By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Words from Wallis Hall: Our Entrepreneurial Mission

By President Richard Feldman (originally published on the University of Rochester website)
Whether it’s the next medical breakthrough, the next patent, or the next sustainable plan to help people in need, entrepreneurism is part of who we are and it consistently informs our educational mission. I suppose it’s no surprise that people have taken notice.

Throughout our history, the University of Rochester has educated some of the country’s brightest entrepreneurs and inspired successful startups from a variety of disciplines. From Arunas Chesonis ’91S (MBA) whose Sweetwater Energy company develops energy from non-food plant materials, to Cristina Canavesi ’13 (MS), ’14 (PhD), ’15S (MBA) who used what she learned at Simon Business School and in the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program to help co-found her bioimaging company LightTopTech, our alumni represent what can happen when expertise connects with innovation and invention.

In July 2018, Financial Times London placed the University’s Simon Business School among the top 10 MBA programs for entrepreneurship in the U.S. and among the top 20 MBAs for entrepreneurship in the world. Also recognizing our institution’s distinction in the field, The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine recently ranked the University of Rochester in the top 25 schools for graduate entrepreneurship programs.

But rankings only tell part of the story at Rochester. The entrepreneurial spirit is found in every corner of this institution, and it is thriving in the wider community where new initiatives and economic development programs are exploring new technologies, advancing medical research, invigorating our cultural centers, and revitalizing downtown. I am particularly proud of the fact that in 2015, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released their report of PCT international patent applications that showed Rochester placed in the top five U.S. universities for applications by women inventors.

Our commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship is also evident in the University’s new Barbara J. Burger iZone. Officially opening this fall, iZone is a newly renovated collaborative space in Rush Rhees Library, where students can work together to explore new solutions to social, economic, and cultural challenges and imagine new enterprises that could have lasting impacts on our institution and our world.

iZone director Julia Maddox provides a guided tour of the new media-rich space that is designed to foster collaboration, exploration, and learning.

Of course, most of the University’s entrepreneurial efforts involve the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship. Named in recognition of Class of 1967 alum Mark Ain and his wife Carolyn, the Center helps members of the University and greater Rochester community take their ideas and turn them into solutions for pressing social problems or valuable economic enterprises. By partnering with business, organizations, and entrepreneurs in the Rochester area and beyond, the Ain Center offers entrepreneurial expertise and important resources for collaboration, planning, and education. Those efforts result in business plan competitions, boot camps, technical challenges, the e5 (formerly KEY) program, Experts-in-Residence, and other initiatives aimed at transforming ideas into enterprises that create value. Also of special note are programs such as the Rochester Center for Community Leadership’s new Social Impact & Entrepreneurship Program, where students spend a semester in Washington, D.C. to develop the skills they need to be social entrepreneurs and find new ways to make the world ever better.

The spirit of Meliora is also inspiring innovation in some of the University’s most successful and established disciplines. This June, I attended the inaugural “Light Tomorrow Today” Demo Day event organized by Luminate, a startup business accelerator that provides resources and funding for entrepreneurs working in the photonics, optics, and imaging industries. As a program run by NextCorps, an affiliate organization of the University of Rochester, Luminate held the event near their offices at Sibley Square, where 10 finalist companies competed for $1 million in startup funding.

The winner of the $1 million award was the Boulder, Colorado business Double Helix, which uses new technology to turn two-dimensional images into high-resolution 3D information. As part of their award, Double Helix committed to operating out of Rochester for at least the next year and a half. Other winners that split a second million-dollar award included Intelon Optics Inc., Positive Science, Think Biosolution, and Molecular Glasses, Inc. Together they made an impressive showing, and their presence at the competition helped solidify Rochester, NY and NextCorps as emerging destinations for tech startups.

The University is proud to be an important part of Rochester’s entrepreneurial evolution. By marshaling the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration, we offer innovative programs of study such as the MS in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program and the MS in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management in Biomanufacturing & Therapeutic Development that bring together expertise from all corners of the University, including the Department of Microbiology and ImmunologySimon Business School, and the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Those collaborations help ensure our entrepreneurial graduates have the skills they need to positively impact their communities in a variety of ways.

