COVER STORY SIDEBAR
Past Big Idea competitors build their businesses
For the past three years, Entrepreneurship@Cornell has sponsored the Big Idea Competition for Cornell undergraduates who have an idea to pitch to entrepreneurs, faculty and peers. Prizes are awarded in business and social enterprise categories.
After finishing as runner-up in last year's competition, Aniq Rahman '10 and four partners have continued to develop HireCube, a one-stop recruitment and screening tool for hiring companies. "Because Ithaca is two connecting flights away from many major cities, it's very difficult for small companies to come here, and seven out of 10 hires ... are from small businesses," says Rahman. To help employers reach talent in Ithaca and other out-of-the-way schools, HireCube offers video interviewing, skills testing and application tracking.
Rahman has taken a leave of absence from Cornell engineering to work on HireCube, which is already soft launched, and to work on a consulting firm he operates. He credits the Cornell alumni entrepreneurs with whom he often speaks with providing useful guidance and advice.
"There's a lot of opportunity to give and receive within the Cornell alumni network, and the Big Idea Competition gave our idea higher visibility," says Rahman, who was required to describe his idea in 500 words and make a three-minute pitch to a panel of nine entrepreneur judges.
Matthew Kochman '10, a finalist last year, founded M.E.S.S. Express (Moving Every Student Safely), a business that has helped provide more than 15,000 rides for Cornell students. Kochman's research found that in 2008, 18 percent of U.S. college students drove while intoxicated.
Transportation cost is the main reason students choose to drive drunk or walk home alone, Kochman says. M.E.S.S. Express offers students a cashless system, and profits will fund an international effort to provide safe transportation for students in impoverished or unstable areas. Kochman is in talks with administrators at Cornell and other universities to expand the service.
"The Big Idea Competition forced me to look at M.E.S.S. Express from an outside perspective and open myself up to constructive criticism from some of the best alumni entrepreneurs Cornell has to offer," says Kochman.
This year, more than 140 students entered ideas into the Big Idea Competition, which includes business enterprise and social enterprise tracks. From that field, semi-finalists and finalists are chosen and receive mentoring from alumni, faculty and staff as they refine their final pitches.
Finals of the competition will take place on Friday, April 16, as part of the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration event. The winning team will take home $2,500.
For more information on this year's Celebration event, go to entrepreneurship.cornell.edu/events/celebration10/.