Student companies take on new challenges

Friday, Sep 22, 2017
As an undergraduate and later a graduate student in mathematics at Princeton, John Stogin wanted to share handwritten equations and notes via the internet, but there was no easy way to do it. So he wrote his own software tool. To bring his technology into wider use, he connected with Princeton’s Keller Center, which educates students in entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership through classes and programs.
Stogin’s idea is one of a select group chosen each year to work with the Keller Center’s eLab Summer Accelerator program. Over a period of 10 weeks, student teams work intensively on their startups, attend a series of targeted workshops, and receive valuable mentorship and advising through a network of seasoned entrepreneurs and technology experts. Housed in downtown Princeton at the Princeton Entrepreneurial Hub, the program culminates with presentations to investors, inventors, experts and others from the entrepreneurial community at Demo Days held in Princeton and New York City.
“Entrepreneurship is about much more than starting companies, it’s about translating aspirations to meaningful impact,” said Margaret Martonosi, Princeton’s Hugh Trumbull Adams ’35 Professor of Computer Science and director of the Keller Center. “Princeton students are eager to engage in the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem as a way to bring their ideas and discoveries forward for the benefit of humanity. Our goal is to support them in this, and to educate the leaders of our technology-driven society to solve critical societal challenges.”
Scratchwork Through their startup company, Scratchwork, Stogin and a team of six current and former Princeton students will develop Stogin’s beta-version software into a product, while exploring how to market it to higher education institutions. “Our product will make digitizing equations and sharing them via the internet easy for anyone with no special computer or stylus required,” said Stogin, who earned his doctorate in spring 2017 on the mathematics of black holes. “You can discuss your ideas with colleagues and friends around the world, all in real time.”
HomeWorks To bring the benefits of boarding programs to under-resourced communities, Natalie Tung, Class of 2018, and Brenaea Fairchild, Class of 2016, founded HomeWorks. The nonprofit company aims to provide afterschool academic and community enrichment to high school girls who are underserved or may be living in unstable environments. “Our afterschool boarding program is the step between boarding schools and public schools that allows us to take advantage of both worlds for a fraction of the cost,” Tung said.
Flux Marine Growing up, Benjamin Sorkin spent summer vacations refurbishing boat engines as a hobby. At Princeton, the Class of 2017 student combined his passion for marine engines with his education as a mechanical and aerospace engineering major to build outboard motors that are better for the environment. With fellow students, Sorkin started Flux Marine, a company that is developing a line of zero-emissions electric outboard motors with the goal of bringing marine engines into the clean energy future.