A recap of the Reunions 2022 Pitch Competition

Written by
Claire Shin '25
June 6, 2022

On Friday, May 20th, 2022, thousands of Princeton alumni from around the country and across the globe gathered to reunite with peers from their class. In the midst of the festivities, the Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network and the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council held a showcase for alumni to pitch their startups; after a few rounds of presentations, the finalists were decided via audience vote and gave longer-form presentations on their startups. Here’s a summary of the three finalists:

Presented by Joyce Zhang Gray *15, the first up on stage was Alariss Global, a startup specializing in helping international businesses build American go-to-market teams, allowing countries around the world to tap into the American talent market. The US has seen a booming demand for remote work after the pandemic, and Alariss connects those workers with international companies looking for employees who can sell into the US and other English-speaking markets.  They also help their international customers with all HR compliance issues, including payroll and benefits. In turn, international companies can hire from high quality talent in the US, which has been difficult to do historically, allowing them to expand globally. Alariss already has a broad international reach,with customers based on every continent and in countries that include India, Israel, China, Germany, Canada, and more. Currently, the startup is in its seed round, with investors like General Catalyst, Hustle Fund, and the CEOs of Komodo Health, DocSend, and Ancestry.

Joyce Zhang Gray speaks at pitch competition

Joyce Zhang Gray *15 presents Alariss Global at the Reunions 2022 Pitch Competition. Alariss won the people's choice award. (Photo by Wright Seneres)

Next up was ExpressCells. Presented by CEO Matt Handel '87, ExpressCells is a genetic engineering startup that is generating revenues by specializing in CRISPR (a gene-editing technology). They differ from many startups working in CRISPR in that they are not using the technology to develop their own therapeutics. Instead they are using it to provide a service to their customers scientists who are doing research. Handel emphasized the incredible recent growth of this market, as vast numbers of scientists use their gene-edited cell lines in their research. However, Handel talked about several problems in the current market. One example is the delivery timeframe (a whopping 4-8 months), another is genes going to the wrong location. ExpressCells, by using a combination of CRISPR to cut into the gene editing and a plasmid system to deliver the DNA, gets results in as few as 30 days. Additionally, Handel highlighted ExpressCells’ ability to do “complex edits the competition cannot,” and to put “genes in precise locations.” He also said that one of their competitive advantages is their great customer service, which apparently is not standard practice. The company has already gained significant traction, with 38 customers, 13 catalog items, a Japanese distribution agreement producing sales, and more. 

Finally, Ismael El-Amin '03 presented for PiggyBack Network, an solution that specializes in family-focused carpooling. El-Amin began by chronicling his own experience with walking, busing, and carpooling to school and practice as a young student-athlete from his Southside neighborhood in Chicago. He then highlighted the need for carpools across the country, showing statistics showing how many students and athletes rely on car or bus transportation. With a focus on the trips that parents and kids already take, Piggyback offers carpooling by matching families with overlapping routes, allowing parents to meet on another in person, giving them the ability to schedule rides as needed while rewarding the parents sharing the ride. Currently, PiggyBack is partnering with The YMCA in Chicago, Legacy Traditional Charter Schools in Arizona, and MicroSchool leaders in Austin. As these partnerships mature, Piggyback projects to expand to 28 school campuses and YMCA locations nationally, and to be the transportation partner to 21st Academy in Central Texas. Now, PiggyBack is in its seed round of funding through Seed At The Table, an equity crowdfunding platform open to accredited and non-accredited investors.

Ish El-Amin speaking at pitch competition

Ismael El-Amin '03 presents PiggyBack Network at the Reunions 2022 Pitch Competition. (Photo by Wright Seneres)

The showcase ended with a networking session, in which investors and VCs identified themselves so that startups could connect with them. Then the People’s Choice Award, determined by audience vote, was given to Alariss Global. After that, Tom Meyer '87 from Nassau Street Ventures introduced the grand prize winner of the reunions showcase, ExpressCells.