It’s a scenario entrepreneurs dream about: You have a great idea for a business venture, and one morning you find yourself sharing an elevator with a well-known venture capitalist. Can you pitch your idea successfully before you reach the top floor?
This scenario was the inspiration behind Princeton Pitch 2008, an event sponsored and run by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. On Nov. 19, budding Princeton entrepreneurs were given 90 seconds to sell their ideas to a panel of five venture capitalists. The judges awarded a $1,000 prize (complete with giant novelty check) to the pitch they judged the most promising.
Princeton Entrepreneurship Club co-president Nikhil Basu Trivedi ’11 said that the judges were looking not only for a great idea, but for a viable business plan and a quality presentation. “One of the questions they were asking was definitely, ‘Were you confident in this person?’” he explained.
Thirty teams brought a wide variety of business ideas before the judges. Justin Seidenfeld ’09, Adam Tishman ’09, Benton Erwin ’09, and Hesham El Halaby ’09 promised to “make your toothpaste work for you” with vitamin-infused VitaSmile. Stephanie Brewer GS pitched a company called Sprout!, which would sell low-cost products to improve the results for subsistence farmers.
“We were really psyched about the turnout,” said James Thorman ’10, co-president of the club. “It was good to see so many people take two hours on a Wednesday night not just to pitch their own ideas, but to listen to each other’s ideas.”
At the end of the evening, the $1,000 prize went to Tony Xiao ’12 and AirCrumble Technologies, an auto- safety device that would deploy airbags out of a vehicle’s bumpers when the car detects signs of an impending collision. An honorable mention went to Kofi Frimpong ’11, who pitched a webcam mentoring program that would enable college students to work with high school students over the Internet.
Although not everyone went home with a check, Xiao and Frimpong may not have been the evening’s only winners. “We’ve already had e-mails from alumni VCs [venture capitalists] who want to get in touch with some of the people who pitched,” said Thorman.
By Alice Lloyd George ’09
Keep the freshman class / on the Princeton grass!” chanted a group of students in Firestone Plaza the week before Thanksgiving. Their cause was Princeton Proposition 8 (PP8, or the Princeton Sidewalk Protection Act), which the students explained would keep all freshmen off campus sidewalks.
The act was intended as a parody of California’s Proposition 8, a referendum banning same-sex marriage that was approved in the November election.
“We are involved in theater on campus, and thought that a little piece of protest theater might be something we could do to jump-start conversations that didn’t seem to be taking place,” said PP8 organizer Chris Simpson ’09 in an e-mail.
About 30 students took part in the four-day demonstration, holding signs, chanting slogans, and singing songs. A petition supporting their efforts gained about 650 signatures, including that of President Tilghman. “It’s very gratifying to me that this indicates that our administration does support grass-roots student activism,” said Emily Rutherford ’12.
While Simpson said he initially feared that some might view PP8 as trivializing a serious issue, “a conversation about why our metaphor is inadequate is better than no conversation at all.”
Conversation about the protest extended beyond the Princeton campus: A Daily Princetonian video that featured the group singing “This Walk’s Not for the Freshman Class” to the tune of “This Land Is Your Land” and an interview with Simpson was viewed more than 45,000 times in the first three weeks after it was posted on YouTube.
In the wake of the demonstration, three referendums were placed on the Undergraduate Student Government election ballot. One, supported by a new campus civil-rights group called the Equality Action Network, asked whether the federal government should “afford the same rights to same-sex couples as it does to partners of a different sex.” It passed with 66.5 percent of the votes cast.
The other two failed to obtain the necessary majority for passage: an Equality Action Network proposal for the University trustees to sign an amicus brief opposing California’s Proposition 8, and another by Princeton’s Coalition for Intellectual Freedom — a union of conservative student groups — that said Nassau Hall should “refrain from associating the University with particular points of view on disputed questions of morality, law, and policy.”