Friday, December 19, 2008

The Santa Mix

One of the fun cool things about living the entrepreneurial life in Ithaca is the mix of people that you interact with on a daily basis. Not everyone here wants to be a high-tech entrepreneur. Ok, almost no one does. That's all right. This isn't Silicon Valley, nor do we want it to be. The fun part of it is bring folks together who wouldn't otherwise meet or even know the other exists.

Trees, Plastics, Hospitals, Ideas, Tennis, Investor

It's a fun place to start a business. We have community and smarts and a lot of support. In a small town, a modest holiday party brought together grad students, a film professor, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, kayaking instructors, a photographer, a nurse, a massage therapist, a banker, a lawyer, a tree salesperson, a tequila expert, and at least one person willing to harness a few reindeer:

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Business Success and Academic Peers

Within some halls of academia there is an opinion that your research peers will fault you for using your research to also seek commercial success. Recently Alan Paau dispelled that myth with the story of 2008 Nobel Laureate and serial entrepreneur Roger Tsien.

Business and Academia All Wrapped Together

Dr. Tsien is currently Professor of Pharmacology and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of California, San Diego, and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

He is also the founder of Aurora Biosciences. Aurora Biosciences was formed in May of 1995 by Dr. Tsien and two of his UCSD colleagues. The goal of the company was to commercialize their research into a new way of screening molecules as potential drug candidates.

The company raised $13 MM in their first round of venture financing in March of 1996, and took the company public in 1997. The company was purchased in 2001 for $592 million by Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Tsien maintains a positive relationship with industry to this day, but his focus is back in the lab where he continues his research into how researchers can us multicolored fluorescent proteins to observe the behavior of cells.

Congratulations on winning the Nobel Prize, Dr. Tsien!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Entrepreneurship Incubator in the heart of Ithaca's Collegetown

eLab is a entrepreneurship incubator smack-dab in the heart of Collegetown, ie. the "student fun part of Cornell". Their fun, funky thinktank/brainstorming space is designed to bring together the energetic and creative minds in a pro-entrepreneurship atmosphere. At eLab, it's all about a supportive atmosphere to make your business idea thrive.

The E turns concEpts into rEality

eLab is having an open house this Friday, and they want everyone to come. They are off to a booming start with their first graduate, Wiggio, having already launched, raise significant angel and venture capital money, and garnered widespread acclaim. If Wiggio was their first, then you definitely want to learn about the other great companies to follow!

When: Friday, November 21st @ 4:30pm

Where: eLab incubator, 409 College Ave. Suite 100S, Ithaca, NY 14850

What: An open house to showcase how eLab is working with energetic undergraduate entrepreneurs, discussions with current and past eLab participants, and networking with local entrepreneurs.

Who: You! That includes aspiring undergraduate entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial mentors, friends of Cornell, and the curious are all encouraged to attend!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bloomist Launches

Megan Kamil and her fellow GSB partners recently launched their new flower ordering site after being underwhelmed with the offerings they found online. They wanted to buy local, not corporate. And they wanted to know exactly what they were getting. They launched Bloomist to allow you to browse and buy flower arrangements from local florists in the Los Angeles area and most San Francisco Bay Areas.

A Better Arrangement

Because local florists don't ship arrangements through expensive services like UPS or FedEx, consumers can get a better bang for their buck by using Bloomist to send flowers to friends, family and loved ones. They are just getting going and have the site in beta. If you want to send flowers to someone in LA or SF Bay, give them a try. They'll give you a great experience, and they'd really appreciate the feedback.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Logitech Buys SightSpeed

As my boy Andy would say, "Well, there you go. It happened!" True that.

SightSpeed sold, and to an awesome company: Logitech!

A Perfect Fit

I first sat across the table with the Logitech folks five years ago. They liked us then, but weren't sure what to do with us. We were punks who were sure we were going to take over the world - or at least the world of videoconferencing. Which is a notably smaller world. Nonetheless, we were undeterred to continue to build the product and brand of SightSpeed. In doing so, we built a world class, best-of-breed, global communications company. Millions of calls and billions of calling minutes later, the two companies came together.