Perhaps it’s not unusual that the University of Rochester shares a passion for entrepreneurship with the city it calls home. Together, we have been shaped by leaders, inventors, and visionaries who have changed how we view, illuminate, and imagine our world. I argue that it’s our mission to inspire and educate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

Richard Feldman became president of the University of Rochester on March 1, 2018. A distinguished scholar, professor, and administrator at the University for more than 40 years, he is serving on an interim basis until a new president is selected. Feldman joined the University of Rochester in 1975 as a professor of philosophy. He chaired the philosophy department for 13 years before becoming dean of the College in 2006. He stepped down as dean of the College at the end of the 2016–17 academic year. He has received fellowships and grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Defense Education Act, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Feldman has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a PhD from UMass Amherst. 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Help Us Shape What’s Next

By Jim Senall (originally published on the NextCorps Blog)

Changes are coming to Rochester. Everywhere you look, there’s more life and more activity, especially in the heart of downtown. Here at NextCorps, we have both a new name and a new headquarters, and it’s thrilling to be a visible, centralized hub of startup activity for the community.

The last few months have been busy. We launched the first cohort of the Luminate Accelerator, educating 10 optics, photonics, and imaging teams through a rigorous and intensive program. One of those teams walked away with a one million dollar investment. We’ve been running the fifth cohort of NEXUS-NY, our clean energy accelerator. We’ve been onboarding new clients to join our incubator in the historic and newly revitalized Sibley Square. We’ve even been gearing up for a new program that will help clean technologies move from prototyping to mass production.

Our daily work with companies aims to help them accelerate their growth. The more company success we see, the more our region grows and prospers. We’re also striving to bring the broader startup ecosystem together, leveraging the many resources the Rochester area has to offer into something awesome. Plus, we’re working to disseminate good news and advice, and foster connections among entrepreneurs and their supporters.

But we can’t do it alone.

We want your involvement and input. If there’s a story you think needs to be told, a problem that should be addressed, or advice you want to share, we want you to let us know.

Join us—join the corps—and together, we’ll shape what’s next.

Jim Senall joined NextCorps as President in 2009, and in that capacity leads the NextCorps team towards their mission of creating entrepreneurship and innovation-based regional growth.  During his tenure at NextCorps, the organization has launched several new initiatives including a software accelerator program, clean tech accelerator, a statewide Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, and an optics, photonics, and imaging accelerator. Jim holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, and an M.B.A. in marketing and entrepreneurship from the Simon Business School, University of Rochester.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Highlights from NYC’s NextGen Summit

By Vlad Cazacu

After a 5-day intensive leadership institute in Oxford, Ohio, I packed a small suitcase, put my suit in a cover and my laptop in my bag and I was off to the airport. Just a couple hours later, the pilot announced that we landed in New York City. A wave of enthusiasm engulfed my body as I plunged into the sea of people travelling in and out of JFK. I spent the night thinking about the next day; I was still shocked that I had the luck to attend the NextGen Summit, a global conference “built for young entrepreneurs, by young entrepreneurs.”

As the day began, I shaved my face, put nice clothes on and jumped on the train to Manhattan. A whole chapter later, I closed my book and exited on the 6th Ave. People hurrying, jumping in and out of taxis, angry drivers on busy streets, tall buildings and crosswalks gave birth to an unconventional dance between humans and cars. There is something about New York City that makes you feel like you can be anyone and no one at the same time; it’s both empowering and humbling.

The first session took place at Galvanize, a hip and entrepreneurial co-working space on Spring Street. There we had the VIP Meet & Greet, where I got the chance to talk with Audrey Fonseca, founder of Guppy Ink. She shared the struggles that a small business owner faces in a small town. After conversations with a student author and a few startup studio founders, I was wondering why on Earth I was selected to be part of this amazing group.

That night I got the chance to grab dinner with Eric Koester at the Wagamama by the Madison Square Park. I was so excited to talk with him that my noodles got cold and I couldn’t even be upset. His advice on mentorship: find “supermentors,” not mentors. Everyone can give you advice, but few will get invested in your project and open their network to you; search for mutually beneficial collaborations. Also, I couldn’t write this article without mentioning a conversation that blew me away with the inspiring real estate investors and brothers, Jonathan and Ben Moschel. They started their own business years ago and now, at 20 years old, they are making great money out of real estate in Baltimore.

