On April 20th the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, in partnership with Princeton Alumni Angels, held a startup showcase highlighting six incredible alumni or faculty-led startups. Rob Wolk ‘91 and Don Seitz ‘79 moderated the showcase, kicking off the annual Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference.
The first presenter was Nancy Kalish ‘82, founder of Rule Breaker Snacks, a cookie company that once appeared on Shark Tank. Kalish began the presentation outlining her extensive background as a health journalist for Cosmopolitan, the New York Times, Redbook, and more, and then she presented various numbers showcasing the high demand for healthy snacks and the increased demand after the pandemic began. Rule Breaker’s main selling point is its delicious, nutritious ingredients, which include chickpeas and no allergens. Kalish presented her omni-channel approach, which targets grocery stores like Jewel and Unfi, online retailers like Amazon and GoPuff, Snack Boxes like The Good Grocer, and convenience stores like 7-Eleven, where Rule Breaker sells portable snack packs for travel. Rule Breaker also recently partnered with Bimbo Bakeries USA, the largest baked goods company in the US, who invested a half million dollars into Rule Breaker last year. Nancy closed off by announcing that the startup also plans to move into the breakfast category later this year.
The second presenter was Laurence Latimer *01, founder of Dinara which integrates crypto and fiat enterprise banking services. Dinara’s first target customer is VC firms. They offer them an easy way to manage multiple third-party crypto accounts on one single platform. Its second target customer is crypto-related startups. Dinara helps them lower the risk of being de-banked while offering useful crypto services and allowing both crypto and cash as payment. This differentiated position is their selling point. Dinara then demonstrated the massive interest in an app like theirs, stating that 75% of customers said they’d try their solution. Dinara also emphasized their partnership with Silicon Valley Bank, which will financially support Dinara through sales and investment while Dinara remains independent.
Next, Henk-Jan Boele, a Princeton research scholar, presented BlinkLab, a startup specializing in digital biomarkers to help diagnose neurological conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and Fragile-X syndrome. The company is based on research from the laboratory of Prof. Sam Wang. After a short introduction, Boele demonstrated how the application works through videos; it delivers stimuli with millisecond precision and tracks the stimuli’s effects on the subject using a camera. Boele then dove into a quick, though impressive, timeline of awards and milestones that the company achieved, including receiving over a hundred thousand dollars in Princeton University funding, finishing a $1 million seed round, and starting research elsewhere in the world on disorders other than autism (such as ADHD and schizophrenia). Boele closed out his presentation with a discussion on the customer base and the potential of BlinkLab, in which he emphasized the direct-to-consumer diagnoses that it can provide.
Micah Nelp, CEO and co-founder of Soliome (a spinout from the laboratory of Prof. John Groves), pitched his startup sunscreen company which he conceived while finishing a post-doctorate at Princeton. By using the active ingredient in the natural sunscreen in our eyes, kynurenine, the product uses a new approach to sunscreen that would eliminate some of the problems with current sunscreen options, such as the chalkiness and unhealthy ingredients. Additionally, unlike most existing sunscreens, Nelp emphasized that Soliome is biodegradable, ensuring that it doesn't damage the environment, and doesn’t require consumers to re-apply after a few hours. In addition, Nelp stated that it was at a price comparable to many existing sunscreens. Nelp then talked about the global scale that Soliome wishes to pursue over the next few years, which involves receiving approval for sale in places like the US, Australia, Japan, Korea, and the EU.
Next up was Michael Havig ‘87 who presented HealthMe, an innovative solution to the age-old dilemma of the lack of transparency in the exact cost of healthcare. Havig described HealthMe as being a “Shopify for healthcare,” in which doctors are taught how to retail their services as though they were selling on Amazon or Etsy. As a result, patients also get the experience and transparency they desire with no additional paperwork needed. Because of this increased transparency, Havig claimed, patients will be able to better manage their healthcare budgets. He strongly emphasized that the HealthMe network would be “the bridge between digital and in-person healthcare.”
Finally, Courtney Monk ‘01 presented on behalf of her startup Schoolytics, a platform that makes data easier for educators. She explained the urgent need for a platform like this, saying that while schools often have many services collecting data on their students, there is almost no centralized data infrastructure keeping track of all this data to generate a holistic report on a student. This is the need that Schoolytics addresses; it takes in data from many different learning platforms, such as Google Classroom and Canvas, and creates comprehensive reports on students as well as plans on how they can improve. Monk emphasized the centralization of data and the easily-understandable nature of the statistics. She then moved onto the high number of teacher accounts already on Schoolytics as well as what differentiates it from other educator platforms, including the fact that it is free and has cloud-first, real-time data.
After all of the founders presented their startups, a Zoom poll was launched for an audience vote and a majority of the attendees selected BlinkLab as the audience favorite. The startup showcase ended with Henk-Jan Boele sharing his thanks to his team and to conference attendees.
Watch the Showcase at the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.