We are very pleased and excited to give you a sneak peek at the soon-to-be established Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which merges the strengths of Project Olympus and the Don Jones Center for Entrepreneurship to advance university research and ideas. Both Project Olympus and the Don Jones Center make meaningful and lasting contributions to Carnegie Mellon’s entrepreneurial mission, contributions that also enhance the innovation ecosystem throughout the campuses, within western Pennsylvania, and beyond.
Recognizing the potential synergy of Project Olympus and the Don Jones Center, in November 2012 the Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustees enthusiastically approved the inception of the CIE, whose mission it is to assist faculty, students, and staff across the entire Carnegie Mellon community in exploring the commercial potential of their innovations. The three goals of the new CIE include: 1) defining CMU as the “destination of choice” for individuals interested in entrepreneurship; 2) fostering an “inside-out” approach of creating winning commercial ventures from cutting-edge research; and 3) developing an extensive, vibrant network of alumni entrepreneurs.
We will be continuing the activities of both Project Olympus and the Don Jones Center, as well as taking on additional projects. For example, in May, we will be traveling from Pittsburgh to Silicon Valley for the first Launch|CMU, a signature event to showcase promising research to top-tier investors. Stay tuned for more information!
- Lenore Blum and Dave Mawhinney
Late last year we lost a legend and our namesake, Don Jones. Don is known for founding four companies and becoming managing director of the venture capital firm, Draper Triangle Ventures. But he was also a teacher and mentor to many including our own Dave Mawhinney. One of the ways Don demonstrated his passion by becoming and adjunct professor and endowing the Don Jones Center. Read more
6 – Carnegie Mellon’s entrepreneurship program was ranked 6th by Businessweek.
10 – In the past decade CMU startups have been acquired by companies such as Cisco, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, and Boeing, and in the past six years alone, Google, PDN, and Home Depot have each acquired a Project Olympus PROBE (problem oriented business exploration).
60 – Millions of dollars of follow-on funding received by PROBEs in the past 6 years alone.
111 – PROBEs from various schools that were helped by Project Olympus. 70 PROBEs turned into companies, 54 student and 16 faculty.
300 – Over 300 companies in the past 15 years have come out of CMU.
500 – Millions of dollars of funding that CMU companies have attracted overall during the past decade.
As a young entrepreneur and innovator, Aditya Agarwal has already led an amazing career, from being one of the first Facebook engineers to selling Cove, a startup that he cofounded, to his current position as a young VP at Dropbox. Learn more about Aditya's career and his advice to young entrepreneurs at Carnegie Mellon.
How did you meet your cofounder, Ruchi Sangvhi? Was the decision hard or easy to become cofounders?
We met while we were both at CMU. It was an easy decision to become co-founders because we had both worked together and greatly respected and trusted each other’s skills and ability to create great products.
Cove was in stealth mode before being acquired in early 2012. Tell us a little bit about Cove.
The vision behind Cove was to re-imagine how different kinds of communities could effectively and efficiently communicate and coordinate amongst themselves. We felt that there were many aspects of our lives (conferences we attended, sports clubs we were part of, alumni associations, etc) that weren't well mapped out in the digital realm, and that there needed to be a product specifically designed to allow these kinds of communities to come together and feel more connected.
Before you started Cove, you worked at Facebook and helped make it what it is today. How did you know it was the right time to leave and pursue your startup?
You never really know for sure when it’s time to leave a seminal company like Facebook, especially when you feel like you played a big role in helping it become what it is today. It’s also incredibly difficult to leave behind a set of individuals who feel like family because of the sheer number of shared experiences you have had with them. All that being said, after having been there for close to 6 years and seeing it grow from <10 people to over 2500, it just felt like time to take on a new challenge and to entrust the next chapter of Facebook with the new set of folks who were ready to take on that challenge.
What memorable experiences at Facebook helped you when starting Cove?
That’s a tough one to answer because a lot of what I learned and applied at Cove was inspired by my experiences at Facebook. Perhaps the one that stands out is that you should attempt to set up a system that is completely optimized for time-to-delivery. At Facebook, we would email the entire engineering team the first time someone brought down the site so we thought we would go one further and just programmatically set that up at Cove! We designed our systems such that all changes made to the codebase would automatically get pushed to the live website.
Why did you decide to go with Cove’s acquisition by Dropbox? Was it a hard decision?
