The Friend Center was buzzing across a spectrum of entrepreneurial topics and conversations at the Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference and 21st Annual Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network Startup Competition. Nearly 200 Tigers and friends engaged in thought-provoking discussion and happy celebrating on Friday during Reunions Weekend.
Topics discussed at the Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference included smart cities, venture capital, and Entrepreneurship the Princeton Way, specifically on how various departments around campus are seeing entrepreneurship evolve both on campus and beyond.
Rafe Steinhauer ’07, Entrepreneurial Program Manager & Lecturer at the Keller Center, led a design thinking workshop for alumni. “Design thinking is a body of techniques for developing innovations that address human-centered challenges. Between our courses and the Tiger Challenge, there are now over 150 Princeton undergraduates who are using design thinking to address an array of on-campus and off-campus challenges every academic year. From reducing sexual misconduct on campus, to helping locally resettled refugees connect to better career opportunities, our students are using design thinking as a way to identify, frame, and tackle these complex problems. It was a blast to share a taste of this methodology with alumni during this workshop!”
Diversity also evolved from the discussions, including during the venture capital session:
The day also included fireside chats with noteworthy alums. One such chat between private investor Mike Novogratz ’87 (with exceptional orange-trimmed loafers) and PEN’s Mayra Ceja ’03 was a wide-ranging discussion on blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Ceja also conducted a fireside chat with Jeff Chapin ’98, co-founder of Casper, the mattress startup. Chapin spoke about his entrepreneurial journey through product development, management, and Casper’s popular mattress for dogs.
Alumni mentors from Princeton Entrepreneurship Council’s OfficeHours staffed morning sessions for entrepreneurship guidance. The mentors included a venture capitalist, an attorney, a startup consultant, and a business strategist.
Over 30 Princeton-related startups were on display for the PEN Startup Competition, including Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund portfolio companies Aquabyte, Remedy and WellSheet. Alira Infrared Biosensing, Lithero, and Hempitecture advanced to the final round, with a capacity crowd in the main auditorium watching their pitches. Hempitecture, a hemp-based building materials startup led by Tommy Gibbons ’13, was voted the People’s Choice and won a $1,000 cash award.
Alira Infrared Biosensing took first place, winning $5,000 in cash and prizes including a bitcoin, a Basis, a $10,000 credit with Amazon Web Services, and an all-expenses-paid trip to California for six organized meetings with VCs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Alira, represented by electrical engineering graduate students Alex Werth and Yasin Kaya (pictured below center), pitched their noninvasive glucose sensor designed to work without drawing blood with a finger prick.
The conference was also a strong lead-in for additional entrepreneurial events across campus, including the E-Hub Happy Hour directly after, and additional Alumni-Faculty Forums on Friday and Saturday on cryptocurrency, data, technology and consumer trends.
“It is exciting to see how the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Princeton and within the alumni community has been growing at entrepreneurial speed,” said Anne-Marie Maman ’84, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council. “The annual reunions entrepreneurship conference was ahead of its time for Princeton. The pervasive buzz of alumni helping alumni is contagious and growing!”
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