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ENTREPRENEURS @CORNELL

WHO ARE THEY, WHAT ARE THEY DOING, AND WHY DO THEY DO IT A SLOPE MEDIA PUBLICATION


Introduction Over the past few semesters, there has been a rise in visibiilty of entrepreneurship on campus. With the Startup Career Fair and the launch of the PopShop last spring, in addition to other entrepreneurship-focused events (like Startup Weekend earlier this September and 3-Day Startup in November), Cornell students are more aware than ever of this career possibility. Therefore, it only made sense for Slope Media to highlight students who are already neck-deep in entrepreneurship. Read further to learn about the amazing things that your peers are doing and check the information on the last page to help you get your start in entrepreneurship. And even if entrepreneurship isn’t for you, get inspired by these students to do what you’re passionate about.

//by Dani Gredoña

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Table of Contents Ali Hamed Jesse McElwain Morgan Beller Ricky Panzer Eric Morris & Dylan Yang Teddy Brinkofksi Miles Biggs

4-5 6-7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14-15 16-17


The Slope Mag Team Project Lead Dani Gredo単a Mag Editor-in-Chief Lizzie Brooks Contributing Editor Lindsay Rothfeld Layout Editor Nicole Hamilton Writers Dani Kellner Celeste Cirillo-Penn Catherine McAnney Lizzie Brooks Jessica Fernandez Jean-Paul Lozado Photographers Lead: Celeste Cirillo-Penn Victoria Sobel

Behind-the-scenes look at Slope Media shooting the cover. (Not pictured: Ali Hamed, Ricky Panzer, Teddy Brinkofski)

Photo by Victoria Sobel

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Photography by Celeste Cirillo-Penn

Ali Hamed

Entrepreneurship ‘14 Agoura Hills, CA //by Dani Kellner

...[Being] able to give “something truly valuable was something I loved. 4

Life moves pretty fast for Ali Hamed ‘14. Between frequent traveling, consulting with clients, and squeezing in time for class, his schedule looks more like that of a CEO than a Cornell student. But he wouldn’t exchange it for anything. And despite the lighting speed at which his life operates, there is one thing that always remains steadfast: his passion for entrepreneurship. “When I started my first website, I just couldn’t get enough of it,” Hamed ex-

plains, “I realized that the chance to watch the metrics, be completely in control of a product and be able to give something truly valuable, was something I loved.” Hamed channeled this passion into founding Memsparx. com in 2010, a web site which used software and web crawlers to aggregate news from throughout the Internet into one place, and turned it all into comprehensible, 80-word articles. It went viral among students. “I thought it took too long to

read the news. So I started to write a few articles a day, and made them really short and easy to read, so it took you five minutes to know what happened during the day,” Hamed said. “It was really cool, until it failed,” he added, with a self-deprecating smile, citing not enough manpower as the main reason for the web site’s disintegration. Although Memsparx eventually dissolved, Hamed refused to stop. He quickly developed a reputation as a highly respected young


professional. In September of 2011, he spoke at the United Nations in Kenya about government policy that encourages entrepreneurship on the Internet in developing countries, as an example of his achievements. Lately, Hamed’s focus has been on angel investing, helping pre-seed tech startups actually start up. He has been hired by major companies, both internationally and domestically, to consult in the investment process. Some of his current projects include Globa.li, which connects African hotels with American tourists, and Bibandtuck.com, which enables fashionable women to trade clothes with one another. But Hamed is dedicated to entrepreneurship at Cornell, as well. He is one of the founding members of the PopShop (other members being Jesse McElwain, Ricky Panzer, Morgan Beller and Jeremy Blum), a Collegetown meeting space on Dryden Ave where students can gather to brainstorm and collaborate on start-ups. Designed to foster entrepreneurship, the PopShop has enabled Hamed

to spread his love of start-ups to the broader Cornell community. “What do I love most about it? Well, we’re getting a swing set soon, that’s all I care about,” joked Hamed. The recent rise in prominence of entrepreneurship at Cornell can certainly be attributed in part to Hamed’s work with the Popshop. But for him, the most rewarding part of this venture has been working with the group of student entrepreneurs with whom he co-created the space. “The people I’ve met have been inspirational, brilliant, and have become some of the closest friends I could have ever asked for,” he said. As far as his future goes, Hamed is, naturally, optimistic. “I love to stay involved in starting companies in whatever capacity,” he says in regards to his life after Cornell. “I’m not the type of person who thinks banking’s great or banking sucks, or consulting’s great or consulting sucks, or be an entrepreneur. Wherever the best opportunity is, wherever I find the people who I like the most, I’ll try to go hang out with them and work with them.”

