of CPR as well as increased quality of care and survival rate for victims of cardiac arrest.”

ResusciTech
Left: Abbie Kohler ’20, Biomedical Engineering
Right: Greg Fine ’20, Electrical Engineering

 

“SelectEd is a digital platform that helps Chinese students who want to study abroad find qualified tutors in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. Our tutors are current students and recent graduates from the very schools and majors Chinese students are interested in, so Chinese students and families who are unfamiliar with the application process can learn whether a particular university is a good fit for the student or not.

Santiago and I met in Fall 2018 when I was a second-year PhD student at Brown contemplating a career change and seeking entrepreneurial advice; Santiago was an MIT grad and Techstars alum. Driven by a passion for education, I left my doctoral program in December and invited Santiago to work on what later became SelectEd. I approached fellow Brown student Jessica at a career fair after she expressed interest to recruiters in becoming an educational consultant at an American consultancy based in China. When I told Jessica, who has herself worked with educational consultants and created a similar website matching volunteer tutors with low-income students for the city of Dallas, about the idea of creating a platform to provide international students access to high-quality educational consultants, she was immediately on board.

Post B-Lab, we hope to raise money to hire staff to work full-time on marketing in China, so we can focus on growth and expansion into different degree-level applications from different countries.”

SelectEd
Left: Jessica Wang ’22, Economics
Center: Amy Wang ’19, Master’s Political Science
Right: Santiago Ibañez, MIT Sloan ’13