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Entrepreneurs Fund in Action

By Wills Hapworth on July 31, 2017

eFund 2017 (l-r) Rob Carroll ’15, Pat Crowe ’18, Grace O’Shea ’11, Matthew Glick ’19, Jack Zamore ’20, Cody Semrau ’14, Nick Freud ’15, Mary Galvez & Wills Hapworth

Hello Colgate Entrepreneurship Community!

We are excited to share that we just wrapped up another high-energy summer of the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund (eFund); we are also sad to see the teams go! Here are the ventures that made up the 5th eFund cohort and with whom we had the fortune of working over the last six weeks.

The teams worked 24/7 on their ventures at the TIA Incubator in Hamilton and during that time we witnessed numerous accomplishments, including: celebrating their first sales; making hard and critical decisions about their product based on customer feedback; aggressively hunting down leads from the Colgate/TIA network; making their first hires; learning the do’s and don’ts of effective selling; sharing best practices on business operations with one and other; and more. Here is a bit more on what transpired while the teams were in Hamilton:


5th Year of the Entrepreneurs Fund by the Numbers

  • 5 new teams participated this summer from June 5th – July 14th
  • $65K in grants awarded to the ventures, many putting these funds to work on digital marketing, product development, hiring, legal and more
  • 40+ mentors engaged more than 100 times
  • Mentors (alums, parents, faculty, staff and community members) collectively gave over 450 hours of their time mentoring both in person and remotely

We heard first-hand how much the teams benefitted from the Colgate community and the hours of mentoring they received, and how immensely grateful they are for the experience. The teams now continue on in their journeys to build profitable and high growth businesses, buoyed by TIA and the larger Colgate entrepreneurship community, which we repeatedly say is a membership for life. We are extremely proud of all that they accomplished this summer, and thrilled to see them join the eFund legacy, which has had an impressive impact since its inception. Here is a little more on what the eFund has accomplished over the past 5 years:


Entrepreneurs Fund Inception to Date

  • 27 teams awarded a seed grant to date
  • ~7 highly qualified Colgate alumni/parent entrepreneurs have screened the applications every year
  • $375K of seed capital deployed through generous gifts from alums and parents, with funds supporting product development, digital marketing, key hires, legal, and other growth functions
  • $11.9MM+ of investment capital subsequently raised by eFund teams
  • 17 ventures still currently operating; batting well over .500 which is great for startup odds
  • ~100 full-time jobs created and still filled by eFund ventures, and many more part-time positions created
  • 2,200+ hours of time donated by mentors, on average about 40+ mentors engaging more than 100 times every summer

Thank you to all the mentors that accelerated these ventures, to Colgate for fostering such a collaborative environment, to the entrepreneurs for their tireless work and making us all look good, and to the TIA team that keeps things running smoothly. Let’s keep the energy high and continue turning thoughts into action!

 

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Taking the leap to full-time entrepreneur by Cody Semrau

By Contributing Writer on July 27, 2017

Cody Semrau ’14

When I graduated from Colgate back in 2014, I thought that I was leaving the hills of Hamilton far behind me. But after spending a few years working a corporate job in D.C., I found myself feeling unfulfilled. I wanted to do something – to create something – that I was really passionate about. What started as a part time hobby has now become the center of my world, and led me back to a familiar place.

Thanks to Colgate’s TIA Entrepreneurs Fund, I was able to make the jump into entrepreneurship full-time. After quitting my day job in May, I moved to Hamilton and have spent the summer working on my venture, BetterMynd, alongside four other teams of energetic and determined Colgate entrepreneurs.

BetterMynd is an online mental health and teletherapy platform designed exclusively for college and university campuses. We bring together a wide network of licensed mental health therapists and counselors and allow students to search from and have teletherapy sessions with their counselor of choice—all from the comfort and privacy of their laptops or smartphones.

When I was a senior at Colgate, I began experiencing my own mental health issues, and I was fortunate enough to get help from Colgate’s on-campus resources. However, the experience was an uncomfortable one. I had to carefully sneak into that building everyone knew as the Counseling Center. Then I had to sit in the lobby across from other classmates that were experiencing their own mental health issues. It was an awkward experience, but one I was willing to go through in order to get the help I needed. But many college students are not, and it is the reason why over half of students with mental health issues don’t get any help at all.