Hamed deep in conversation during September’s Startup Weekend, which he organized with Jesse McElwain and Morgan Beller.

CURRENT PROJECTS Hamed (left) and Ricky Panzer (see pg. 10) take a break from a night of creative collaboration at the Popshop.

PopShop, 3 Day Startup, Startup Weekend, Globa.li, Bibandtuck. com, Alphaforceventures.com, HamedPartners

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Jesse McElwain Year: 2013 Montclair, NJ

//by Lizzie Brooks Five-year old Jesse McElwain ’13 loved to solve problems, a passion that originally infused a desire in him to be an architect. “I’ve always loved taking something that was a real problem and – after a few all nighters, of course – working through everything to come up with a real, tangible solution,” McElwain grinned. Today, this passion for tackling issues headon has translated into McElwain’s immersion into entrepreneurship at Cornell – quite literally. After a journey that began last year,he now works for the Entrepreneurship@Cornell office on campus, headed by John Jaquette. His path to advocating entrepreneurship on campus began after the summer of 2011 when, after spending the summer months working in non-profit development with student-run Cornell University Sustainable Design, McElwain learned about the Tech Campus bid in a meeting with President Skorton to discuss upcoming projects. “I decided right there at that meeting that I am not going to go to school this semester, I am going to spend this semester advocating for the New York City Tech Campus,” McElwain said. He gathered up a team of

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I want to see more students working with companies...more people with other people...

people and oversaw the production of the media campaigns promoting the Tech Campus. McElwain’s impressive work with the tech campus won the attention of the alumni network, which eventually led to Cornell’s

successful bid for the campus, as well as the attention of John Jaquette. Jesse explained, “I then became a part of this entrepreneurial interest community on campus and helped organize last spring’s Startup Career Fair, where I ran into John Jaquette again and he basically asked that I work for him. I did, cofounded the Popshop with Ali [Hamed] and a group of other students, and here we are!” At Jaquette’s Entrepreneurship@Cornell’s office, which bolsters entrepreneurial activity among students, Jesse’s job title is “Network


engagement”. Essentially, he engages the network of Cornell alumni, students and staff to help organize events that bring more attention to entrepreneurship on campus, like the Startup Career Fair. Recently, he, Beller and Hamed organized Startup Weekend at Cornell (October 2-4), a weekend designed to help students make their entrepreneurial dreams come to reality. “The point of the weekend was that you start with 60 students and you break out into teams and they end up with companies,” McElwain said proudly. The weekend was a success and produced roughly five companies by Sunday, in large part due to the teamwork of McElwain, Hamed and Beller. In addition to Startup Weekend, McElwain helped bring the TechTalent Draft to campus,

a separate event that happened during those three days that was sponsored by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “Basically, they wanted to recruit Cornell students and provide an opportunity for them to work at startups instead of the typical bank or consulting firm,” he said. With the success of the Popshop, Startup Career Fair and Startup Weekend, McElwain is thrilled to see Cornellians becoming a bigger part of this budding entrepreneurial community and producing their own ideas. But he’s not willing to settle, saying, “I want to see more; I want to see more students working with companies, I want to see more people working with other people and I want to make sure it all happens while we are here.”

CURRENT PROJECTS PopShop, Startup Weekend, Cornell University Sustainable Design, NYC Tech Campus

Photo by Celeste Cirillo-Penn

During a typical night at the PopShop, McElwain discusses upcoming projects with fellow classmates. (Source: PopShop Facebook Page)

McElwain speaks with a student at the Tech Talent Draft.

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Photography by Celeste Cirillo-Penn

Morgan Beller

Statistical Informatics ‘13 Woodmere, NY //by Catherine McAnney 8

Ever since she was a little girl, Morgan Beller ‘13 had a penchant for business. She had an ”imaginary “store” that she ran out of her basement and her childhood dream job was to work for Google. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do there, but I just thought the idea of Google was so cool”, Beller said. She brought that spirit and deter-

mination to Cornell, where she currently majors in Statistical Informatics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. But, like many of the students in this feature, she found one thing missing in her college experience: a place to nurture her entrepreneurial passion. “If you want to work on mechanical engineering, you know where to go; if you want to work in hotels, you know where to go; but if you want to start a company on campus, there should be one place you could go to as well”, Beller explained. So, last winter, Beller and a group of entrepreneurialminded students (which include the aforementioned Hamed, Panzer, McElwain and Blum, among others) gathered over dinner to discuss what to do. They created the PopShop, a co-working space in Collegetown where people can get together to develop extraordinary ideas and create products or services to help make the world a better place. As Beller spoke about the project, her face lit up with excitement over the potential of the ideas currently brewing inside the PopShop. From a new housing website for Collegetown (Yorango), to new apps for your iPhone (like SPLAT), Cornell students are working on amazing things. “Everyday is different. I


