Student teams from eLab, Cornell’s student startup accelerator, and Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute Runway Startup Program at Cornell Tech pitched their innovative ideas at San Francisco’s Autodesk Gallery on March 28.   

The event brought together Cornell Silicon Valley, eLab, Runway Startups, Entrepreneurship at Cornell and the Student Agencies Foundation to highlight innovation throughout the Cornell community. Cornell Silicon Valley connects alumni in the Bay Area to resources like venture capital, financing, legal services, recruitment and publicity.   

Ken Rother, managing director of eLab and lecturer in the Cornell S.C. Johnson College of Business, welcomed guests to the showcase and said, “A word you are going to hear a lot tonight is alumni.”  

This unique West Coast event proved that Cornell and eLab’s alumni network thrives on the strength of shared experiences, fostering connections among its members, old and new.  

Jeff Kinder ’89, executive vice president of product development and manufacturing solutions at Autodesk, provided introductory remarks.  

“There’s something about [Ithaca] being so remote that kind of leads to this resourcefulness and creativity,” Kinder said. “It expands your mind, and you think of the creative power that brings — and I look forward to seeing that tonight.”   

Carl Bass ’83, the former CEO of Autodesk, delivered the keynote. Bass said that instead of “boring” the crowd with his entrepreneurial journey, he would “give five pieces of unsolicited and unwelcomed advice that I share with companies and startups large and small, where they sit on the same couch in my shop and it feels a little bit like a therapy session.”  

Among this advice was all money is green, that you shouldn’t build minimally viable products but build minimally delightful products, celebrate returning money to investors, and surround yourself with the best people.  

Bass ended his keynote with, “Do something that you really care about, and hopefully do something that makes a difference in the world and makes the world a better place.”  

eLab startup CranioMag was one of the teams that pitched at the showcase. Co-founded by Kyle Zappi M.D., M.Eng ’25, CranioMag provides patients and families with a safer, less burdensome alternative to traditional cranial distracters. Zappi recalled making meaningful connections with showcase attendees who showed interest in his business.   

“The intersection of these two fields [entrepreneurship and neurosurgery] has been a fascinating journey and has shown me how innovation in medical devices can be accelerated through entrepreneurial thinking,” he said. “Being in San Francisco, a hub for tech and biotech innovation, allowed me to meet industry professionals and potential collaborators, leading to multiple future meetings to expand our company.”  

Leading up to the event, eLab students met with Cornell alumni in the Bay Area, including venture capitalists and eLab alumni entrepreneurs. Students had the chance to ask questions about their startups and gained insight into different venture capital firms that the Cornell alum represented.  

Kevian Shahida ’20, CEO and founder of eLab alumni company Response, addressed eLab students, sharing his entrepreneurial journey and experiences and empathizing with them as he was once in their position.  

Following pitches, the student entrepreneurs had the chance to network with guests attending the showcase. The eLab students lined up to speak with Bass, who spoke with each student team individually.  

Applications for the 2024-25 eLab cohort are now open. Attend an upcoming information session at 4 p.m. on May 1 at eHub Collegetown to learn more and apply.