At the same time, colleges across the country are experiencing a significant spike in the number of students seeking mental health counseling, with the latest studies showing a 50% year-over-year increase in demand. Although this is a great sign that more students are seeking help, it’s not so great if colleges don’t have the resources to keep pace. One out of three colleges has a waiting list for students seeking counseling and most schools cap the number of sessions a student can have at six. Still, it often takes up to two weeks for a student to get an appointment.

By bringing more counseling resources to college students, and making these resources more accessible through our online platform, BetterMynd is empowering struggling college students to get the help that they need.

As part of the Entrepreneurs Fund, BetterMynd has had the added benefit of working closely with Colgate’s Counseling Center staff and other administrators. We will launch our first pilot program with Colgate this fall semester, with the hopes of expanding to other campuses later this year.

The Entrepreneurs Fund has allowed me to take BetterMynd to the next level. The program has not only allowed me to dive into entrepreneurship full time, but it has also given me the opportunity to tap into the expertise of dozens of Colgate alums on everything from marketing and branding to finance and law. As a young entrepreneur navigating the complex and challenging startup world, this mentorship has been invaluable. Although there are too many mentors to list here, I am sincerely grateful for all of your time and advice.

Lastly, I would like to give a special thanks to Wills Hapworth and Mary Galvez for all of your hard work and support in making this summer and The Entrepreneurs Fund such an incredible experience.

Cody Semrau
Founder & CEO, BetterMynd

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2017 Entrepreneurs Fund winners at work in TIA Incubator

By Erin Burnett '19 on July 18, 2017

Founder Grace O’Shea ’11 (second from right) and her colleagues from room2learn, a company that provides custom-design solutions for school communities. She developed the idea for the company when she was working as an 8th grade science teacher and realized the need for more flexible classroom space.

 

If Grace O’Shea ’11 could describe her perfect work environment, there’s a good chance it would look something like Colgate’s Thought Into Action Incubator located in the heart of downtown Hamilton. After all, its spacious layout, flexible seating options, and co-working environment are exactly what her spatial design company, room2learn, creates for its clients.

Luckily enough, O’Shea spent the beginning of her summer in the incubator working to grow her company as one of the 2017 Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund winners. She belongs to one of five teams that each received a $12,000 grant, mentoring, and use of the incubator space for the summer.

The other winners included Patrick Crowe ’18, founder of Loophole; Rob Carroll ’15 and Nick Freud ’15, co-founders of CampusReel; Matthew Glick ’19 and Jack Zamore ’20, co-founders of Gipper; and Cody Semrau ’14, founder of BetterMynd. The fund was established in 2013 with a lead gift from Dan and Linda Rosensweig P’15, ’17 to support the business ventures of action-oriented start-ups that have at least one Colgate member on their founding team.

Although O’Shea and her team are still determining how they will allocate their funding, she says that the intellectual guidance they’ve received is priceless.

“Colgate has an alumni network like no other,” O’Shea said. “All the human capital that Colgate has to offer and the way that people lend their ears and advice to the TIA community — I think that’s pretty amazing.”

Successful entrepreneurism draws heavily on ways of thinking that are integral to a liberal arts education, explained Meg Blume-Kohout, visiting assistant professor of economics and TIA faculty mentor. “The TIA student-entrepreneurs throw their hearts, time, and effort into creating something new, and for many of them, their venture is an expression of their own identity and social consciousness.”

As for O’Shea’s secret to success? “Figure out if you have something valuable to offer,” she advised hopeful entrepreneurs. “Talk to people about it. Put a prototype in the hands of someone else. Don’t be afraid to take the first steps toward putting your thought into action.”

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Our experience in the Entrepreneurs Fund

By Mary Galvez on July 13, 2017

Rob Carroll ’15 & Nick Freud ’15, co-founders of CampusReel

The Entrepreneurs Fund was created in 2013 in recognition of the large number of student and alumni entrepreneurs throughout the Colgate community who are solving problems and demonstrating an ability to execute. Open to for-profit and non-profit ventures with at least one Colgate member on the founding team, the fund offers prizewinners the opportunity to grow their ventures with seed capital; incubator space for the summer in Hamilton; and intellectual resources from within the Colgate community. The Efund was created in 2013 with a lead gift from Dan and Linda Rosensweig P’15, ’17. Five teams were chosen to participate in this years fund that began May 30 and runs through July 14. Rob Carroll ’15 and Nick Freud ’15 of CampusReel, wrote the following article detailing their experience in the program.

