The WE Cornell program, which aims to improve gender representation in entrepreneurship, launches its spring cohort as industry anticipates the inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In our third year, we’ve trained over 100 STEM women to expose them to entrepreneurship and build the next generation of transformations that can impact society,” said Cornell Engineering Program Director and Lecturer, Andrea Ippolito ’06, M .Closely. ’07.
“Women make up 50% of society, and we need to better involve half of our population in order to keep the economy moving and moving forward,” she said. “We know from data that the largest employment growth in the US is from startups and small businesses, so this program is helping fuel economic growth.”
WE Cornell’s Spring Curriculum gives students who participated in interactive workshops and networking activities in the fall more opportunities to move forward with their endeavors. The Spring Cohort takes a regional course from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to see if their business ideas provide solutions to real-world problems with significant market opportunities. In addition, they practice pitching with mentors and conclude the program with a presentation to the advisory board.
The program has made companies like Invictus BCI, where founder Vini Tripathii ’19, M.Eng. ’20 creates an affordable, non-invasive interface to neuroprosthetic brain control that allows amputees to use prostheses as if they were real limbs. The company is in the pre-seed phase and has received funding from Cornell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has received multiple awards. The International Forum on Healthcare Advances has named Tripathii one of the top 100 healthcare companies.
Another program, Erika LaCasse ’20, founded CassCaps, a patented set with a cap and glass that measures spices and powdered ingredients from the bottle and enables quick, easy and uncomplicated cooking. The company had sales of more than $ 65,000 in a month with Kickstarter and is now taking pre-orders for its product.
“WE Cornell provided me with an incredible network of support, from Andrea’s ongoing guidance, to extensive advice from my mentor, to the inspiration I received from surrounding members,” said LaCasse. “There is no doubt that the programme’s workshops, pitch sessions, and network helped me take CassCaps one step closer from an idea to a reality.”
This year Ippolito is engaging students in an initiative called “mentoring groups”. Entrepreneurs are divided into sector areas such as Clean Tech, Health Tech and Education Tech and coordinated with suitable mentors. Students learn from mentors and entrepreneurs working in a similar space.
PhD student Emily Urban joined WE Cornell in the spring. It pursues climate-based solutions on an agricultural basis, including activities related to carbon sequestration in the soil.
“WE Cornell has opened up a whole new world of entrepreneurship for me,” she said. “So far, it has given me the confidence (as well as some great basic skills) to think big! I’m starting to see how entrepreneurship can make my research really have a positive global impact. “
To give women entrepreneurs the opportunity to continue to achieve important milestones, Cornell’s Giving Day, March 11th, can make a financial contribution to WE Cornell. The program aims to attract 63 donors to address the fact that women entrepreneurs are 63% less likely to receive venture capital.
The 19 students in this spring’s WE Cornell cohort include:
- Linda Alvarez ’21 and Stephanie Schrauth ’21 develop a sports nutrition company tailored to female endurance athletes.
- Julia Angelos ’22 is the founder of Boyd’s Antiques, an online platform that connects authenticators and appraisers with people hoping to evaluate their goods.
- Cathy Bartell ’21, Astride Charles ’21 and Amritha Sannabhadti ’21 are Founding a company under the motto: “If you want to lead your best life, you have to lead your best life in the end.”
- Sonny Carlton ’21 makes health care more accessible for LGBTQ people.
- Victoria Catalan ’22 is working on a health literacy platform that connects type 2 diabetics directly with their private health insurers and doctors.
- Vanessa Di Frances ’22 Develops a platform for women and minority owned technology companies (late stage) that offers networking and investment opportunities.
- Brooke Filanoski ’24 develops an inexpensive hand-held instrument that routinely monitors the progression or regression of breast cancer tumors.
- Anabella Maria Galang ’23 founded The Steminist Movement, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the gender gap between STEM and girls in middle school.
- Sharon Heung ’25 creates a toy that will help children of all abilities learn how to identify, convey and handle their emotions.
- Jacquelyn Linevsky ’26 develops terrestrial astronomy tours for hotels and cruise ships.
- Louise Loyst ’22 is working to bring Beyond Delicious GF Dessert to grocery stores.
- Sabah Mohammed ’21 Develops a connected care loop for women experiencing medium to high risk pregnancy in medically underserved areas of the United States
- Amy Murro ’23 focuses on sleep education and an app that helps clients maintain healthy sleep routines.
- Jeannie Szomstein ’21 is the founder of Bulletin, a digital platform that connects college students who need resources with fellow students who can meet those needs.
- Dora Tan ’21 creates an alternative to single-use plastic food packaging by exploring the potential for re-use of agricultural by-products.
- Emily Urban ’24 is working on technologies that improve the pathways for agricultural, sustainable procurement to help companies meet their Scope 3 emissions targets.
Casey Verderosa is the author of the Regional Economic Development Center.