Adam Simone came to Carnegie Mellon University in 2009 looking to sharpen his engineering skills with an entrepreneurial edge.
Seven years later, he is the co-founder of Leaf Shave Co., which is bringing a new razor to market. He also hosts Startup Burgh, a podcast spotlighting Pittsburgh entrepreneurs. Previously, he turned an internship into a full-time position with CMU startup Blue Belt Technologies.
Simone's path is exactly what James Jordan, who ran the former Biotechnology Management program at CMU wanted to see.
"He was an engineer imported to get an education, and then a student who ended up being part of the university-to-economic community transfer. He found himself in a startup and when he gets his exit and wealth he stays in the community and starts another one," Jordan said.
Jordan is now senior director of healthcare and biotechnology programs in the H. John Heinz III College, which is committed to helping companies with life sciences and health care management.
"Heinz is going to develop itself over the coming years as the group of students who will help the healthcare companies," he said.
"That is so special for me to have folks like Adam create the amazing 'circle of life' or 'virtuous cycle' of giving back to the next generation."
Through the Biotechnology Management program, Simone connected with Blue Belt, a company specializing in robotic orthopedic surgery. He worked for Craig Markovitz, who co-founded Blue Belt with CMU alumni Branko Jaramaz and Tony DiGioia, and spun it off from CMU's Robotics Institute. Blue Belt sold in 2015 for $275 million. This fall Markovitz is joining CMU's new Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship as its entrepreneur-in-residence.
"Adam was never afraid to ask for more. He was a key factor in our success and he was never shy about asking for help from those around him," Markovitz said.
After BlueBelt sold, Simone was ready for a change.
"Instead of hooking up with a startup and doing the same thing over again, the next level was to start my own," Simone said.
Enter a fresh take on an old product — razors.
Simone met engineer Adam Hahn at Blue Belt, and they created a new design that they hope will disrupt the current shaving market. They developed a razor handle that accepts old-fashioned double-edged blades, and created a tapering system so users can choose to insert up to three blades at a time, depending on how close a shave they'd like. Now the blades act like a Gillette razor, but can be replaced for 10 to 15 cents.
The two created a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $115,000.
Simone credits his networks through CMU with his successful campaign. He tapped one of his former entrepreneurship professors, Dave Mawhinney, who sent out announcements about Leaf Shave in newsletters and on social media. At the same time, Simone was repaying the favor, returning to Mawhinney's entrepreneurship class to speak to students.
"That is so special for me to have folks like Adam create the amazing 'circle of life' or 'virtuous cycle' of giving back to the next generation," said Mawhinney, executive director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship.
While Simone was launching Leaf Shave, he also was connecting to other Pittsburgh entrepreneurs as he interviewed them for his podcast, Startup Burgh. The podcast gives local early-stage entrepreneurs a chance to practice their talking points. He invites them to return a year later and discuss their business.
The podcast is the embodiment of one of the entrepreneurship principles that Simone learned at CMU and took to heart — keeping and building his network. His mentors agree.
"Entrepreneurship is a commitment to building new things in the face of risk and uncertainty. Adam is successful because he builds strong relationships with his colleagues and his customers. He is never too stubborn to take advice and change course when needed. And most importantly, it seems like he's having a whole lot of fun doing it," Markovitz said.