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The atmosphere in the incubator is one of energy, optimism, and a friendly dose of competition. Each team wants to be the first one in the office, and the last one to leave; and with this particular group, it means that none of us sleeps much. We have weekly ‘scrums’ where we all sit together for an hour in the morning and discuss the current state of each company, milestones we want to achieve for the week, and problems in the business that we are working through. Addressing these issues as a team fosters a strong sense of community in the incubator, and results in all of us taking a vested interest our peer’s businesses. More than anything, however, the team building in the incubator is a very powerful way for us to gain a unique perspective from a group of likeminded entrepreneurs making their way through an exciting and unpredictable process.

The network that TIA has allowed us to tap into has been truly invaluable for us at this stage in the process. Over the past three weeks in the incubator, we’ve conducted upwards of thirty meetings with serial entrepreneurs, brand strategists, psychologists, lawyers, and other professionals who have helped hone our company vision, product development, and execution strategy. In a process defined by uncertainty, we feel so fortunate to be able to consult this prolific network of mentors as we navigate through this process. Building a company in the early stages is an exercise in efficient problem solving, with no real framework or precedent to inform each decision. It can be overwhelming at times, but we cannot overstate how motivating it has been for us to be able to speak with experienced professionals who were once in our shoes, and have now found high levels of success in their respective industries. Each mentor we have spoken to has been unbelievably warm and accommodating, and has provided us with the tools and information necessary to effectively build our companies.

Finally, we’ve very much appreciated the way that TIA allows us to be entirely autonomous as we build our companies from the ground up. On the first day of the program Wills Hapworth ’07 [Alumni Executive Director of TIA] met with all of us and explained that, as entrepreneurs, it is paramount that we all understand how to be disciplined and self-directed on a daily basis. The incubator provides us with all the necessary structures and recourses to excel, but it puts the impetus on the entrepreneurs to capitalize on the opportunity. At the end of the day, if we fail there is no one to blame but ourselves, and the same can be said for if (and when) we succeed!

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TIA Mentor named Entrepreneur of the Year

By Mary Galvez on June 5, 2017

Melissa Coley ’79, President-elect of the Alumni Council awards Oak Atkinson ’87 the Entrepreneur of the Year award

TIA mentor extraordinaire, Oak Atkinson ’87, was selected as the Colgate alumni council’s 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year during this years eWeekend in New York City. Oak is the founder of tumbalina, the artisanal and digital card company that measures its success in smiles by “touching hearts one by one.” In 2003, the first year in business, tumbalina won several industry awards, including a “Louie”, (the Oscars of the stationery industry), and the American Package Design Award. In 2015, tumbalina sold over 17 million cards with clients like Snapfish, Walgreens and CVS .

 

While Oak is super busy running her multi-million dollar business, she is also a wife, mother and artist. Yet, she still makes time in her busy schedule to come to campus once a month to mentor TIA Incubator students. Why? To give back to Colgate and to “pay it forward,” as the saying goes. And . . . “it’s also fun.”

In addition to mentoring, Oak has taken it upon herself to hand-stencil a number of walls in the TIA incubator with inspirational and relevant quotes. This has been a laborious and time-consuming project that has added so much visually and inspirationally to our space. Oak has volunteered her time to this project, as do all of our mentors. TIA absolutely could not survive without our incredible group of alumni, parent and community mentors.

 

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU Oak and congratulations on this well deserved award.

 

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Congratulations to Our 2017 TIA Graduates!

By Mary Galvez on May 23, 2017

Thirteen Thought Into Action students graduated in Colgate’s 196th commencement ceremonies May 21st. We couldn’t be prouder of each one of them and wish them the best of luck as they enter the next phase of their lives.

Adam Buys

Adam Buys
Sapling / WeRun App

Abeneazer Chafamo
Hyve

Blaise Desnoes
Earthprint Organics

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trippie

Ryan Diew
Trippie

Raffi Khatchadourian
Indify/Waffle Cookie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jazmyn McKoy
Heart of Tabitha

Daniel Mosko
PetFed / Seela

Caroline Nichols
D’Eat It

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hannah S. O’Malley
UNRAVEL

Keane Sanders
Seela

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orion Schelz
Colgate Dining Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good luck to our graduating seniors! We’ll miss you and hope you’ll pay it forward by mentoring future classes of the TIA Student Incubator!

