Business major

From lost items to sports gear, undergrads win for big ideas

A lost tweezer in her dorm helped Caroline Zhu ’26 come up with the idea for her business, LAFT, which helps connect people to the things they’ve lost.

“At Cornell we’ve seen way too many Instagram stories of ‘dm if you lost that’ and even parallel chat messages that go along the lines of ‘hey I lost my black leather jacket at phi delt …he’s 20 and my dad passed away,” said Zhu, an applied economics and management major at the Dyson School, who thought of the idea with Cooper Proctor ’26, a major in computer science from the College of Engineering. “Our app is a community platform that connects those who lose things with those who find them.”

LAFT is one of four undergraduate teams with business ideas that won this year’s Big Ideas competition, sponsored by Blackstone LaunchPad, Startup Tree and Entrepreneurship at Cornell. Winners receive $2,000 and mentorship from Cornell’s Blackstone LaunchPad to help develop their ideas into potential businesses.

Participants chose one of the following tracks: social and climate impact; health and life sciences; consumer products and services; and general.

Rachel Bonnet’s idea for 24 years is TEKs, a track spike cover that allows athletes to walk safely on surfaces other than the track while maintaining the integrity of their spikes.

“I had this idea when I was in high school, but it’s become much more relevant now that I’m a varsity athlete,” said Bonnet, a hospitality specialist and heptathlete on Cornell’s track and field team. “While spikes are essential for maximizing performance, they cannot be safely worn on surfaces other than the track as there is minimal traction between the spike and other surfaces such as concrete. , walking on these surfaces will dull the spikes, causing the athlete to run more slowly.Bonnet has a patent pending on his idea.

James Wylie Deitch ’23 has won the health tracker competition for his company Waypoint, which will provide a platform for people with chronic conditions to follow their health journey and connect with others facing health challenges. similar problems.

“I got very sick in 2019 and spent the next three years on sick leave, where I learned that the process of being a patient is lonely and often non-linear,” said Deitch, a major student. from ILR who won an MIT Hacking Medicine hackathon in 2020 for an earlier version of the idea. “I took notes of my experience, from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. I also met hundreds of others like me and it soon became clear that there is a huge community of chronic disease patients left in the dark.

Dyson School student Joshua Lora ’23 won the award in the general category for Adela, a platform that connects young entrepreneurs to market and funding opportunities and helps small business owners plan their exits to the retirement.

“It’s great to see consistently high undergraduate student participation each year,” said Peter Cortle ’11, Founder and CEO of StartupTree. “The experience gained by students through this competition often becomes the springboard for their future entrepreneurial activities. We hope that even more undergraduates will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and resource to move forward.