It’s absolutely a difficult decision to go down the acquisition route with a company that you conceived, started and nurtured from the first day of its existence. It is a highly emotional decision at that. The main reason why we decided to go down an acquisition route was because we felt that it was the best way to make the largest impact we could – which is ultimately what starting a company is all about. We saw an amazing product, company and set of individuals at Dropbox, and we were really excited by the prospect of working closely with them to integrate the technology and product that we had built at Cove to reach hundreds of million of users.
What is one piece of advice you received about startups that has stuck with you and helped you with Cove and your career?
Build something that you are not sure you know how to build. Embark on something that a reasonable person might describe as irrational. Aim really, really big.
What CMU professor had the greatest impact on you and why?
There were a number of amazing professors at CMU and all of them affected me in ways that I only realize now that I have more perspective. Everyone from Steven Rudich who taught me that a physical limitation was no barrier to achieving great things to Mark Stehlik who showed me that caring about people and relationships is probably the biggest force multiplier you can have in your life.
What is the one thing you miss most about being at CMU?
The many seasons of Pittsburgh! It’s tough to complain about the weather in the Bay Area but it’s nice to have a bit of variety, even if that means freezing your ears off in the winter.
Describe one thing you think an aspiring student entrepreneur should take advantage of while still at CMU.
Leverage the amazing multidisciplinary setup we have at CMU that allows students to learn from world-class leaders not just in one area like Computer Science but also Drama, Creative Writing, etc. Starting a company requires having a number of disparate skills so make sure you leverage the opportunities you have at CMU to meet a diverse set of individuals and personalities. These relationships will serve you well down the years.
BlackLocus Acquired by Home Depot
Home Depot acquired BlackLocus for an undisclosed amount, creating the new Home Depot Innovation Lab. BlackLocus, founded by Rodrigo Carvalho (TPR’11) and Lukas Bouvrie (TPR’11), was a SAAS platform using proprietary machine-learning algorithms to help online retailers increase their competitive advantage. Read more
CMU Alum Wins Prestigious Cartier Women's Initiative Award
ClickMedix founder and CEO, Ting Shih (CS’01, CMU’04) is the 2012 North American Laureate for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. ClickMedix, founded in 2011, uses mobile technologies to make providing healthcare easy and fast for patients and providers. The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is an international business plan competition created by Cartier, The Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company, and INSEAD. Read more
Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund Awards 6 Alumni Startups
Six young Carnegie Mellon alumni startups are receiving $50k in matching funds from the Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund (OFEF). The fund was created in 2012 by gifts from Jonathan Kaplan (IM'90), his wife Marci Glazer and Peter Stern (CIT'90). Meet the new crop of OFEF awardees: Tunnessence, StatEasy, PECA Labs, Pixite, Aurochs Brewing, and ActivAided Orthotics.
CMU Student Recognized by Forbes
Daniel Schnitzer, a PhD candidate in Engineering and Public Policy, was recently selected as one of Forbes 30 under 30 disruptors, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Dan is the founder and CEO of EarthSpark International, which aims to eradicate energy poverty globally. Read more
TartanHacks Brings Together Innovative, Cross-Campus Students
Students from all over campus got together in late January for TartanHacks, a student-led hackathon run by ScottyLabs in association with Project Olympus, School of Computer Science, and Women@SCS. While the main goal is to build new, unique apps, Tartanhacks also succeeds in bringing innovative and entrepreneurial students from cross-campus together to collaborate. Read more
NYUAD Selects CMU Student for Global Hackathon
Kartik Mandaville (CS’14) was chosen to be the CMU representative at the NYU Abu Dhabi International Hackathon to benefit social good in the Arab world. Kartik was nominated by John Vu, a distinguished career professor of computer science and director of the Biotechnology Innovation and Computation program. Congratulations Kartik!
BlueTree Allied Angels
Equipment Appraisal Services
Pittsburgh Equity Partners
Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse
Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association
Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund
Applications due: March 1, 2013 at 11:59pm EST
This is a great opportunity for young alumni startups
to receive $50k in matching funds and mentoring!
Find out more.
A fireside chat with Bill Campbell, chairman of Intuit and Apple board-member
Presented by the University Lecture Series and Swartz Entrepreneurial Leadership Series
Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 5:30pm
University Center, McConomy Auditorium
Project Olympus Spring Carnival Show & Tell
Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 4:30pm
University Center, McConomy Auditorium
Save the date!