At the heart of our company, and this deal, is an extraordinary individual: Aron Rosenberg. I first met Aron when he was a 20-year-old undergrad at Cornell. After working with him for just a few months in the spring and summer of 2001 laying the groundwork for founding SightSpeed, I knew he was a superstar. Now we are 7+ years into this journey together, it turns out that he's a $30MM superstar. I think he's worth a lot more, so LOGI got a great deal.

Well, there you go. Congratulations to SightSpeed on joining a great company. Congratulations to Logitech on buying a great company.


Finally, for one last laugh, click here for a video of me and Aron interacting in classic style as we test the record feature SightSpeed introduced a few years ago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finger Lakes Entrepreneur's Expo 2008

The Finger Lakes Entrepreneurs' Forum annual Expo is a great way to meet folks from all sorts of businesses in the region. I will admit that some of us think all entrepreneurship around here is high-tech and Cornell-related. Not true.

I was scanning the list of companies, and I was amazed at the ones I didn't know. Here is a partial list of the companies I am looking forward to learning more about:
Date & Time: Thursday October 23, 2008. 5:00pm until 8:00pm

Location: Moakley House at Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, 215 Warren Road, Ithaca, NY

Registration: Norma Cushner ‐ ncushner@amt‐ or 607‐774‐0022 x302

I'll be there. I hope you will too. Plus, it's free of charge! For more information click here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Like those old Reese's ads, but with beer

Remember those old Reese's ads where the guy with peanut butter would bump into the guy with chocolate and they'd exclaim that the combination was brilliantly delicious? Well some students at Cornell are trying to make a few such collisions, but this time with the business side bumping into the technology side.

Following the grueling entrepreneurs & angels due diligence session, there will be beer. This beer and idea session is being co-sponsored and promoted by the entrepreneurial MBA's and the biomedical engineering students. It's a brilliant idea.

Like a flash of chocolately peanut butter

  • If you have an idea and want a business buddy, you should go.
  • If you are an experience business person who doesn't have a brilliant biotech idea, you should go.
  • If you like beer and want to see what this is all about, you should go too.

To learn more, check out the flyer.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

An Entreprenuerial Approach to Solving the Bottled Water Problem

Jim Quest wants to pay you for the most unique way to reduce the impact of the 60 Million water bottles discarded every year. Jim is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell. As such, he is looking for a unique, clever, and cost-effective way to solve this problem. He's looking for an entrepreneurial solution.

Plastic and Water Don't Mix Either

Jim succinctly stated his position and approach during a front-page interview with The Cornell Daily Sun:

“I’m not an environmentalist. I’m socially responsible."

With $6000 from the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Jim has assembled a talented panel of judges who are looking for innovative and realistic ideas for how to address the need bottled water fills, without the landfill the empty bottles create. You can be part of the solution. If you have a keen new idea for how to reduce the negative impact of water bottles, please enter the H2O Competition here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Favorite Analyst

Bill Coggshall is one of the key analysts in our industry. Right now that industry is defined as "ultra mobile projectors". That terminology is likely to change in the future, and Bill and his colleagues at Pacific Media Associates are probably the ones who will coin the term for this new market.

But that's not the most interesting or noticeable thing about Bill. What you notice about Bill is that he dresses like a cowboy. While most of the people at technology conferences and symposiums are either dressed in suits or company-logo-gear, you can find Bill by looking for his 10-gallon hat.

BIG hat, RED Shirt

Did I mention that Bill is also Cornell alum? Probably no surprise to regular readers of this blog. Though he lives in California now, he regularly returns to Ithaca to visit his family here. I am sure he bottles up a little bit of Ithaca wacky to take with him.

I think he keeps it in his hat.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Diligence of an Angel

On October 17th, the Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Seed Capital Fund of Central New York are hosting a free workshop on how to get your business books in order for when you are seeking investment from individuals, also know as Angel Investors.

Divine Advice

Angel Investors are good to know. They are eager to provide contacts and advice, and access to their Rolodex. If you can find good Angels, they can make a big impact on the success of your business. This seminar teaches you what they are looking for and looking at in your business.

You can register here for this free event.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Real M

We are going to launch our new Mezmeriz website in a few days. We went with a different model this time. And for anyone wondering, yes, that's real ink.

