Princeton Entrepreneurship Council had its most dynamic year yet in 2019, and is poised for an even bigger year in 2020. PEC continues to grow its programming and is attracting larger audiences both in New York City and across the country. Just in 2019 alone, over 1,700 attendees in 13 cities heard and benefited from the expertise of entrepreneurial Princeton alumni and faculty. PEC also took the unprecedented step in 2019 of producing two large entrepreneurship conferences to meet the alumni demand for more content in addition to its regular slate of programs.
The momentum that PEC has been building since its inception in 2015 is having real impacts on campus and throughout the Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem. Speaking at the New York City Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference, “This conference is a prime example of the wonderful activities that PEC puts on to bring the Princeton community together,” said incoming Vice Dean of Innovation Rodney D. Priestley.
The increased power of the Princeton network is starting to show in more connections being made among entrepreneurial alumni, faculty, and students. Funders are investing in founders, alumni are giving back, and collaborations are growing. One such collaboration: Margaret Holen *95, a lecturer at Princeton, said of Thinknum co-founder Gregory Ugwi ’08, “Greg joined one of my teams at Goldman Sachs after graduation. PEC reconnected us years later, and now I’m an advisor to their startup.”
Highlights from 2019 include:
Bay Area Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference
From corporate innovation to arts entrepreneurship, there was something for everyone interested in Entrepreneurship the Princeton Way at PEC’s Bay Area Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference, held on April 11, 12 and 13 in Sunnyvale at the offices of Google Cloud and in San Francisco at the offices of Gap Inc., Salesforce and DLA Piper. Conference attendees experienced many ways to be educated, inspired and engaged with the Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem. The conference was a major component of Princeton Entrepreneurship Week in the Bay Area, which also included a Princeton Alumni Angels Pitch Night and a Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund Mini-Summit.
New York City Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference
The NYC conference was a major component of “Tigers Take NYC” events leading up to Princeton vs. Dartmouth game at Yankee Stadium celebrating the 150th anniversary of college football. Along with PEC’s customary wide range of entrepreneurial topics, the New York City Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference also included a thread of sports entrepreneurship throughout the day. With the proximity to campus, PEC was also able to involve more campus partners and provide free admission and transportation to more than 70 undergraduate and graduate students.
Thrive Conference: Celebrating and Empowering Princeton’s Black Alumni
During the early planning stages for the first Thrive conference since 2014, black alumni were enthusiastic and clear in requesting entrepreneurial content. PEC collaborated with the Thrive Planning Committee to present a half-day of entrepreneurial programming featuring black Princeton entrepreneurs during day one of the Thrive conference.
PEC’s signature panel discussion series featuring entrepreneurial Princeton alumni and faculty continued to grow in 2019. TigerTalks in the City attendees in New York City were treated to fantastic panel discussions in 2019 on AI, alt data and fintech, pathways to entrepreneurship for black alumni, and on genomics and novel therapies. TigerTalks on the Road attendees in Boston heard a fascinating discussion on blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund
AEF was fully invested in 2019, with a total of 30 companies accepted into the portfolio since 2014. These companies received $2.2 million of funding, which they leveraged to raise an additional $75 million, or 34 times Princeton’s investment. Portfolio company founders also benefited in 2019 from mini-summits in San Francisco and New York, with workshops run by experienced Princeton entrepreneurs.
The OfficeHours startup advice platform continues to enable entrepreneurial alumni to share their specific skills and knowledge with Princetonians looking for advice on their startup journeys. With new mentors from the Keller Center and Lewis Center for the Arts in 2019, the OfficeHours platform is seeing more than five appointments for advice a week across the Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem.
PEC also launched its first podcast of stories of Entrepreneurship the Princeton Way called the Princeton Spark. The podcast explores what it takes to succeed in entrepreneurship from experienced Princeton startup founders, investors, mentors, and more. Season 1 featured interviews with alumni such as Daphne Earp Hoppenot ’10 (The Vendry), Vaidhy Murti ’15 (Friendsy/Wit), Pilar Castro-Kiltz ’10 (Princeton Arts Alumni, More Canvas Consulting), Stuart Ahlum ’13 (Thousand Fell) and Kwanza Jones ’93 (SUPERCHARGED) about taking risks, persisting through failure, and how to network, and more.
Episodes are free and available now at princetonspark.com or in your favorite podcast app. Season 2 begins February 4th.
Tiger Entrepreneur Award: Natalie Tung ‘18
Natalie is the founder of HomeWorks Trenton, the first community-based, after-school boarding program for 8th, 9th, and 10th grade female scholars in Trenton. It started as Natalie’s class project, went on to be selected for the Keller Center’s eLab summer accelerator twice, and now has grown from a summer live-in program to a semester live-in program. Through her company, Natalie is empowering young black women scholars in the Trenton community through education, civic engagement and community building.
Princeton-Harvard Business School Startup Showcase
The annual Princeton-HBS showcase brought together a crowd of Princeton and Harvard alumni to hear presentations from six exciting Princeton and HBS connected startups. BoxPower, a Princeton AEF company, took first place and won the opportunity to present to the HBS Alumni Angels of Greater New York and was fast tracked to the final selection round of the Princeton Alumni Angels fall pitch cycle. Also presenting were Dotted Square, Sandstone Diagnostics, SiLAS, Socionado, and SPARE.
Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs
PEC continues to collaborate with PICb on entrepreneurial programming open to the New Jersey and regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. Speakers at educational events at PICb in 2019 included successful New Jersey entrepreneurs such as Steve Sun (GENEWIZ), investors such as Dianna Raedle ‘84 (Deer Isle Capital), Jim Gunton (Tech Council Ventures), Brian Trelstad (Bridges Fund Management), and scientists such as Miguel Sanjuan (Bristol-Myers Squibb). TechLaunch BullPen #14 was also held at PICb, with Keller Center eLab company UPROOT Homes presenting alongside three other New Jersey startups.
Looking Ahead to 2020
New initiatives are being rolled out both on-campus and off-campus that reflect and enhance Princeton’s service to the nation and humanity through entrepreneurship. Professor Rodney D. Priestley, a two-time startup founder while at Princeton, was named the inaugural Vice of Dean of Innovation in July 2019 and will begin in February. In this role, Vice Dean Priestley will “expand ties with industry, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, alumni and other potential partners.”
Working together closely with Vice Dean Priestley, PEC is poised for an even bigger 2020! As the Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund is fully invested, PEC is developing interactive skill-building workshops and learning opportunities in 2020 across the country and online to continue AEF’s mission to grow an ecosystem of dynamic young and early-career entrepreneurs.
PEC is also rolling out an initiative for entrepreneurial Princetonians to put themselves on a new ecosystem map. Alumni entrepreneurs are encouraged to sign up for updates on the launch by visiting entrepreneurs.princeton.edu/map-launch.
PEC is also ramping up TigerTalks in the City in New York City and TigerTalks on the Road events across the country. Our activities are powered by feedback from alumni, so please tell us what is useful to you. We also encourage you to get in touch and help us plan these events.