CURRENT PROJECTS PopShop, Startup Weekend

Beller speaks with Cornell faculty during Startup Weekend in September.

never know what to expect!”, said Beller. But for her, the collaborative spirit of PopShop is what is most exciting about the space. “Let’s say you are working on an idea and you need help with marketing. There may be someone sitting right next to you that can help you with that…that’s the amazing thing about Popshop”, beamed Beller. The PopShop isn’t the only thing that Beller is entrepreneurially involved with on campus. Like McElwain, she is proud to say that she helped organize this September’s Startup Weekend (along with Hamed). While the premise of enabling students to have their business ideas actually come to fruition is an incredible opportunity in itself, what made this weekend particularly exciting is that it was the inaugural university program. “We worked with Startup Weekend, [which

is a national organization that normally makes their events city-wide] to adapt their original program to the university environment,” Beller said. “It was really exciting!” The event was a success, with about five

Now I just want to start my own Google.

companies started from the weekend’s events. One of them is currently progressing in the Popshop: a company called Rosie, which got accepted into eLab at Cornell, whose idea is to produce an application that predicts buying habits. “For example, it knows if you run out of toothpaste before you do it, then goes and buys it for you,”

Beller said. It’s projects like these that keep Beller going. And she has no plans of stopping. While she will graduate a remarkable full year early this May, she starts her Masters in Information Science right here at Cornell the following year, during which she aims to continue inspiring and facilitating students in pursuit of their business ideas. Clearly, Beller’s childhood enthusiasm for business, collaboration and creativity has only accelerated in growth since then. But she admits that her dreams have changed - she no longer wants to work for Google, saying, instead, “Now I just want to start my own Google.”

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CURRENT PROJECTS SPLAT, PopShop

Richard Panzer Computer Science ‘13 Westwood, NJ //by Celeste Cirillo-Penn 10

Photo by Celeste Cirillo-Penn

For most students, a typical day involves going to lectures, completing homework assignments and trying to find time for lunch with friends. But for Richard Panzer ‘13 (“Ricky”), a typical day involves so much more. Specifically, Panzer dedicates at least a few hours every day to developing a new smartphone app called SPLAT (Smartphone-Powered Laser Tag). This app allows smartphone owners to play laser tag anywhere, using a toy gun that attaches to the phone. However, the app is more than just the toy gun and the ability to engage in a simple game of laser tag with friends. It also tracks statistics, including accuracy, kills and deaths. Furthermore, it includes a variety of game modes not available at normal laser tag, such as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill. The idea came to Panzer one day when he was sitting in his room. “I was just in my room thinking about how Pokémon cards was the huge thing for our generation. And thinking about what would be the next thing for the next generation,” he


I wake up and I want to work on this...it’s my passion.

said. “Then I realized how all the kids were spoiled with this extravagant technology. So I was like you know what, I’m going to appeal to this generation and give them something actually fun for them to play with using their technology.” The idea was just the beginning. Panzer found a partner and a group of friends to help him work on the project and even stayed in Collegetown over winter break to work on the prototype. But it certainly wasn’t easy and Panzer and his team faced many challenges in developing SPLAT. “To me being a college student startup has its own unique issues,” he said. “A lot of the curriculum they teach you is about the real world where you have a job. You aren’t doing college. So the rules kind of change on how you treat people and how you work with them. I feel like I kind of cracked that problem finally, but as a college student I kind of had to define my own rules about how to be a startup on campus.” Panzer persevered, successfully creating the second generation of SPLAT that he hopes will be available soon for testing on the Cornell campus. His ultimate goal is to begin production and initial sales of SPLAT

Panzer shows off his prototypes for SPLAT, a fully loaded, mobile application equiped for playing laser tag anywhere. by the spring semester. For now, though, he simply focuses on doing the work he loves. “It’s been great,” Panzer said with a smile. “I wake up and I want to work on this. I work on this all day… It’s my passion.” Photos by Victoria Sobel

