On a warm September evening, alumni gathered at The Princeton Club of New York for a panel discussion that featured three alumni startups: Volumetric, Preeline and Küdzoo. While the startups operate in different industries (healthcare, fashion and technology, respectively), their entrepreneurial endeavors share many similarities.
At the New York Startup Showcase and Information Session, the founders candidly spoke to the audience about the achievements and setbacks they’ve experienced as entrepreneurs, and how the AEF has helped each of them on their exacting, exciting journey.
All of the panelists stressed that the biggest benefit of their partnership with the AEF are the relationships with the Feedback Panel and mentors. “As an AEF recipient, you’re paired with a mentor who carves out time for you whenever you need it,” Julia said. “Our mentor has been extremely helpful to us in not only answering our questions, but also introducing us to amazing contacts on both coasts.”
The advice Volumetric received from the Feedback Panel changed their business model for the better. “We initially developed our product for personal care,” Gilad said. “When we pitched to the Panel, they told us, ‘You’re going the wrong way, you need to move into the medical market.’” Rather than turning Volumetric away, however, the Panel gave them an incentive to change their trajectory. And pivot they did. “We’re now negotiating a major deal with a big pharma company, and the Panel was instrumental in making that happen.”
Of course, every startup experiences setbacks. “Some investors didn’t think students would stick around; it took time to prove that students did in fact stay with Küdzoo,” Trevor remarked. “Every ‘no’ you get, you ask why and learn something about your company and yourself.” Volumetric also found that people are very skeptical. “We kept hearing, ‘Why would someone buy [our product]? What problem does it solve?’” Carla said. “We learned many valuable lessons from investors who passed on us, one being that as a startup, most of the time you hear ‘no.’” The panel chuckled in agreement.
The night wasn’t all business, however. Following the information session, attendees and AEF companies enjoyed the beautiful late summer weather and great company with drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the patio.