The second day was held at Convene, a conference center on 3rd Ave. Gifting the room with great energy was Jahleel Coleman, who officially opened the conference. He was followed by the witty and wise Peter Shankman who advised to have a plan for when you succeed too, not only for when you fail. Too many startups prepare for the worse and when the growth opportunity comes, they are taken by surprise and inevitably fail. Regarding opportunities, he said most of the time it’s not rocket science, “you just have to suck a little less, people expect crap service anyway” and gave a four-piece model to do so: transparency, relevance, brevity and top of mind. Swan Sit, VP of Global Digital Marketing at Nike, spoke about empathy and managing teams differently, emphasizing the need for genuine connection between co-workers. David Schurman then talked “fearless focus,” breaking down the psychology behind running a marathon and how it relates to the life of an entrepreneur.

Eric Koester on stage at NextGen Summit (taken by Talya Hailey).

Next, Eric Koester took the stage talking about creation events that build credibility. He crushed stereotypical measures of success and stressed the importance of flexibility and depth over prestige. According to Koester, “It’s what you do, not where you do it; you have to be able to prove depth and constantly ask yourself if you are one of the 5 smartest people on this planet about that particular topic.”

The last talk of the day was a conversation between the CEO of Girls Scouts of America, Sylvia Acevado, and the CFO of WealthFront, Ashley Johnson, about women in business and technology. One thing that stuck with me was advice Acevado received in her youth as a Girl Scout: “Never leave the site of a sale until you’ve heard NO at least 3 times.” Before heading back to prepare for day three, I had a one-on-one meeting with Max Schoenfeld, Co-founder & CEO of College Truckers, talking and sharing insights about startups targeting students.

Patrick Lee on stage at NextGen Summit (taken by Brandon C. Ballard).

The third and final day began with a VIP Networking Session. There I met Steve Malkowicz, who started a 3D-printing manufacturing startup while in college and now runs it as a full-time job. As a crowd we played a “Help Game,” where we rotated in different groups pitching our work to the other VIP guests with the goal of getting useful connections. That’s how I met Paul McNeal, Co-founder and President of, a super-connector who introduced me to someone working in the same ed-tech niche as us and provided great advice.

Speaking first was Patrick Lee, serial entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Rotten Tomatoes. Though he struggled throughout his entrepreneurial pursuits, he is a considerate and kind leader. His take on running a successful business? “Develop a great culture – it eats strategy for breakfast.” After Lee’s talk was a social entrepreneurship panel, highlighting funding channels for student entrepreneurs and how to match your visions with your startup practices.

The final panel discussion was about frontier technologies and young founders, where the most common theme was embracing the unknown and persisting in learning new things. The panelists mentioned tenacity as one of the most in demand skills of the 21st century, sharing that over 50% of companies in accelerators pivot their original businesses. My NGS experience closed with a talk amongst other student founders and the Silicon Valley Bank. I was amazed to hear the stories of amazing students starting business, ranging from sports-tech to student wellness to wig rentals to bakeries.

Vlad Cazacu at NextGen Summit (taken by Brandon C. Ballard).

Back on the subway to the airport, I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I was happy and inspired to continue growing the projects I am currently working on. I called Pavel, my co-founder, and chatted about development for over an hour. I want to thank the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship for sponsoring my attendance at this one of a kind conference, especially to Meghan Plate who informed me about this funding opportunity. I would also want to thank the NextGen team for inviting me to come and for organizing this amazing event, with special thanks to Rachel Gross who worked with me for over a month to get through the university bureaucracy and finally be able to get my ticket.

Vlad Cazacu is a junior pursuing a dual-degree in Business, concentrating in Entrepreneurship and Accounting, and Psychology. He is an entrepreneur, student leader, design thinking fellow, author and former barista. Vlad is also the co-founder and CEO of BarterOut, a pre-seed tech startup aimed at facilitating access to educational materials. Prior to this he co-founded a youth coaching startup and was a management consulting intern at Deloitte. He is now working on creating a tech entrepreneurial studio in Rochester to help bridge the gap between students with creative ideas and the real world market. Vlad is an independent researcher on the topic of innovation management and the author of Streamlining Innovation, publishing March 2019. 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

2018 Spring Review

By Ain CFE Staff

To build upon our busy Fall semester, the Ain Center launched a variety new programs and hosted a number of entrepreneurial events during Spring 2018. Below is just an overview of the competitions, talks, and entrepreneurial projects that happened this semester!