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Eric Morris

Computer Science ‘15 Marcellus, NY

Dylan Yang

Computer Science ‘15 Guangzhou, China

//by Jessica Fernandez

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Photo by Celeste Cirillo-Penn

While most rising sophomores dedicate their summers to getting a tan, Dylan Yang ’15 and Eric Morris ’15 spent their summer working on something a bit more substantial: building a web site. Along with their team, Yang and Morris successfully developed and published Yorango, a website created to ease the painful process of finding housing. Yorango aggregates housing information from Collegetown realtors and landlords on their available houses and apartments for rent so that users can then run a search on the site by identifying the type of space they are looking for, their preferred neighborhood and the number of bedrooms. From there, users can browse possible housing listings that satisfy the qualities they previously specified, each listing provided with a gallery of pictures and basic logistical information on the site. Therefore, students can easily find the answers to their housing questions and compare apartments and houses, all on Yorango’s site. This effectively eliminates the mad dash from realtor to realtor just to gather information. Users can even add their own listings, a quality of the site that aids students looking for subletters. Morris and Yang happily point to Ivy Action Tank as to how they made their entrepreneurial ambitions tangible. Ivy Tank is an entrepreneurship accelerator started by Cornell students that oversaw and funded the project. Students who apply for Ivy Action Tank are then put into teams to work towards a selected project. The current sophomore team of Morris and Yang is actually the youngest ever accepted into the eLab program, an achievement that Yang downplays, saying that youth actually


CURRENT PROJECT Yorango (Top) Pictures from Yorango’s comprehensive visual display of desirable and affordable housing. (Left) Morris during September’s Startup Weekend.

is “Entrepreneurship very empowering, especially for younger students.

helps instead of hampers. “There are definitely many challenges for us, competitors are more experienced, and there is so much to learn. Yet being young is actually one of our greatest advantages because we have the time to explore and try new things,” Yang said. Morris agrees, saying that age is not a determining factor for a successful entrepreneurial venture. “That’s the funny thing about entrepreneurship. It’s not like a normal job or a project where you need to have x number of years of experience or y qualifications to get in the door. What you’ve done doesn’t matter, all that matters is what you can do. In this way, I feel that entrepreneurship is very empowering, especially for younger students.” While Yorango may be an overwhelming undertaking for most students, it is actually just one of a few projects these two Computer Science majors work on every day. The

two had also collaborated on a scheduling application this past year, and constantly hunt for new ideas to explore as frequent visitors of the Popshop. But don’t be fooled, this twosome doesn’t have quite everything figured out despite that appearance; they surprisingly haven’t found their own housing for next year. Morris defends himself, laughing, “We were too busy helping other people figure out where they’re living!” And as for Yorango’s future, not only is the pair looking to perfect the site’s aesthetics and maneuverability, but they are also considering extending their services to other college towns. This possibility of an extended market leaves an endless amount of opportunities for Yorango and its creators. So while everyone’s tans have already worn away, Morris and Yang’s summer investment will last a while longer.

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Teddy Brinkofski

Applied Economics & Management ‘13 Somerset, NJ //by Trevor Burns The information age has definitely had its impact on the music industry and Teddy Brinkofski ’13 was quick to capitalize on it. In 2009 he launched Hulkshare.com, a free music platform that allows artists and bloggers to directly upload content to the Internet, available for global downloads. His desire was to build something everyone can find value in - in Hulkshare’s case, the value was being able to share music with anyone, anywhere. Three years later, it’s evident that Brinkofski was correct in predicting that Hulkshare’s service would resonate with the masses. The site now boasts an impressive one million daily visitors and has gone international, as intended, where only 45% of that daily one million is reported to be American. Furthermore, because of the site’s huge success, Brinkofski has visited esteemed music bloggers all over the country and has caught the attention of Billboard chart toppers. He points to the Internet as a medium ripe with opportunity. “With the Internet today,

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Photography by Celeste Cirillo-Penn


Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Embrace technology and how it connects people “Its almost easier to connect with people on the other side of the world than in Ithaca”, jokes Brinkofski, who has enlisted engineers from Norway, Russia and Israel.

Take advantage of Cornell’s education Cornell has some of the brightest minds and best resources in the world. “I’ve used psychology, philosophy and even history [in developing the site].”

Be confident

Don’t think you need to be a computer programmers to be successful; simple problem solving skills will get you farther than you think.

