Carnegie Mellon University

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February 20, 2023

From Seed Stage to Successful Startup

The VentureBridge program gives alumni founders the tools they need to forge forward in their entrepreneurial journeys

By Amanda S.F. Hartle

As a founder, laying the groundwork for a thriving startup requires a lot of tools — and even more advice and insights.

And Carnegie Mellon University’s VentureBridge is here to help. 

The free 12-week summer accelerator program provides startups with $25,000 in funding, access to unparalleled mentors and renowned industry experts, weekly roundtables to troubleshoot challenges with fellow founders, targeted one-on-one advice, and co-working and incubation spaces in San Francisco’s Financial District, New York City and Pittsburgh.

“VentureBridge focuses on graduating seniors and alumni who have started working on their business ideas and need help with growing the business from 1 to 100 customers,” says Namrata Banerjee, director of VentureBridge, a CMU entrepreneur-in-residence and a 2004 Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences graduate. “We welcome startups from across the spectrum. We have some companies where our seed funding was the first check and others that had raised $100,000 or secured NIH or NSF dollars before we invested in them.”

“We are building bridges between our founders and the entrepreneurial ecosystems in Silicon Valley, New York City and beyond,” she says. “Our ability to plug our founders into burgeoning ecosystems and get them exposure is what makes this program unique.”

A few founders from VentureBridge’s most recent alumni cohort reflected on CMU’s interdisciplinary strength, and they share how those strengths and their CMU connections have impacted their companies.

alec-baum_700x700.jpgAlec Baum (TPR 2022)
Co-founder, Optionality

“VentureBridge provided an excellent opportunity to network with other startup founders and investors. Discussing shared experiences, best practices and unique perspectives has helped us refine our approach as we navigate the many go-to-market challenges.”

Alexandra Cusell (CMU 2022)
Founder, Jisell

“Participating in Venture Bridge has had a tremendous impact on Jisell’s success. Throughout the program, I learned how to think critically about our fundraising, finalize our product development in a valuable way and acquire our first 100 users. I also got a community of founders that I lean on constantly to keep me sane and help me through all of those unexpected hurdles in a startup.”

Dipan Pal (ENG 2013, 2020)
Founder, Voaige

"The VentureBridge team has been an amazing resource for Voaige. The program allows for direct access to some top-notch industry veterans and VCs for regular fireside chats on company building and fundraising. This let me personally better understand the VC and veteran founder perspective on disruptive yet sustainable companies, a critical need in this new paradigm shift."

Rohan Pandya (SCS 2021)
Co-founder, Beam 

“As a first-time founder, the support from the VB program team during the very early stages of our company was unparalleled. Through thorough discovery, the program team paired us with ideal mentors and connected us with CMU alumni who would be most helpful to us for our current and short-term needs. They continue to be accessible even now when we have graduated from the accelerator.”

Mya Papolu (TPR 2008)
Co-founder, Brandbass

"VentureBridge provided me with the resources, mentorship and funding to take Brandbass to the next level. On a weekly basis, I was inspired by meeting successful entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts. I was also motivated and learning from the peers in my cohort on a daily basis. I've grown so much more confident in the direction of our product, and I’ve walked away with valuable connections and an amazing experience.”

Jay Reddy (ENG 2021, 2021)
Co-founder, Advanced Optronics 

“VentureBridge was an excellent opportunity to refine our pitch, make investor connections and receive feedback from the CMU and Swartz communities. In particular, the other members of the cohort and the Swartz Center team were highly supportive and helpful as we navigated the struggles of an early-stage startup. Additionally, the investment from CMU enabled us to hire our first employees, and the in-person connections from Demo Day have led to further opportunities in the Pittsburgh ecosystem.”