October 10, 2018
Swartz Center Hosts Grand Opening During LaunchCMU
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship invited members of the campus and local entrepreneurial community to celebrate the grand opening of the Swartz Center’s new space at the Tepper Quad, in conjunction with LaunchCMU.
Titled “Science@CMU,” this year’s event honored startups rooted in groundbreaking scientific research, such as LumiSheild Technologies, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff developing sustainable aluminum electroplating to be used as an alternative to heavy metal-based anti-corrosion coatings.
A Tradition of Interdisciplinary Collaboration
LaunchCMU, sponsored by Latham & Watkins in collaboration with Oracle and Insperity, occurs each spring in Silicon Valley and each fall on the Carnegie Mellon campus. Dave Mawhinney, Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship, Executive Director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, announced during the showcase talks that Carnegie Mellon plans to introduce a third LaunchCMU in New York City.
“We are entering a new era of entrepreneurial excellence at Carnegie Mellon,” Mawhinney said. He praised the new Swartz Center space as an ideal hub for innovative work. “The Swartz Center was conceived to be a community gathering place for Carnegie Mellon’s world-renowned interdisciplinary collaboration. The Swartz Center is at the geographic center of our campus — it is now even easier for our engineers, designers, life scientists, computer scientists, artists, and business people to come together, innovate, and create great startup companies that deliver value to our communities.”
Laurie Weingart, Interim Provost for Carnegie Mellon University, Richard M. and Margaret S. Cyert Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory, highlighted the culture of interdisciplinary collaboration endemic to the Swartz Center and to Carnegie Mellon as a whole. “When the Swartz Center opened a few years ago, it brought together entrepreneurial activities from all across campus. It exemplifies Carnegie Mellon’s tradition in promoting excellence in education, research, and scholarship,” she said.
“The Swartz Center recognizes and celebrates the changing role of universities, not only as originators and keepers of knowledge, but also as engines for discovery and innovation,” said Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian during Tuesday afternoon’s event. “In the last five years alone, CMU has generated 1,900 invention disclosures; more than 1,500 patents; and more than 1,300 licenses, options, and other agreements executes for more than 2,300 inventors. And since 2008, more than 280 companies have been started.”
CMU Ventures on Display
In addition to the showcase talks, LaunchCMU includes demo and poster sessions with local and CMU-affiliated startups. Some of the featured companies have dedicated “garage” space in the Swartz Center — a key component of the center’s design — including NoRILLA, Nabla Ascent, Zensors, and Delta Band.
One of the companies presenting at the poster sessions in the Swartz Center was Root Health, a mobile application co-founded by Raj Sharma (MBA 2018). Root’s Chief Operating Officer, second-year MBA student Parul Aggarwal, said, “It’s the next best app for patient management in clinical trials.”
Aggarwal spoke very highly of the support she has received as a Tepper School of Business student. “There is no limit to the opportunities, no limit to the people who want to help,” she said. “The first day I came for a school visit — the day of my interview — was the very day I knew I wanted to be here. I made it known that I wanted to be here, no matter what.”
JJ Xu (MBA 2018) presented her startup, TalkMeUp, during the poster sessions as well. “We equip our end user with an AI-based smart coach on their mobile devices to provide training in communications skills, which better prepares them for situations such as job interviews or sales pitches,” she said. “The coach provides real-time, detailed feedback based on a consistent rubric. Our service is 10 times cheaper, but five times better, than what most communications consultants can offer.”
Roots of Entrepreneurial Support
Xu was a 2016-2017 Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellow, one of a cohort of Carnegie Mellon students with driven to pursue technology ventures. The fellowship program is one of a number of professional and educational resources offered by the Swartz Center, supported by a generous gift from Jim Swartz (MSIA 1989).
“These efforts have one and only one objective: to make Carnegie Mellon the destination of choice for the best entrepreneurs of the world,” Swartz said during his remarks at the grand opening. “With world-class faculty in the technologies of the future, CMU attracts the best world-class academic and research programs. Now these research programs will be matched by world-class entrepreneurship programs.”
Lenore Blum, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, introduced the LaunchCMU showcase speakers. Blum founded Project Olympus at CMU, an early-stage innovation center that is now a part of the Swartz Center. “My vision was to create a sandbox where students and faculty could practice their ideas and make connections with the business community.”
In its new space, the Swartz Center will have more opportunity to continue its support of CMU-connected entrepreneurs. “Our aspirational plans for the Swartz Center include dramatically increasing the expertise our startups have access to through programs like our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, providing more early-stage funding for our startups, creating bridges to the Silicon Valley and New York City startup ecosystems where we have many thousands of alumni and access to capital, and continuously improving our educational offerings,” Mawhinney said. “These efforts will secure our leadership position among the best startup universities.”