June 18, 2014

Cornell Tech MBAs connect with undergrad entrepreneurs

Students share ideas at the PopShop
Lindsay France/University Photography
Students share ideas at PopShop in Collegetown.

Collegetown is fairly quiet these days, but not at 325 College Ave. or 409 College Ave.

In those spaces, a few dozen undergrad and graduate students and young alumni are spending the summer hard at work on their entrepreneurial ventures.

Many of them took a break from writing code and sales pitches June 10 to meet with the inaugural class of MBA students from Cornell Tech at PopShop, an open collaborative workspace. The MBA students are in Ithaca, New York, to begin their studies before heading to Cornell Tech in New York City in the fall.

Katie Dreier ’12, a member of the MBA class, arranged the meeting, along with meetings at Cornell's McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences and at the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization.

“Entrepreneurship resources are spread all across Cornell's campus, and I wanted to help make sure that our class got exposed to and had the chance to take advantage of as many resources and connections as possible,” Dreier said. “One of the things you learn in an MBA program is how important it is to build the right team. You never know where you might meet your next team member or business partner.”

The new one-year MBA at Cornell Tech is focused on the digital economy, offering students a traditional MBA foundation in business as well as an understanding of where and how technology and business intersect.

“The event tonight was a great way to connect with like-minded people in technology fields,” said Emily McAllister ’11, who majored in economics and film as a Cornell undergrad and is pursuing her MBA through the Cornell Tech program.

Kelsey Kruse ’16, a PopShop manager and entrepreneur, introduced five student presenters. “Both the PopShop members and Cornell Tech MBA class have similar goals and passions, and I would be excited to see the two further collaborate,” Kruse said. “Hopefully, professional relationships will bud from the event.”

PopShop is a student-run co-working space begun in 2012 by Student Agencies Foundation, in collaboration with Entrepreneurship@Cornell, to support students developing their businesses. In addition to Popshop, Student Agencies has offered student entrepreneurs short-term leases in its building at 409 College Ave.

Jay Lee ’13 shared information about his company, Fiberspark, which has contracts with two of Collegetown’s largest landlords – covering 400 bedrooms – to provide high-speed Internet service to their buildings.

Lee’s partner is Jeff Shaffer ’13. The two were members of eLab, a student business accelerator, last year and still count on advice from alumni and faculty mentors as they negotiate deals with banks, customers and investors.

Meanwhile, a block away and three floors up at 409 College Ave., Rahul Shah ’16 and his team of 10 students at Speare, which makes Web analytics software, are working to develop their product – software that uses semantic technology to help news websites connect with and better serve their readers. A trial version of their technology is already installed on one website and they plan to install two more over the summer.

“People still want to read real content and there are news organizations out there creating it,” Shah said. “Our product helps these companies engage with and really understand their audience to make them keep coming back.”

“I wanted to work on a project where I could dive right in,” said Valerie Hu ’16, an information science major in the College of Arts and Sciences and part of the Speare team. She’s working on front end development and user experience.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.