M is for charMing

How perfect is her tat? We already had an interesting-tattooed-cool-pretty-girl thing going, so why not ramp it up with a letter-appropriate tattoo? It doesn't hurt that she has stunning eyes. You could almost say that they are mesmerizing... but that would be corny, and we don't do that around here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

High Above Harbor Waters

Today some old friends are working with me at the offices of one of Mezmeriz's new friends in downtown Baltimore. These not-to-be-named new friends were kind enough to give us all-day access to their corner conference room high above the famous Inner Harbor and Camden Yards.

Hey Andy, over there, it's Camden Yards

Because of all the lasers we use, we are usually working from laboratories with darkened windows. Therefore, this daylight and these panoramic views are a nice change of pace.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

EIR at Dawn

At dawn this morning Fox and I hit the lake with the new Cornell Entrepreneur In Residence, Steve Benjamin.

Benjamin Jammin'

We drank some coffee, read the Journal, and enjoyed a few turns on the water. The morning lake session gets you going, especially in the crisp September air. I can't say we talked about any profound entrepreneurial ideas, but we did get to learn more about the newest member of our ever-growing group of Ithaca entrepreneurs. Welcome Steve!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rob Ryan visits the Ithaca Entrepreneurs

Last night Terry and Rob Ryan hosted a bunch of the Ithaca entrepreneurs for a rowdy dinner. Rob cofounded Ascend in 1989. Ten years later he sold it to Lucent for $23 Billion. He now mentors entrepreneurs. One of his mentoring efforts was to fund the expansion and reach of the Cornell Entrepreneurship Network.

Last night's dinner was both a thank you, and proof of the success of his vision. We had entrepreneurs from plastics to websites, microbiology to tequila. It went late, and the room was so noisy you almost had to shout. That's sure sign of a great outing. Thanks Terry and Rob!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Afrik Fall Collection

Cornellian Fritswa Baffour initially launched her clothing company Afrik in order to keep her friends from taking her clothes. Fritswa was hand painting images of Pan-African culture onto her favorite hoodies. Her friends liked the styles so much that they would borrow her outfits and didn't want to give them back. With that, Afrik was born.

Entrepreneur, Author, Educator, Star

The company has grown from a small operation in her apartment in Ithaca into a New York City based design and manufacturing business. They have been featured in multiple fashion and lifestyle magazines, and Afrik hoodies have been spotted in music videos and the hottest clubs.

My favorite piece from the 2008 Fall collection celebrates Marcus Garvey. He was a cultural activist, entrepreneur, and educator who lived during the turn of the century.

If you are in New York City, you can find Afrik styles at a number of hip stores. You can also buy them online here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

eLab's first graduate: Wiggio

Last summer I worked with the folks at Student Agencies to build a business model for an undergraduate student incubator. That project launched earlier this year as eLab, with Dan Cohen as the Entrepreneur In Residence for the lab. They lab has already spawned it's first graduate: Wiggio.

Wiggio Works in Groups

In their words:™ is a free, simple group collaboration website for students. Wiggio provides students with a toolkit of functionalities that among other things, makes it easy to share documents,communicate within groups, schedule and remind people of events, share resources, and get a quick consensus among group members. Wiggio’s key strength lies in its simplicity— the goal is for Wiggio to be the easiest way for students to work in groups.

This is not a social networking "me too" site, but a productivity tool geared towards the modern mobile student. Check them out. It's free, useful, and simple.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Exit Photo

My brother Cameron just accepted a new job which came with a big promotion. In a poignant and well worded two sentence email, he thanked and said goodbye to the folks he had worked with for the past 10 years. The simplicity of the letter was punctuated with this photo:

Hello Future Moon

The cool thing about this picture is that's a picture of him paragliding on the evening before his last day. Good luck on the new gig, bro!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cafepress Acquires Imagekind!

Friend and fellow Cornell entrepreneur Kevin Saliba has successfully led the sale of Imagekind to CafePress. Employees, founders, and investors are delighted.

Lifting the Money

I wrote about Kevin when he took the helm of Imagekind. In less than a year of accepting on the responsibility of CEO, Kevin was able to get the company in position for a fantastic sale. This is even more impressive in light of the current market conditions. Well done!