Business Competitions

Throughout this spring, the Ain Center offered three competitions to entrepreneurial students. The first, held in April, was the New York Business Plan Competition – Finger Lakes Regional Contest at St. John Fisher College. Teams from six local colleges participated. Three U of R teams won their category – Humans for Education in Social Entrepreneurship & Nonprofit, Pollinate in Services, and Solid Cell in Clean Technology; they went on to compete in the statewide finals in Albany.

Second, the Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition featured seven student teams with a focus on engineering innovation. Among the winning ideas were an app to connect seniors, a textbook swap platform, and an entrepreneurial project in Liberia. The winners were:

  • 1st Place: UR Connected – Allen Chen, Krista Pipho, Brandon Smart, Hetince Zhao
  • 2nd Place (TIE): BarterOut – Vlad Cazacu, Zixu Chen, Duncan Grubbs, Annmarie Hamburgen, Luis Nova
  • 2nd Place (TIE): HORN Empowers – Maria Christina Gil Diaz, Paula Guerra, Emmanuel Gweamee, Amie Laurent Twizerimana
  • 2nd Place (TIE): Uptick – Sidhant Ahluwalia, Obed Badillo Moreno

The Mark Ain Business Model Competition, our final contest of the semester, showcased the top entrepreneurial teams from the entire University. After making it through two preliminary rounds, five groups were able to pitch their ventures to a panel of distinguished judges on May 16. Winners were announced that afternoon:

  • 1st Place: CompreSure Medical – Alyssa Lopez, Gregory Dadourian, Meghann Meyer, Rachel Zimmer
  • 2nd Place: ADASI – Rebecca Amorese, Amanda Smith, Evan Sosnow
  • 3rd Place: Prosthesis for a New Syria – Ibrahim Mohammad, Omar Soufan
Student Organization Events

Meliora LaunchPad, one of the University’s student entrepreneurship clubs, hosted an Entrepreneurship Expo at the beginning of May. Only about a year and half old, the club created a fantastic event to highlight student innovators and to celebrate their graduating seniors. In February, we also co-hosted Club Rochester with other interdisciplinary groups on campus, including the Rochester Center for Community Leadership, iZone, and the Gwen M. Greene Career & Internship Center.

Ain Center Lecture Series

One of the University of Rochester’s defining aspects is its commitment to medical discovery and healing. Because the field of medicine is ever-changing (and at the U of R, becoming ever better), the Ain Center and the School of Nursing hosted Dr. Mattia Gilmartin of New York University. Dr. Gilmartin, a former health clinician and current faculty member, spoke to innovators from throughout UR. She shared her perspective as a practitioner, intrapreneur, and educator, with her talk zeroing in on the importance of taking risks and building on your experiences to create something worthwhile.

Ain Center Events

In addition to the formal competitions and lectures, we also hosted smaller, more granular workshops and events, which allowed all members of the UR community to grow their entrepreneurial skillset and mingle with experienced entrepreneurs in fields outside of their own. In March, we shuttled students to NextCorps at Sibley Square, where our Incubator is located. Students were able to network with real startups and see the new space for the first time.

We also started a number of online or indirect modes of collaboration. In March, we debuted our Entrepreneur Connector – a physical wall outside the Ain Center filled with postings for teamwork opportunities (students can submit in person or online). In May, the Ain Center became an admin in the newly launched Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group on The Meliora Collective, a platform for the UR community.

Buzz Lab Boot Camp

Designed for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and aspiring small business owners in the greater Rochester area, the Buzz Lab Boot Camp held its inaugural sessions this February. For four Saturdays, participants from the region gathered on River Campus to learn about a variety of topics – including Pricing, Marketing, and Human Resources Management. The wildly successful program was supported by a grant from the Economic Development Administration and is likely to run again next spring!

