Startup@Brown: A review


With all the well-deserved hype around the events of this weekend’s Better World by Design, now in its eighth year, it was easy for many students to forget about the newcomer to the already-ample lineup of fall conferences at Brown: Startup@Brown. Organized and run by Hack@Brown (Valentin Perez ’18 is lead organizer for both) and the Brown Entrepaneurship Program, Startup@Brown was a weekend-long conference in Alumnae Hall and Smitty B focused on connecting students with startups. Through a series of speeches, fairs, office hours and workshops taking place from the 26th-27th, Startup@Brown gave students a crash course in entrepreneurship. Blog checked it out to see just what exactly startup culture is all about, and whether its correspondent’s idea for a chain of nightclubs inside giant floating zeppelins could make it to an initial seed round.

The conference opened with a keynote by Eveline Buchatskiy, director at Techstars Boston, on the general path of beginning a startup, and was followed by lunch and the general startup fair. At the fair, roughly 20 startups and startup-related firms gathered to speak with students and recruit potential candidates for internships and jobs.


The Startup Fair

The general atmosphere was one of enthusiasm. According to Jason Miller, a representative from data software firm Cloudera, “the fact that [Startup@Brown] was selective was really special. It was branded well, and it makes sense why the companies you invited are here.” Miller also emphasized the extent to which Brown alums and students are enmeshed within startup culture across the country. At Cloudera, “two of the core engineers went to Brown, and about almost a third of our entire data science department is Brown-educated.”

This recurrent theme — Brown’s close relationship with the technology industry and startup culture — often helped make the event feel like less of a professional networking event and more of a gathering of friends and former fellow students united by an interest in entrepreneurship. Brown student and Startup@Brown attendee Hans Wang ’17, a CS and Economics dual concentrator, noted that he’d “seen a lot of former TAs here with the companies.”

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A Cool Thing You Shouldn’t Miss: Andy Hunt ’04 on Warby Parker


Now that we’re knee deep in finals commotion wouldn’t it be nice to take a break and hear a wildly successful Brown alumnus talk about his eyeglass business? Of course it would! Andy Hunt ’04 will be leading a discussion in Petteruti Lounge tonight at 6:30 p.m.on his various experiences as an entrepreneur. His coolest role is undoubtedly that of co-founder of Warby Parker, an online eyeglass company that emphasizes retro frames (think Don Draper/Truman Capote/Gatsby swag) and affordable prices. If you’re looking for another good study break today, take a minute (or an hour) perusing the company’s many styles. Glasses porn may not be a thing, but this site comes close enough. While the specs surely attract the young adult crowd, they’re also familiar enough to appeal to just about anybody, which is probably why the business recently expanded with its first brick and mortar location. As the talk is sponsored by Brown and RISD entrepreneurship groups, Hunt will surely have plenty of advice for how to get a promising concept off the ground. If you need further proof that your 20-page final research paper on [_insert esoteric topic here_] means nothing, be sure not to miss this cool thing. Once more: Today (Tuesday, May 7) in Petteruti at 6:30.

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That [Survey Course] Kid

You may know that kid from the first row of Principles of Econ, or from the Canvas page for Social Psychology. Having trouble spotting him? Look for a glint in his eyes when he talks about Environmental Studies or Neuroscience. That [Survey Course] Kids are everywhere.

Survey courses have the potential to induce this fervor and enthusiasm  in any and all students, especially when we’re feeling uninspired — trolling for a passion. And as indecisive American college students, we’re always ready to hop on the bandwagon of the next big thing. Trust me. I read the Social Psychology textbook cover to cover last year and proceeded to tout it as my second concentration. I now actively insert terms like “cognitive dissonance” into my everyday conversations. It’s infectious.

Here are some course offerings that tend to ignite such enthusiasm. Keep them in mind as you take a look at what you’ve just pre-registered for. Any of the mentioned courses could be just what you (underclassmen) are looking for in a new direction:

Humans, Nature, and the Environment: Addressing Environmental Change in the 21st Century (ENVS0110): First you’ll start recycling. Then you’ll purchase a bike on Craigslist. And before you know it, you’ll be making your own granola every week. This introduction to Environmental Studies offers a perfectly relevant platform for an invigorating academic obsession. With discussion section in Brown’s quaint University Environmental Laboratory — where one finds him/herself surrounded by a kitchen and an organic garden while discussing sustainability on the reg — it’s hard not to feel the cool factor of this area of interest. Everyone who passes through this building seems to have the passion that you seek. It’s tempting. Continue Reading

Alums Who Do Cool Things (and a future career for you): Andrew Yang ‘96, President of Venture for America

Eager overachievers heading into inner-city classrooms – it’s been done.  Eager overachievers heading into some of America’s most struggling cities, including Detroit, New Orleans, and Providence, to create jobs – fresh meat.  Venture for America forges a liaison between college graduates, the start-up community, and distressed economies by placing young fellows in high-unemployment cities.  With the charge of creating organizations and expanding employment infrastructure, the organization hopes to create 100,000 domestic jobs by 2025.  The organization president, Andrew Yang ’96 (economics concentrator), took some time to speak with BlogDH.

What inspired you to start Venture for America?  How did you get the idea?  I’ve encountered hundreds of enterprising recent college graduates who wanted to get into start-ups but didn’t know where to start.  Yet, when I was running a company I was always looking to hire good young talent and had a hard time finding it.  I realized that there was a structural issue around start-up recruiting – if we made it easier to work for start-ups and provided a support system, many more graduates would take advantage of the opportunity. More from Andrew after the jump.

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Alums Who Do Cool Things: Julie Sygiel ’09 makes ‘that time of the month’ feel sexy

When Julie Sygiel graduated Brown in May of 2009, she graduated not only with a degree in Chemical Engineering, but as the CEO and co-founder of her very own company: Sexy Period.

The story of Sexy Period—a company that designs high-tech lingerie for women to wear without fear of stains during their periods—began right here at Brown University. And whether or not you experience a menstrual cycle (ahem, gentlemen), read on, because the story behind Sexy Period is one of some serious entrepreneurship and innovation. Continue Reading