Also, if you like the art with the girl holding the golden $ sign, you can buy a canvas from Imagekind/Cafepress for only $19 here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


A hilarious 40-second video from Ithaca startup Predict Systems. Just watch. I don't want to ruin it:

You can get the software for free at Getting the girl is up to you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Big Red Don

Yesterday we had the Mezmeriz board meeting. Our outside board member is Don Greenberg, who has been a Cornellian for almost his entire life. Don is exactly the kind of guy you want on a high-tech startup board. He's knowledgeable in both the science and business of our company, and has a wealth of experience that just can't be measured.

Tennis Anyone?

Don is a model for leading a well rounded life. He is an avid tennis player and regularly beats guys 40 years his junior. I ran into Don one morning at the grocery. He was all sweaty and was buying a large Gatorade. I asked what he had been up to. "A full set of tennis". And it was only 9:30am.

To celebrate his long commitment to Cornell, the university put together a retrospective about Don that includes great stories about him training with with the US Olympic Soccer Team, building his famous "Flying Diaper", and much more. I encourage you to watch it by clicking here.


Addendum: Phil and Maddy Handler at Fly on the Wall Productions volunteered to make this video as a labor of love for Cornell. See and support them at

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

You are invited to eat burgers with Ithaca startups

Langmuir Labs is full of small companies and startups. Many of Ithaca's larger locally-grown companies started here. We all have separate labs and locking doors (and lasers!), so it's amazing how little we socialize.

To remedy that, the building managers are throwing a barbecue cook-out. Nothing fancy or fussy – just a gathering of friends and colleagues for refreshments and some good old fashioned Summer food and perhaps a game of volleyball or two.

Please drop in. It’s good to take a break and meet some of the companies here, learn about the cool "incubator-like" environment, and meet the responsive building managers.

Who knows, maybe you'll want to move in too!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Entrepreneurial Shorthand

There are a few key phrases that get tossed around among the Ithaca entrepreneurial crowd. These typically derive from some longer story, but they work as a quick reference. One of my favorites is "7-minute abs". That's short hand for a wacky idea, usually from a wacky person. It originates from this scene from Something About Mary:

Step into my office

Some other phrases suitable for print:

"You aren't here for the hunting"
Meaning: repeatedly doing something the same way, and getting the same negative result.
Origin: An incredibly crass joke.

"Well wake the gimp up"
Meaning: Stop giving me excuses and go do what I just asked
Origin: Pulp Fiction

"That's $20 Canadian"
Meaning: Not only is it inexpensive us, it's inexpensive to to our northern friends.
Origin: Unknown. Probably originated at the Toronto Ballet after a few Steam Whistles. It has now been gleefully reversed on us due to the weak dollar.

"Cheney '08"
Meaning: Doing something to intentionally annoy someone.
Origin: The easist way to piss off most of Ithaca? Walk around with a Cheney '08 shirt on.

"How about a monorail?"
Meaning: That sounds like an idiotic plan dreamed up by inept government.
Origin: The same Ithaca government that can't seem to fix a pothole is seriously considering installing a podcar monorail system.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Chris from Widetronix

The look of a winner

thanks to for the picture.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Widetronix Wins!

Widetronix, one of Cornell's representatives at the DFJ East Coast Venture Challenge, just won the whole thing! That means $250,000 from one of the best venture capital firms in the world. Well done guys!

I'll have more on this later, but here's a sample stream of emails initiated by our man in the crowd, Justin Smithline:

  • 1:40 pm Justin: Widetronix just made the finals! One of four finalists. Stay tuned...
  • 2:54 pm Tom: Cornell represent! Very nice...
  • 3:46 pm Justin: Guys just went. Guys did well, especially considering the limited prep time-nice job all you coaches! Def the most entertaining of all the groups too. Judges were excited about the idea of a "nuclear battery". All the finalists are rock solid, so it will be close.
  • 5:13 pm Justin: They won!!! No shit!!!
  • 5:33 pm Cliff: WOW!! FANTASTIC!!
  • 5:35 pm Charles: f'n great job! Justin, thanks for the play by play
  • 6:03 pm Me: WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

A exciting day for all of us in our little Cornell-Ithaca entrepreneurship club. Way to represent!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Rose By Another Name

When I graduated from business school my father came to Ithaca and stayed at the Rose Inn. We had the celebration dinner there, and he gave me the one item I consider my prized possession - a Seiko with a long back story. That's a tale for another time, today I want to talk about The Rose.