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Colgate hosts sixth annual Entrepreneur Weekend

By mhames on May 17, 2017

Colgate University, Thought Into Action (TIA), and the Entrepreneur Professional Network hosted the sixth annual Entrepreneur Weekend on April 29, bringing alumni, parents, students, and friends together for the first time in New York City.

The festivities included a panel conversation moderated by Forbes magazine tech editor Steven Bertoni ’02. The panel included: Samantha Radocchia ’11, co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Chronicled; Cliff Sirlin ’89, co-founder of the Domino Media Group and now managing director at LaunchCapital LLC; and Ram Parimi ’05, co-founder and vice president of sales, Social Tables. (Read more . . . )


2017 Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund Winners

By Mary Galvez on May 17, 2017

The Entrepreneurs Fund was created in 2013 in recognition of the large number of student and alumni entrepreneurs throughout the Colgate community who are solving problems and demonstrating an ability to execute. Open to for-profit and non-profit ventures with at least one Colgate member on the founding team, the fund offers prizewinners the opportunity to grow their ventures with seed capital; incubator space for the summer in Hamilton; and intellectual resources from within the Colgate community. The Efund was created in 2013 and initially funded by Dan and Linda Rosensweig  P’15, ’17.

Congratulations to the five teams chosen as this years winners of the fund:

 

BetterMynd is improving the mental health of America’s 21 million college students. BetterMynd gives students access to a network of certified mental health counselors and allows them to engage in teletherapy sessions. Cody Semrau ’14

 

CampusReel democratizes the college campus visit. We mitigate financial, temporal and logistical restraints that prevent prospective students from visiting campuses through a platform rich with video content from colleges across the country. Rob Carroll ’15 and Nick Freud ’15.

 

Gipper is a sports highlight app and service that harnesses a love for athletics to improve engagement and further advancement at high schools and colleges. Matthew Glick ’19 and Jack Zamore ’20

 

Loophole makes a rubber ring phone accessory that prevents you from dropping your phone while also improving how you use your phone. Patrick Crowe ’18 and Steven Stillwell (Towson University)

 

room2learn is a social platform and design consultancy that provides custom and affordable design solutions for K-12 schools shifting towards 21st century learning. Grace O’Shea ’11, Fernando Trujano, and Jane Zhang.

 

 

PAST eFUND WINNERS

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Inc. Magazine names two TIA ventures among Coolest College Startups

By mwalden on April 25, 2017


Last month, while the sports world was reveling in March Madness, entrepreneurs were tuning in to Inc. magazine’s Coolest College Startup competition to see which of 16 ventures would win the 2017 title.

This year, Colgate was the only university represented twice on the brackets — and both ventures made it to the third round of the competition, thanks to votes from the public: Trippie, the airport-guidebook app launched by Ryan Diew ’17 and Samantha Braver, and swimwear company Fair Harbor, founded by Jake ’16 and Caroline ’19 Danehy.

“We were incredibly thrilled and humbled to be chosen as one of the 16 Coolest College Startups,” Caroline Danehy said. “We definitely wouldn’t be in the position that we are in today if it weren’t for the support of Colgate’s Thought Into Action incubator and community at large.”

The Thought into Action Incubator pairs alumni and parent mentors with student entrepreneurs, providing the guidance and encouragement that undergraduates need to identify and overcome problems through new business start-ups. Fair Harbor and Trippie have also earned venture funding during the university’s Entrepreneur Weekend Shark Tank pitch competitions. (Read more . . .)

 

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Navigating the Start-up World, by Zach Zaro ’07

By Contributing Writer on August 12, 2016
Zach Zaro '07

Zach Zaro ’07

Zach Zaro has spent the last nine years working in a variety of positions in the start-up world. For the last six years, as a software developer, he helped build Percolate as an early-stage engineering and product leader, and his most recent venture as the founding CTO at Maven Clinic, a digital health clinic for women. Following are some thoughts Zach has had as well as lessons learned on his entrepreneurial path.

Liberal Arts and Technology Careers
A liberal arts education was a great preparation for the career I’ve had in technology. Some of the skills I use every day are: the ability to research and think deeply about unfamiliar topics; the ability to digest and distill complicated ideas into simpler ones; and the ability to ask good questions. These are the foundations of thoughtfulness that our liberal arts professors all strive to show us.

