Before the blast of fireworks displays and Abba cover bands at Reunions, a group of alumni shared their startup dreams at the 2022 Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference and Pitch Competition.
Organized by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council and the Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network, the conference consisted of panel discussions, “fireside chats,” and networking opportunities, all of which culminated in a pitch competition adjudicated by conference attendees and a panel of investors.
Anne-Marie Maman ’84, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, set the tone for the day during the opening panel.
“We don’t care if you’re from the arts or the sciences, if you’re for-profit or nonprofit, if you’re business-to-business or business-to-consumer,” Maman said, referring to the council’s mission. “What we care about is impact, the potential for your idea to make change.”
The showcase floor displayed a strong sense of this impact-driven motivation, with startups that included GetNoisy, which seeks seeking to curb noise pollution caused by aircraft traffic; Nucleos, an online learning platform designed to educate those in the carceral system; and Princeton Stellarators Inc., which aims to use seeks to use fusion to create sustainable, zero-emission energy.
While individual startups were diverse in focus, each entrepreneur had strong, often personal motivation for getting their idea off the ground.
Consider Concarlo Therapeutics, which seeks to provide transformative therapies for drug-resistant cancers. The founder, Stacy Blain ’89, said she decided to name the company by combining the names of her three kids, Connor, Carly, and Logan.
“I do what I do because I want to make the world a better place for the next generation,” Blain explained. “Being reminded that I’m doing this for the world that [my kids] are going to live in, that’s what keeps me going.”
Many of the founders were far removed from the business world while studying at Princeton. A majority of their paths to entrepreneurship are rooted in other interests — microbiology, politics, computer tech, food science. Instead of being drawn to entrepreneurship for its own sake, these founders’ motivations are anchored by the conviction that they have something that the world needs, something that can drive positive change.
“When we were first starting up, we called up 10 friends who we thought would be interested,” Lauren Imparato ’02, founder of health and wellness company I.AM.YOU., recalled. “The first thing they said was, ‘What? Weren’t you SPIA [School of Public and International Affairs]?’”
Of the 16 varied startups on the showcase floor, three reached the final round: Alariss Global, an international business development service; Piggyback Network Inc., a carpooling app for families; and ExpressCells, a genetic engineering company.
After a final pitch round and Q&A, ExpressCells was chosen as the competition’s winner. ExpressCells promises to provide “genetically edited cell lines months faster,” which can help speed up scientific research and discovery. Matthew Handel ’87, the company’s CEO, accepted the $5,000 prize and will be given the opportunity to pitch ExpressCells to a variety of investors.