In March of 2004 the Rose Inn was gutted by a spectacular fire. It sat as a burned out hulk until 2006 when Ithaca natives John and Elizabeth Hamilton bought the property they had once been married on with the intent of retaining the nostalgia while taking the place to a higher standard for quality and hospitality.

They changed the name to The John Joseph Inn and Elizabeth Restaurant to emphasize a new management and a new commitment. Their rebranding included a new logo that combines themes from their animal family, as well as locally-located, internationally-reknowned artisans MacKenzie Childs whose furnishings permeate the facilities.

You can call me logo, but my friends call me Prep

Sitting on their porch enjoying a glass of wine and talking to John, you'll be visited by the hysterical duo of Hudson the Lab and Prep the Pig. Sure, there are various roosters and hens and chipmunks milling about, but this twosome steals the show.

Is it my turn for a belly rub?

As CIA graduates, Ithaca lovers, and experienced entrepreneurs, John and Elizabeth exemplify the route of entrepreneurship as a means to achieve a dream. In this case, a well executed, classically fashionable, deliciously garnished, and personally-driven dream.

How's it going so far? It's all peachy. Just ask Prep and Hudson!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Can't you feel it coming? EMPIRE ZÖNES!

Maria Maynard and Heather Filiberto are hosting a coffee and donut chat to explain and discuss Empire Zones. This a New York State economic development program designed to encourage companies to operate in specific geographic regions. By operating your business in an Empire Zone you could get income tax breaks, sales tax breaks and tax credits.

When: May 15, 2008 at 10am
Where: Courtyard by Marriott, 29 Thornwood Dr, Ithaca, NY 14850
Price: Free

Business the American way

Not appearing at this event will be Queensrÿche. Instead, Heäther Filibertö, from Tompkins County Area Development, will explain how businesses currently in an Empire Zone can take advantage of this program, and get access to grants, low-interest loans, and venture capital and other financing assistance. The session is also encouraged for those folks considering locations to grow their business and want to learn more about the benefits of being in an Empire Zone.

Please RSVP by May 13 to Maria Maynard at 257 1725 x 223 or

Note: I added the umlauts for heavy metal effect. Rock on Heather!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mezmeriz wins $100K; Uses money to buy drinks for Ithaca Entrepreneurs

To celebrate Mezmeriz winning thee New York's Creative Core $100,000 Emerging Business Competition, we decided to throw a party for all of our entrepreneurially minded friends in Ithaca.

Ithaca Entrepreneurs and Executives

We held the event at Pixel. In attendance were founders and executives from GeneWeave, Advion, Veratag, Novomer, Mitegen, The Service Auction, Fibershield, Tetragenetics, Student Agencies, Predict Systems, and 2007 winner e2e Materials.

2007 and 2008 Winners Toast an Ithaca Sweep

A lot of the buzz at the event was about the amazing entrepreneurial spirit coming out of Ithaca. It's no mistake that the first two winners of this competition came out of Ithaca, and we have high hopes and expectations that next year's winner will as well.

A special thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. I owe you all a lot more than a few beers, but I hope that was a good start.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Big Red Brat Pack

The past three days have been a blur of events and ideas. The 2008 Entrepreneurship Symposium was incredible. The scheduled events were phenomenal, but the unscheduled parts were even better. The highlight of the event was dusk on the deck.

This, right here, right now, is why

Tom, Sean, Fox, Justin and I were taking a breather from the networking to put our bags in my truck parked on the top of the parking deck. We took the moment to chill, reflect, and let our guards down.

We love this stuff. We loved watching the undergraduate business idea competition. They were phenomenal! I hated to pick a winner because I want to fund the whole bunch. But we needed a breather and an escape.

Foxy pontificating at dusk. Good stuff.