The most basic aspect of the technology industry is that things go obsolete very quickly. Google replaced older search engines, and is now being challenged itself. Snapchat suddenly has more users than Twitter. Amazon Web Services made the “public cloud” popular, and now Google and Microsoft are selling the next generation of cloud services. New programming languages are invented. The treadmill is relentless and ceaseless.

A liberal arts education gives you the ability to think critically, which is invaluable when it comes to adapting in this ever-changing world. Thinking critically encourages you to have reasons to justify your conclusions, instead of relying on groupthink and dogma. The practice in these skills that you get at Colgate will give you the freedom to make choices about what to learn based on what really fits into your path ahead, all things considered. When you think from first principles instead of based on what you might have heard or read, you can form a coherent story about why to do things, as opposed to simply following a formula or processing orders. It’s never bad to spend time exploring and staying current – the hard part is finding a balance between putting your nose down and working, and picking your head up to see what might be happening around you.

Additionally, thinking critically forces you to actually know what you want to say and why you want to say it. This will make you a powerful communicator in the workplace. In today’s data-driven world, knowing what questions to ask is the only way to get the support you need for your arguments. If you cannot describe exactly what you want to get out of a database, you won’t be able to get the data you need – and so critical thinking will only become more important as we rely more and more on “big data” in businesses large and small. When you can consolidate multiple points of view and help guide decisions and consensus, you can become a lynchpin of your team, and an asset to any enterprise that you endeavor to contribute to.

Early-Stage vs. Later Stage Companies
So far, I’ve worked at nine “start-up” companies ranging in size from just me up to 100 people, and in roles ranging from entry-level to executive leadership. There’s a huge difference in the experience at these different size companies. Understanding this is very helpful as you’re looking at where to work or thinking about how to build your own team. The differences are really much bigger than you might expect, and this decision is one of the most important when thinking about what your daily experience will be like.

Working with yourself or just another person or two, the biggest challenge is prioritizing your time and getting something done that moves your business forward every day. You need a laser-like focus on details and every hour you put in matters a huge amount. It’s interesting to think about the effect of this as a total percentage of the hours worked on the company as a whole. When it’s just you at the beginning, a day can affect a whole number of percentage points. At Ford Motors, a whole year of full-time work is probably a rounding error on a TI-83 calculator.

With a team of about 10 people, things are very different. You are probably the only specialist in whatever you do, but there are other people with similar skill sets that can help. Leadership is so important at this stage because team habits are forming and bad communication can waste multiple people’s time. The emphasis here should be focus on communication and culture as a leader, and on building a culture of respect and professionalism as a member of the team.

Once a company gets bigger than 30-40 people, and really up until 100 people, everything changes again. You’ll have teams of specialists in each important skill set, and often the organization within these teams is more important for the day-to-day of the company than the overall structure/culture. As a team leader, you want to focus on finding people to delegate the details to, so that you can focus on the big picture. As a team member, at this stage, you want to focus on processes and building automatic productivity and communication into the company workflows, so that your job gets easier and the company benefits from your impact as a multiple of the hours you put in.

TIA Mentoring
Being a TIA mentor and interacting with young entrepreneurs in general has been a great way for me to learn surprising truths about how people approach new ventures. The most important thing I have learned is that there is such an amazing reservoir of talent and ambition at Colgate. The TIA program has found a way to put some structure around that energy and it’s amazing to see the results that have come out of it. I hope to learn more from the classes to come!

One thing I’ve seen (and reflecting on my own weaknesses, probably) is just how easy it is to lose focus on getting something out the door and into the market, instead of worrying endlessly about the details. You can get distracted by trying to envision the perfect customer, find the optimal price point, or user-test the best wireframe. These are all important, but as Mike Tyson once said “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face” – and when you are working on a new idea you should be trying to get punched in the face as quickly as possible. The most exciting thing about being around the TIA program is seeing all the punches that everybody is willing to take in order to put thought Into action.

Zachary Zaro is a 2007 Colgate graduate with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy. Since graduation he has worked in the technology industry in New York City and has been a TIA mentor since 2012. While he lives in Brooklyn, Zach really misses living on Lake Moraine.

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