UR Next Gen Challenge

Each semester, the MS in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program hosts the Next Gen Challenge. A think-tank style competition allows STEM students to solve real-world problems with professional scientists and engineers, as well as industry representatives. February’s competition took place at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. These winning teams were awarded cash prizes:

  • 1st Place: Sherry Xiao, Sereen Assi, Lennard Emanuel, Aman Tugnawat
  • 2nd Place: Ivanah Desoloc, Devin Marino, Omar Soufan, Sarat Tirumala
  • 3rd Place: Joshua Ivery, Siqi Xiong, Diego Martinez, Obed Badillo Moreno, Hadi Wehbe
As the semester comes to a close, want to thank all of our wonderful partners and participants. This spring has inspired us to provide more opportunities for our students, build new relationships University-wide, and establish deeper roots in the Rochester community.
Keep up with our summer planning and adventures on our social media channels – we’ll be back with more stories in the fall!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Fulbright-RAF Scholar’s

Experience at U of R

By Vladimir Tanasiev (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

Via the Fulbright-RAF Scholar Award program, I had the opportunity, together with another five Romanian professors, to study Entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Although is difficult to sum up my whole experience, I will try to convey the essence of it. Entrepreneurial culture in the United States is growing and channeled around universities, with the support of the entrepreneurship centers. I have clearly understood that there are numerous possibilities to support entrepreneurship and it takes time to get the best results – success doesn’t come overnight.

I noticed that USA universities make considerable efforts – both human and financial – to help students think in terms of entrepreneurship, playing in this respect a crucial role in developing the entrepreneurship culture. This continuous effort is strengthened through countless events dedicated to technical, transversal and social topics, contests, debates with investors, etc. The atmosphere created at the university, around students not only helps them to use their imagination, but also offers them the support for turning their ideas into products or services with economic potential. Life on campus is also quite different from my experience back home. During the whole semester, the students are involved, alongside the theoretical and practical classes, in activities aimed at personal and professional development and networking.

One question I have come across quite often was “Can entrepreneurship be taught?”. And the answer is yes, it can be taught, but it’s difficult to measure its impact. An entrepreneur can follow this path only when he feels prepared and this decision can take time. I have also learned that many of the success stories are paved with the determination of those who faced several failures before. To understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem built around the university is one aspect of the problem, but in order to understand its mission and ways to develop, you need guidance. I will take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to my mentors, Dennis Kessler and Duncan Moore, who helped me understand how entrepreneurship is cultivated and how it could be institutionalized. Furthermore, whether I was talking to a salesman at the weekly fair or to a university professor, I could always notice the kindness of the people. I had the same feeling when I was talking to colleagues from other universities and many others. During my whole stay I met nice and hospitable people, interested in our culture and open to future collaborations. Additionally, I really enjoyed meeting members of the Romanian community from Rochester who helped me and my colleagues adapt smoothly from the very start.

During my professional or leisure trips, I had the opportunity to discover the beauty of the USA, equally present in large cities, small towns and its national parks. These trips offered my colleagues – Dragos Vintila, Mihai Dragomir, Anca Nicolau, Corina Forascu, Alma Pentescu – and myself the context to get to know each other better, to become friends and to work together on future plans.

Vladimir Tanasiev was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Tanasiev is an Assistant Professor within the faculty of Power Engineering at the University Politehnica of Bucharest, Romania. His Fulbright-RAF experience allowed him to develop an action plan to insert entrepreneurship into his projects, as well as to reflect on how he can help entrepreneurship flourish in Romania.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Talent Nyumbani:

A Social-Driven Project to Grow Africa’s Talent

By Joshua “Dewey” Bazirake

As a college student, with all of the assignments, course loads, and social life demands, how can you grow your entrepreneurial spirit and pursue the project of your dreams?

Talent Nyumbani is a social non-profit organization that I founded in Kampala, Uganda before arriving at the University of Rochester in 2016. This organization aims to bring out the best in the youth of Uganda. We continue to promote and showcase talents, as well as innovations in science and technology, art and photography, dance and music, and poetry and rap.

On a flight back home from United World College in Costa Rica, I was highly energized and motivated to start a new venture that would create impact in my home country. I first thought about setting up a house party for friends and charging a fee, but this idea was flawed. What value was I was creating for my peers in Uganda? As I thought deeper about it, I referred to a book that I pleaded with my brother to get me. This was The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, a concise guide on how to start and manage a successful business. The first chapter was about ‘value creation’, an element that gave purpose to a business. As I assessed my background & surroundings, I began to wonder why some students who were smarter than me in class weren’t recognized for their creativity and skills. I realized that there was a gap in giving opportunities to the youth and young people lacked an avenue to share their unique talents. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to create a “house party” that empowered the youth to bring out the best of who they are; this is where the idea of Talent Nyumbani stemmed from.The literal translation of “Talent Nyumbani” in Swahili means the house with talents – a welcoming place for youth to explore, discover, and share their talents. 