That's part of the experience. It's the driver. My boy Andy has always said it's the concepts that matter. The entrepreneurship lifestyle is one of ideas. We're not philosophers, but we deal in the realm of the concept. The "what should be". It is during these top deck sessions when those ideas flow. With a beautiful Ithaca dusk settling upon us, the choice is solidified and new theories are formed.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Go Green Right

Spring is the time of building anew. So what better time is there for Cornellian Dave Wax to launch his new company, FreeGreen!?

Sooo Sleepy, Sooo Green

FreeGreen offers high-quality architectural plans for environmentally friendly housing - for free! How do they make money you ask? By promoting the best green building materials companies out there. It turns out that you can have a beautiful, earth-friendly house without sacrificing quality or paying a lot of money. All you need to do is plan. That's where FreeGreen comes in. They do the planning for you! All they ask is that you use the certified product vendors they recommend when building your dream home. It's one of those rare instances where the phrase "win-win" is not only true, but one of the winners is Mother Earth!

I love what Dave is doing and I love his spirit. He is a big thinker with a realistic bend. Right now, you can get any type of home as long as it is a suburban middle class home. They are starting small and growing. If you like his spirit as much as I do, but don't see you dream home, contact Dave directly. They want to help you g0 green!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Business Idols

For the past two evenings, Matt Wagner and I have been coaching the ten finalists for the Cornell Undergraduate Business Idea Competition.

The Fastest 3 Minutes in Business!

The finalists only have 3 minutes to pitch their idea to an auditorium full of people. They will be judged both a panel of expert judges, and by the audience - American Idol style.

You would be amazed at how hard it is to do a great pitch in just 3 minutes. But this crew has done a bang-up job. The actual event takes place on April 11th, 2008 at 4:00pm in 196 Beck Center, at Statler Hall. It is free to attend, and you should get there early as we expect an over-capacity crowd.

To get a preview of the companies, and to vote on who you think has the best idea (before the presentations), please see this article in Cornell Business Magazine.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

$100K NY Style

Ithaca startups Mezmeriz and Geneweave Biosciences were thrilled to be recognized today as two of the top five emerging businesses from Central New York. We were included as finalists for the Metropolitan Development Association of Central New York's $100,000 Emerging Business Competition.

A Yummy Delicious Core

The finalists:

  • Alpha DC Motors of Syracuse has invented a new manufacturing process where they swap out traditional metals for engineered metals, resulting in direct current motors that are significantly better than anything on the market.
  • Aviation Services Unlimited of Oriskany is creatively using helicopters for things way beyond just travel. They are completely re-thinking aviation.
  • GeneWeave Biosciences of Ithaca has a breakthrough technology for detecting harmful bacteria that is significantly faster, cheaper, and more precise that current methods.
  • Make & Take Gourmet of Syracuse has 18 stores throughout the east coast where people can quickly and cheaply make gourmet meals for their whole family that previously they could only get at overpriced restaurants.
  • Mezmeriz of Ithaca. That's us! We're making the tiny little projector display thing you have read about here before.

Diego of Geneweave and I carpooled to Syracuse for the event. We weren't sure what to expect. The location in the classic downtown M&T bank lobby and all of the television cameras were a bit daunting, but we had a great time nonetheless. I don't know if we made the TV news, but we did make the WSYR-TV website!

Beforehand we got to meet the other entrepreneurs and found they were more brothers in arms than competitors. It sucks that there is only one winner. With businesses so disparate, how in the world do you compare? If we had a DC motor-helicopter- biotesting-projection-gourmet restaurant, we'd be all set!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Venture Capital Investment Competition Wants You!

You have heard me extol the virtues of the Venture Capital Investment Competition here and here. Now is your chance to participate at their national finals! Excerpts from a letter from organizer Patrick Vernon:


As a former participant, you know the value of VCIC to presenting entrepreneurs, but did you know that 40% of the entrepreneurs selected to present at the Finals go on to raise an average of $9M in venture capital. See successful ventures here.

This is a rare free opportunity to present a venture to VCs from around the United States as a part of the prestigious Venture Capital Investment Competition. Now in its 11th year, the VCIC finals is the culmination of 40 events around the world in which top MBA students are competing to be the best VC. If selected, a venture will be one of four entrepreneurs at the event joining 20 VCs who will act as judges.

