On Friday, April 28, Cornell students and alumni packed into eHub in Collegetown for the Big Idea Competition Finals. Capping off the two-day Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration, the Big Idea Competition gave Cornell students the chance to pitch ambitious business ideas to the community to compete for over $9,000 in prizes and a spot in the Life Changing Labs summer incubator.
The finals round showcased 11 big ideas, five of which were conceived as nonprofits and six of which were conceived as for-profits. In the nonprofit category, Matador Finance and Neil Chand ’18 secured first place for his online course designed to teach personal finance to high school students. On the for-profit side, Sam Langer ’17 captured first with his idea to reduce the consequences of ADHD and the drugs used to treat it through EEG technology, MindShift.
Prizes were also awarded to the second and third place participants in each category. In nonprofits, Emad Piracha ‘17 of Mobile School (bringing education to any location via custom busses) and Max Rothman ’19 of Lucidity (games as a means for early dementia detection) earned second and third, respectively. Liad Hare ’18 received second with Petal (hydroponics to grow food at home) and Michael Xiao ’20 and SmartCharge (a special charger to prevent trickle charging of devices) got third in the for-profit category.
Selection for the finals round was a competitive process; the Big Idea Competition is Cornell’s largest undergraduate entrepreneurship competition, and this year, the competition earned a record 85 participants. After students submitted their idea applications on February 28, the pool was filtered through in-depth application screening and semi-finalist presentations.
The result, however, was an atmosphere of enthusiasm and optimism that rubbed off on many audience members.
“It was exciting to see passionate entrepreneurs in the Cornell community, working on projects with lots of potential,” explained Justin Langfan ’19.
Langfan was one of many students that filled eHub to see entrepreneurship in action. Audience members also had an opportunity to participate in the selection process by writing down the name of the idea that gave the best pitch. Votes were then tallied by members of Life Changing Labs and combined with the judges’ scores to determine the winners.
At the same time, many of the companies that did not win the competition still reported having a great experience.
Finalist VJ Satish ’19 came up with his idea for Pentasys, a drone that could monitor oil pipelines and large plots of land to spot signs of natural disaster, after a fire ravaged the Smoky Mountains near his backyard in Tennessee. For him, the competition meant more than winning.
“From our earliest of nights discussing an idea to that final moment of pitching our BIG idea, I formed what will surely be some of my most memorable times at Cornell. I am grateful to both the Life Changing Labs team and the Cornell Entrepreneurship team for allowing me and my friends to partake in this formative experience,” Satish concluded. “I am certain entrepreneurship is in my future and hope others feel inspired to pursue their very own big idea.”
For more on the Big Idea Competition, check out the details here.