In the summer of 2016, I set out on an “undercover” search for the dream team: a team that displayed passion and a zeal for success. The quest to find the right team members is cumbersome, but the outcome of a great team who shares your vision is invaluable.  A common saying in the startup scene is, “ you would rather have a bad idea and a good team as opposed to a good idea and a bad team.” The team I found was able to share, criticize and objectively make decisions which steered Talent Nyumbani in the direction it is today.

Now and again, there are disappointments that arise with the expectations you have with some of the team members. An example is I found some team members interested in short term gains and quick profits. I approached the situation by being observant rather than judgmental to objectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. In the end, an entrepreneur retains the team members who add the most value to the project and passionately driven to achieve the mission/vision.


Our first event took place in July, 2016. My original idea was to have a month-long event with different activities on each day (such as workshops, performances and networking sessions). With advice from my team, we pivoted to a shorter period of one week. The first day was terrifying as we barely got any attendees. Painters and photographers came to display their work but no one had come to view it.

Was this a failure?

Had I wasted all my time and effort on something that wasn’t needed?

Resiliently, we waited for turn out. Over the course of the week, we had an increase in the number of attendees which boosted our confidence and, with appreciation for the idea, our team saw the need to hold a second event.

The second event was held on January 12, 2018. This event was a success with a turn out of 170 individuals, more than 100% increase from the last event. We also incorporated a hackathon that brought rise to technological ideas with a potential to disrupt the agricultural sector in Uganda. We had more partners on board this time such as the University of Rochester, Outbox Uganda, Innovation Village, FundiBotz, amongst others. This event was also graced by the presence of Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation in Uganda.


Failure is common when it comes to startups and it comes in so many forms: failure to secure funding, failure to get the team to agree on a particular direction to take, failure to get the right location and failure with the idea itself. For Talent Nyumbani, my goal of creating an open house seemed impossible to achieve when I failed to get a location and when we failed to advertise in time.

Day in and day out, I invested my time, effort and resources to make the impossible possible. I received feedback of all sorts, some saying that I didn’t have enough expertise to get the project going or that the idea wasn’t ready for a market like Uganda. The process of starting from an idea and working towards a finished product is what builds an entrepreneur through failure and continuous progress. The best way to deal with failure is by being calm in the most difficult situations, understanding the root cause of a problem and crafting solutions together as a team. Without the support structure of your team, a leader is destined for failure. Whenever an issue arose, I’d gather the team and we’d tackle the problem together. Each team member had a unique contribution and perspective. Problem solving requires robust brainstorming and immediate action in order to mitigate any future challenges. In the end, we encountered financial, logistical, management and service delivery problems. However, we conquered these because of our team spirit and vision for the project.


When starting up, it is advised to have the long-term vision in mind. We are currently working on improving our presence online in order to be more accessible to other youth in Uganda and surrounding neighbouring countries. It is our intention to conduct regular events at high schools and universities around Uganda in the upcoming year. With the growing partnerships we create, we are incorporating mentorship, skills development and outsourcing internships. We welcome anyone who is interested in empowering the youth and solving the issue of unemployment in developing countries.

Our long-term vision is to bring out the most outstanding talent in Africa and share it with the rest of the world.

Joshua “Dewey” Bazirake is a member of the class of 2020, studying Financial Economics. During his first year at UR, Bazirake founded Kwetu, a student organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and development on the African continent. Recently, Kwetu co-hosted the inaugural Africa Business Conference with Simon Business School. Bazirake has also participated in the NSF I-Corps Site grant and training program, to learn how to conduct customer discovery in his efforts to commercialize and idea to harness data to streamline group travel.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Experiencing Meliora

By Anca Nicolau (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

My experience as Fulbright visiting professor was an exceptional one for several reasons. First of all, it was not a lonely experience, but a group one as I was a Fulbrighter together with other five Romanians; each of us having a different background and representing a different university, but registered under the same program at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship from the University of Rochester. The program, specially designed on the request of the Romanian American Foundation, aimed at introducing us to education on entrepreneurship. Step by step, I was convinced that entrepreneurship can be studied while learning some tools to filter ideas, understanding the market mechanism, studying how to transform a business idea into a company, practicing evaluation of startup companies and gaining business understanding from the stories of successful entrepreneurs. Therefore, from this point of view, it was a wonderful educational experience that I will use in the benefit of the Romanian educational system.