WHAT: 11th Annual VCIC
WHERE: Chapel Hill, NC
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, April 18-19

If interested, click here for more information and to apply online. It is free to apply and participate, but don't delay!

Thank you!
Patrick Vernon
Associate Director and Adjunct Lecturer
UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Updated List of Ithaca Startups

Ithaca continues to have a growing amount of entrepreneurial startup activity. With Cornell's massive research budget, and the draw of a great lifestyle, it is really no surprise that a new breed of startup is finding a comfortable home here. In preparation for the upcoming entrepreneurship symposium at Cornell, here is my current list:

Adirondack Packaging
Buzz In Media
Comet Action Sports
DataPoint Labs
e2e Materials
Finger Lakes Aquaculture
Gene Network Sciences
GeneWeave Biosciences (formerly Phagenetics)
Gorges Websites
Hybrid Silica Technologies
International Climbing Machines
North Sea Resins
Predict Systems, who power Additune
ReMarkable Paint

The College Freeway

I am sure I am leaving off somebody, but 40 active entrepreneurial companies is a pretty good start!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cheering Big Red or Looking Ahead?

The Cornell Big Red basketball team is playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years. The game is on this Thursday at 5pm ET. Which is also the same time as this month's Finger Lakes Entrepreneurs' Forum meeting. Decisions, decisions!

Post Positions or Acquisitions?

This month's topic is "Acquiring a Company - from the Acquirer's Point of View". I'd like to say I am looking so far down the path for Mezmeriz that I'm thinking about a time when the company might get acquired, but I really want to see the game. I've not yet decided, but if you see me sneak out the back of the room, you'll know where I went.

Go Big Red!

Addendum: It looks like I am not the only one in the lovely hamlet of Ithaca that has Big Red Basketball on the brain. The Finger Lakes Entrepreneur's Forum has been postponed to next Thursday. Now, let's hope the Big Red do so well this weekend that they have to cancel that meeting as well!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Start Smart

The SmartStart Venture Forum in Rochester on May 13 & 14th is a great way for New York companies seeking venture capital to meet a whole lot of folks all at once. It is part of New York State's ongoing effort to promote entrepreneurial companies.

Hey VC, come see!

The venture folks like it because the venture forum acts as a screener for the truly zany, and the entrepreneurs like it because they get a lot of exposure quickly.

If you have a viable, venture-fundable technology company, this is a great opportunity. To learn more and apply to present, click here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Arundel County Chopper


A friend in Maryland sent me a picture of Chopper. He kind of looks like Paul Sr., who is an entrepreneur. Other than that I don't know how it pertains to anything in this blog, but the picture was too funny to leave in my inbox. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Those darn kids and their text machines!

Matt and his crew at Scrimple have made good use of the Ithaca winter. They decided to stay inside and develop something simple and cool to save us all a few bucks.

Scrimple recently introduced text coupons to their site. I absolutely LOVE this feature. No printer? no problem! But more importantly, how many times have you printed something, and then forgot to pick it up? Happens to me all the time. Introducing the solution:

Yep, that little button is the solution. See your coupon, press the button, text yourself. It's easy and free. I like easy. I like free. I love text coupons!

Well done Scrimple!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An antidote to the 'California No'

I am a big fan of the Venture Capital Investment Competition conducted each year by the University of North Carolina at top graduate business schools around the world.

A Honest Good Time

I recently encouraged Jon Greene of Widetronix to participate as an entrepreneur at the Harvard VCIC. The VCIC is one of the few times entrepreneurs get to hear honest feedback from real venture capitalist about your business.

Venture capitalists typically give a myriad of excuses for why they won't invest in your company. This is casually referred to at the "California No". VC's do this to keep their options open in the future. Saying "You aren't really in our investment space" is a lot easier and less risky than saying "We hate your business plan and we have no idea what your technology does". Nobody wants to piss off the next Google/Yahoo/eBay. However, it never really helps the company get better. The beauty of the VCIC is that the companies get the honest feedback, AND they get to hear how valid that feedback is. It's a great experience all the way around.

