A lovely evening at Yext: Startups shine at Princeton-HBS Showcase

Aug. 7, 2018

Another sign that the Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing at a rapid pace: it was standing room only to watch six exciting startups (five with Princeton ties) pitch at Yext in the Flatiron district in New York City in July.  

In a close vote, the showcase audience of 200-plus Tigers, Harvard Business School alums and friends selected ExpressCells as audience choice. The biotech startup headed by Matt Handel ’87 and Temple University researcher Oscar Perez Leal combines popular gene editing technology CRISPR with a patented vector system to enable rapid, low-cost custom cell delivery. In second place was BlockX, founded by a team of alumni from the class of 2018, developers of the blockchain-enabled Afari social network.

Many alumni expressed thanks both for staging this event, but also for the University’s efforts in support of entrepreneurship. The excitement was not limited to the Tigers in attendance – ExpressCells also won the opportunity to pitch to the HBS Alumni Angels group in recognition of earning the most audience votes. 

Visit our Facebook page for photos from the event.

PEC thanks Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network, Princeton Alumni Angels, and HBS Alumni Angels of Greater New York for their cooperation and collaboration in planning this event. We extend special thanks to Yext for their hospitality.

More about the startups:



Photo of Richard Adjei '18 of Afari

Richard Adjei '18 of Afari speaks to audience members at the 2018 Princeton-HBS Startup Showcase. 

BlockX (now called Afari), founded by Computer Science graduates Richard Adjei ’18, Felix Madutsa ’18 and Avthar Sewrathan ’18, is a company developing Afari, a decentralized social network designed to protect users’ data and information and maintain privacy using blockchain. BlockX won the 2018 TigerLaunch competition and is currently in the Keller Center eLab Summer Accelerator.

EINO, headed by Payman Samadi, part of the Cornell Tech Runway Program in New York City, uses AI to create “customer-centric network insight and optimization”. Applied to network traffic in metropolitan areas, EINO provides future knowledge of traffic type and optimization solutions to enable proactive network management and maximum usage of available capacity.  

ExpressCells, led by Matt Handel ’87 and Oscar Perez Leal, is a biotech startup using CRISPR to create custom cell lines and shorten drug development time. Current processes take four to six months to create cell lines for studying how new drugs and biologics work within cells, but ExpressCells plans to deliver simple, custom cell lines in 30 days.

Co-founded by Michael Wang ’08 and Maneesh Sagar, SIRL positions itself as “the search engine for the physical world”. Using its proprietary artificial intelligence-enabled indoor positioning system (AI-ips), SIRL allows users to search, identify and interact with nearby objects, aiming to improve the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. With the insights gained though SIRL’s technology, valuable business intelligence for retailers, product vendors and suppliers is created.

STEM Lending is an fintech mortgage broker founded by Hakim Thompson ’06 and Shantanu Sharma. First-time homebuyers can use STEM Lending’s online concierge mortgage service to apply for loans, and STEM Lending presents dozens of loan options best suited for the homebuyer’s needs all in one place.    

SW Analytics, founded by John Whelchel ’15, is “the engine powering professional football decision making” (soccer for our American audiences). To overcome the challenge of creating value from football data, SW Analytics combines an intimate understanding of the game and the landscape of data analytics.



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This article was revised on 8/9/18 to correct John Whelchel's graduation year.