As our program involved meeting people from different institutions and organizations in town, I began to feel that I am no longer a visitor to Rochester, but one of its inhabitants. This was special too, as I was a Rochesterian when the town celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal; prepared its rebirth after the failure of the Kodak Company and relocation of the Xerox Corporation to Norwalk, CT; reconfigured the highway crossing the town; worked hard to preserve the landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in Highland Park; and started the moving process of its technology and business incubator (High Tech Rochester) from Henrietta (outside the town) to the Sibley building (downtown) in an attempt to become the supporter of the new Downtown Innovation Zone.

Secondly, it was an unforgettable cultural experience as well. I have to confess that it was pretty challenging to act in the multicultural U of R’s environment and the first lesson learned was to behave properly in multinational teams. Then, when I met the Romanian community, I was impressed to see how my co-nationals balanced the American customs with the Romanian traditions. Moreover, it was fascinating to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in America while enjoying the atmosphere and learning some recipes of dishes traditionally made on these occasions. My cultural experience was enriched by the variety of performances I have seen: “The Magic Flute” at MET, “Chicago” on Broadway, “The Nutcracker” with the Boston Ballet, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” with the music performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at Eastman Theater, the Songs of Erie Canal interpreted by the Brockport Symphony Orchestra and the Golden Eagle String Band, “When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet” presented during the Rochester Fringe Festival, the rock of the ’80s in a local brewery, and music of Leonard Bernstein played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on New Year’s Eve.

Thirdly, it was a travel experience, as the Fulbright scholarship allowed me to go around Rochester and see spectacular places like Niagara Falls, Chimney Bluffs, Letchworth State Park, Watkins Glen and Taughannock Falls. Additionally, I was able to visit other prestigious universities as MIT, Harvard, Cornell and Miami, and to see three of the most beautiful cities in the US: New York, Boston and Washington. Long story short, my Fulbright experience was extraordinary because it was a multi-facet one, extremely rich and complex. Due to it, I am now a “Meliora” person, with nice memories of the people I met and places I have been.

Anca Nicolau was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Nicolau is a Professor of Food Science and Engineering at Dunarea de Jos University of Galati. She currently studies food safety issues, including detection of pathogens in food and food processing environments, as well as the destruction of microorganisms using alternative technologies.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Growing in the US,

Changing Mindsets in Romania

By Mihai Dragomir (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

I have always been an admirer of the American way of life and I am glad the Fulbright-RAF (Romanian-American Foundation) Scholar Award gave me the possibility to spend a semester immersed in the academic environment in the United States. This period of time brought to our entire Romanian group excellent learning opportunities at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester, other universities across the USA, and various organizations involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of upstate New York. We had the opportunity to discover firsthand how entrepreneurship and innovation are transforming the region and giving it the competitive edge it needs for the 21st century.

The lessons we learned and the great models and practices we discovered will certainly guide our activity back home in our universities. One of the defining aspects of this program is the desire to infuse the same passion and courage into the young generation in Romania as the ones we have seen in the US. In a world that becomes very dynamic and uncertain, I consider it to be essential to have young people who are not afraid of work and risk taking and are willing to fight for what they believe in. I came back to Romania with a fresh and optimistic outlook about establishing new ways to deliver entrepreneurial education and foster into our students the desire to be innovative and create new ventures based around their engineering skills. So, I must confess I am really excited to contribute to this long but rewarding journey within Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.

I think living and working in the USA has a wonderful way of changing the way you feel about freedom and opportunity: infusing you with self-confidence and the desire to change the world around you. Getting to experience the American culture first hand, from food and drinks to arts and sports, and being able to travel and visit some of the spectacular cities and sites of the US – Niagara Falls, a natural wonder of the world, definitely comes to mind here – really put into context for me the sheer scale and complexity of this amazing country and its people.