I have had the good fortune of participating as a student, a faculty adviser, and twice as an entrepreneur of a VCIC venture. If I someday attend as a venture capitalist, I'll have hit for the cycle!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pique Investor Interest at the Peak

Borealis Ventures, High Peaks Venture Partners, and Fresh Tracks Capital are once again hosting their unique Peak Pitch events this March.

Bringing New Meaning to Green Trails

This is a clever invitation-only event where investors and entrepreneurs get to talk shop while hitting the slopes. The basic premise is that the entrepreneurs tell their story to a different investor on each chair lift ride up the mountain. Then the investor gives feedback during the ride down. Where it goes from there depends on interest on both sides.

The event is free to attend, but you have to be apply for an invitation. To get one of the coveted blue entrepreneur's bibs, apply here.

Good luck! I hope to see you on the slopes!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Opine on Superbowl Ads and win money! is a website where you can watch and rate television advertisements, share you opinion on them, and win money! The site is free and fun. They already have all the Super Bowl ads, including my favorite with Will Ferrell drinking Bud Light.

Adjack: The place to tell Amp that a dancing redneck using jumper cables as nipple clips doesn't make you thirsty

AdJack was founded by fellow entrepreneur and Johnson School alum Dave Boland. He has been working on the idea and details for awhile, and made sure the site launched in time for the Super Bowl. Now he is up and running and giving away $ to people watching and rating ads. Here's my lucky number:

Good luck with yours!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How Bazaar

Cornell MBA Sumit Mittal started his company while still a student. They launched at the end of last summer and are now aggressively growing the site. Check it out at

Pele speaks "righteous," Sister Zina says "funky"

SkillsBazaar connects students to employers for specific projects. It's not a job site, but rather a project site. Want to get some work done for a good price without outsourcing halfway across the globe? SkillsBazaar is your solution!

Oh, and you students looking for some work, Skills Bazaar needs you. Sign up here.

Well done Sumit!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Entrepreneurship as a Career

"Why would someone spend all that time and money to get an MBA and not go get one of those high paying corporate jobs? Well, we have the answer!

Some of the local Cornell Johnson School MBA alums are going to be holding an open discussion/forum session with the Johnson School's Career Management Center office on Monday January 28th at 7:30pm on Cornell's campus in Sage Hall, room B5. The basic theme will be entrepreneurship as a career option, with folks talking about their experiences - and why didn't go and get "normal jobs".

I like having a "normal job"

There will be a handful of us local Johnson School alum entrepreneurs on hand. The focus will be on the MBA crowd, but feel free to stop by and to spread the word to any entrepreneurially minded students you know.

Friday, January 04, 2008

What I learned in an (almost) empty room in downtown Philadelphia in 2000

When I was an MBA student, I attended the Wharton Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Symposium. It was November of 2000 and those were dramatic times indeed. Everyone was just starting to feel the hangover from the '90's tech boom, but there was still hope in the air.
Akamai co-founder Jonathan Seelig was the keynote speaker. Jonathan co-founded his company while a MBA student at MIT-Sloan. He had done exactly what I was aspiring to do, so I got there early for a front row seat for his talk.

As it turns out, my eagerness was not necessary. I could have had my pick of over 1,000 empty seats. The internet/tech bubble had burst, but this event had been planned based on the 1999 attendance. Since then many people's interest in entrepreneurship and technology had evaporated, but the Philadelphia Convention Center had been booked and paid for well in advance.

Jonathan was bemused but gracious as he leaned over the lectern looking out at the sea of empty seats and remarked "Where is everybody?". He went on with his talk anyway. I was especially grateful because the lessons I learned there were crucial to the founding of SightSpeed six months later, and Mezmeriz six years later. He told his story in plain terms about meeting the professor/grad student inventors, building the business plan, and launching the company with the help of experienced entrepreneurial investors. That then became my game plan.

The next year the symposium changed it's name and location, but continued their practice of outstanding speakers. It is now split up into two conferences, and the second part is called the Wharton Private Equity Conference and it's happening January 18th.

Plus, all the background music will be provided The Scorpions

I don't know if I'll be able to make this year, but if you can, do. They have fair pricing, including big discounts for students. To learn more, click here.