CURRENT PROJECTS Hulkshare, Yaddo.com, eLab, Entrepreneurship@Cornell

one can put their mind anywhere in the country.” Brinkofski said. And with 45 million visitors just last January and over 1.6 million on the same day Drake dropped his latest mix tape, the advertisers came knocking. The site’s revenue keeps the programmers coding, constant content uploaded, and ultimately, keeps the site alive. But Brinkofski is quick to push attention off of himself and onto his work. “I want to do more projects, and show others how anyone can be an entrepreneur if they’ve got the drive.” He plans to continue pushing himself and others in entrepreneurship and to build entrepreneurship at Cornell. This drive for entrepreneurship comes from an earnest desire in Brinkofski to do good. “[Entrepreneurship] is about using the private sector and using busi-

ness to change people’s habits and benefit society.” He acknowledges it isn’t easy, though. “When I was in seventh grade, this kid from the projects moved to my block; he was a hustler and he and his older brother taught me everything they knew about hip hop and hustling. That’s what entrepreneurship is, hustling,” he smiles. Clearly, Brinkofski feels that the potential change that can be achieved with entrepreneurship makes all that hard work worth it. And if his track record with Hulkshare is any indication of the success his future ventures will have, he will be hustling for years to come.

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Miles Biggs

Applied Economics & Management ‘13

Knoxville, TN

CURRENT PROJECT Marshfillows

//by Jean-Paul Lozada

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Imagine a world in which kids grow up roasting “Marshfillows” around a camp fire – that’s the kind of world Miles Biggs ’13 envisions with his business idea. Marshfillows are marshmallows with pieces of solid chocolate embedded in them. A simple concept, yes, but sometimes, simple is all you need. “Yeah, I was just a little fat 12-year old on a family camping trip who thought it would be tastier to put chocolate inside of the marshmallow,” Biggs recalled, laughing. “Since I liked both chocolate and marshmallows, combining the two just seemed to make sense.” And it wasn’t the only person with whom this made sense. At the time, Biggs’ father was so smitten by the idea that he filed a patent, which Biggs holds to this day. The premise of planting chocolate inside the marshmallow is that when the Marshfillow is cooked over heat , the chocolate melts inside of the marshmallow, resulting in a warm, gooey sweetness that is unmatched by a regular s’more.

Biggs’ idea sat on the backburner until he came to Cornell, which ultimately provided him the resources with which to jumpstart his concept. “Back in high school I just thought having a patent was my go to fun fact for icebreakers,” the funny Tennesse native quips. “It wasn’t until I started taking business classes here at Cornell that I realized what a cool opportunity I had.” He was introduced to entrepreneurship by Mac Bishop, a then-senior in his fraternity who was working on a startup company of his own. He encouraged Miles to make the most of his patent and seek guidance from Professor Deborah Streeter of AEM. Soon afterwards, he transferred into AEM and asked Professor Streeter to be his advisor. He also further developed his idea through Entrepreneurship@ Cornell’s eLab. This summer, he sold about 100 bags of Marshfillows at a store in the Smoky Mountains Kampground of America in Tennessee. “The storeowner was very excited about the product,” said


I want to make most out of the opportunity my dad gave me [with this patent].

Biggs. “The Marshfillows outsold regular marshmallows 2 to 1!” Today, Biggs continues to work on improving his product. He has been meeting with numerous food science professors to try different recipes for the marshmallow and recently added Dan Krenitsyn ’13, another aspiring entrepreneur on campus, as a partner. Furthermore, he launched www.marshfillows. com to market his product. Despite the rate at which things are happening for him, Biggs remains quite humble about Marshfillows. He cites his father as his driving motivation, “[I want to] make the most of the opportunity my dad gave me when he turned my intention into a real-life patent.” And for him, the experience itself is enough reward. “I definitely believe that whether or not Marshfillows makes it big, I will have learned way more from this start up experience than I could have in any classroom.”

Biggs playfully poses with one of his Marshfillows on the Slope. Photography by Celeste Cirillo-Penn

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Want To Explore Entrepreneurship Yourself? The PopShop: www.popright.in Entrepreneurship@Cornell: entrepreneurship.cornell.edu eLab: elabstartup.com Yorango: www.yorango.com Marshfillows: www.marshfillows.com Check out 3 Day Startup, November 9-11: cornell.3daystartup.org

Want To Join Slope Media? Contact Dani Gredo単a, dmg258@cornell.edu Lizzie Brooks, emb327@cornell.edu or visit www.slopemedia.org

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Entrepreneurs @ Cornell