Mihai Dragomir was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Dragomir is an Associate Professor of Machine Building in the department of Design Engineering and Robotics at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. He enjoys investigating new product development, quality engineering, and computer-aided engineering.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester, Science, Social Entrepreneurship, Technology

Introducing the

Entrepreneur Connector

By Ain CFE Staff

WANTED: [you fill in the rest!]

On a regular basis, the U of R community asks us how to find teammates and fellow innovators. To give everyone a space to contribute, we have created the Entrepreneur Connector: an interactive wall that allows you to share what you need and/or what you are willing to give.

Inspired by the entrepreneurial spaces at universities like Harvard and MIT, our Connector wall serves as a touchstone for those who want to get involved, but may not know how to get started. Jot down your information for a short project or fill out a sheet to seek someone to co-launch your new venture… whatever you are looking for, you can find it on the Connector.

Click around on the picture below to learn more!

STEP ONE: Navigate through the tunnels or come in through Dewey Hall to visit the wall outside of room 1-211. (Tip: You can also come in through Carol Simon Hall!)
STEP TWO: If you are advertising a position in your startup or posting a want ad, grab a marker and find an empty board. Fill out what you are looking for and be sure to add your contact info.
STEP THREE: Are you hoping to join a team? Check out the listings and snap a photo of any projects you are interested in. If nothing catches your attention, write down your info so others can recruit you for their projects!
STEP FOUR: Postings will stay up for three weeks, unless otherwise asked. Feel free to stop by the Ain Center if you have any questions!

Want to make your mark?

Head over to Dewey Hall, right outside of room 1-211!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Meliora: A New Idea for Romanian Entrepreneurs

By Dragos Vintila (originally published on the Fulbright-Romania Webpage)

You learn, you try, and you apply. Education is continuous. We always strive for more, but reading every book ever written about rock climbing is nothing compared to reaching your first mountaintop. Nonetheless, that challenge would be impossible without some beforehand knowledge. Theory and practice are both required for success. Similarly, the gears of the entrepreneurial ‘engine’ work best when they are all nurtured. When we talk about entrepreneurship, we talk about knowledge, education, economy, innovation, R&D and people coming together, discussing and collaborating. The one thing I think is different and exciting in the United States and their entrepreneurial system is how these are all connected. Learning happens in classrooms and conference rooms. You discuss business plans with your partners and with your teachers.

There are countless ways one can learn about entrepreneurship. One of them is experiencing the U.S. way of life. Essentially a society developed by businesspeople and entrepreneurs, it is bright, bold and fascinating. I have had the pleasure of being a Fulbright-RAF award winner and spent one semester at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. We participated in classes, attended business meetings, had wonderful discussions and traveled around the country for a while.

Being a teacher myself at the Ovidius University of Constanta, Romania, I have had the opportunity of placing myself both in the students’ and the professors’ seats during lectures. Here, the educational process is based on dialogue and is completed by self-study. The bibliography is flexible and most ‘assignments’ represent team projects with actual real-world applicability. The feedback is rich and valuable, and there are moments when you feel like you have transcended the lecture and landed in the middle of a business meeting. Students also have frequent mentor meetings, where they communicate with affluent businesspeople, hear their success stories, previous failures and advice for their future endeavors. It is an environment that stimulates, engages and fascinates everyone, inside and outside the University.

Furthermore, we took part in the pitch sessions at Excell Partners, where entrepreneurs present their design, concept and business approach, and gather the feedback and critique of the board. These weekly meetings gathered professors from all fields of study at the University of Rochester to discuss, analyze and eventually finance private ventures. As visiting professors, this was an invaluable process and learning experience, evaluating enterprises from diverse domains (e.g. medicine, navigation) while understanding the development strategies of American companies, allowing all that fit the criteria to participate, while choosing to finance only the best ideas and business plans.

We also had the opportunity to travel, visiting landmarks like Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the National Mall, as well as other prestigious institutions like the MIT Innovation Initiative, the Harvard Innovation Lab, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs. We met inspiring people, had productive discussions, visited magnificent places and ate mountains of pancakes each morning – providing energy for the day. Everything is connected.

Dragos Vintila was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Vintila is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Ovidius University of Constanta. His research focuses on structural stability, safety analysis, spatial planning, and – of course – entrepreneurship.