Students, alumni showcase innovation at South by Southwest
Cornell showcased a wide range of student and alumni innovation during this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, with more than 200 joining in a Cornell-sponsored reception during the film, music and interactive gathering in Austin, Texas in March.
The reception, hosted by the Cornell Entrepreneur Network, Cornell Silicon Valley and Entrepreneurship at Cornell, gave alumni and Cornell-affiliated guests the chance to connect and share ideas.
"Having [a] Cornell presence at SXSW has proven to be very beneficial to our alumni, parents and friends, and they expect us to be there," says Magdalena Kalinka Bartishevich, director of the Cornell Entrepreneur Network. "Each year attendance at the reception grows and more and more Cornellians are speakers and panelists at SXSW."
Don Jean '72, MBA '73, said the event and Cornell reception gave him a great opportunity to spread the word about the business he co-founded and for which he now serves as CEO, FocusedBuyer. The purchasing and procurement website for small businesses, nonprofits and individuals had a soft beta launch a year ago.
"The amount of knowledge walking around the conference was phenomenal," he says. "And Cornell's events gave young technology entrepreneurs the chance to pitch in front of seasoned veterans. That was happening all over the place."
Jacqueline Shen, MBA '10, who launched her new app, Glif, at the conference, says the Cornell reception at SXSW helped her connect with Johnson classmates, fellow entrepreneurs working on mobile apps and B2B platforms, and supportive alumni.
"Talking with them about Glif, I was able to observe what excited them most and what didn't, which helps my team -- and I prioritize areas of development," she says. "I've also continued the conversation with a number of folks via email or LinkedIn to see where we can help each other through our networks."
"This large-scale industry event provides a wonderful opportunity for us to offer a venue for attendees to learn from and connect with other like-minded Cornellians from all over the world at one place," says Amanda Hatcher, associate director of the Cornell Entrepreneur Network.
The week's events also featured two sessions hosted by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (EII), based at Johnson -- the first time Cornell was part of SXSW's official program content.
The first session, a panel discussion, "Entrepreneurship vs. MBA: Mutually Exclusive or Not?" tackled the hot topic of whether to get an MBA (or other degree), to pursue entrepreneurship, or both. The second session, "Here's the Pitch!" featured a "Shark Tank"-style competition, which showcased such Cornell student startups as Produce Pay, founded by Pablo Borques, MBA '15, and FloraPulse, co-founded by Michael Santiago, a graduate student in the field of mechanical engineering. EII's executive director, Rhett Weiss, moderated both sessions."One of the many strengths of Cornell and EII is providing our students with real-world opportunities to showcase their innovations and get feedback from seasoned, successful entrepreneurs, executives and investors," Weiss says. "It's about hands-on learning and skill building that will enable them to compete in the global marketplace."