Thought Into Action Hosts Ninth Annual Entrepreneur Weekend

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Thought Into Action (TIA) hosted its ninth annual Entrepreneur Weekend virtually, from Friday, April 9, to Sunday, April 11. The associated Virtual Venture Showcase, launched on April 5, welcomed more than 1,000 online visitors, who reviewed 42 initiatives created by Colgate students, alumni, and community members in the TIA Incubator.

Initiatives included software like GoodWorker360 (James Nash ’21 and Seth Tilliss), used for restaurant employee management and evaluation, and products like Natural Beauty (local community member Jill Nelson), all-natural fiber breast prostheses.

“Entrepreneur Weekend is an essential culminating experience of the TIA Incubator program,” says TIA director Carolyn Strobel. “It allows all of our ventures to showcase work they have put into their products and services, as well as learn from and be inspired by seasoned Colgate entrepreneurs. While we missed this aspect last year due to the pandemic, this year’s event gave our teams the year-end experience they deserved.”

Saturday’s event began by recognizing the recipients of the Colgate Entrepreneur of the Year Award, given to alumni who best exemplify the ideals of entrepreneurship. David Fialkow ’81, co-founder and managing director of General Catalyst, was the 2020 recipient, and Nick Kokonas ’90, co-owner of the Alinea Group and CEO of Tock, is the 2021 recipient. 

Fialkow and Kokonas were joined by Deborah Benton P’23, founder and managing director of Willow Growth Ventures, for a wide-ranging conversation that included their thoughts on crucial learning experiences available through Colgate and TIA.

“The blessing of Colgate is that we’re all in this together, and the collaboration and the ability to learn about different people is extraordinary,” Fialkow said. “The second thing… is storytelling. Anything you need to do, you need to learn how to tell the arc of a story.”

“Resilience for me is everything,” Kokonas said. “I don’t know that you can teach someone to be an entrepreneur. I think it’s just ingrained in you that you wake up and something is itching, and you have to scratch it.”

“One of the things that I’ve noticed with really successful entrepreneurs, as well, is that they don’t get stuck in a singular mindset. What I’ve seen other entrepreneurs [do] is look at the opportunity — in the face of adversity, in the face of extreme pressure, look at where there’s opportunity,” Benton said. 

A virtual Shark Tank, attended by more than 100 online guests, followed the moderated discussion. Bharat Mediratta ’92, chief technology officer at Dropbox, joined Fialkow, Kokonas, and Benton on the panel. Pitching alongside GoodWorker360 and Natural Beauty were CLOVO (Monica Dimas ’19 and Megan Martis ’20), a sustainable sheer tights company, and DunneGoodwin (Sheila Dunne ’20 and Luke Goodwin), a digital marketing agency. Natural Beauty won first place and the $5,000 prize, followed by CLOVO, GoodWorker360, and DunneGoodwin.

TIA also announced the 2021 ventures selected for this year’s Entrepreneurs Fund Summer Accelerator, in which selected entrepreneurs will receive $7,500 in grant funding and hands-on mentorship during the eight-week summer program. Selected ventures were Designs by Madison Taylor (Madison Bailey ’18, Joseph Brozek ’17, Morgan Bailey), First Impression Nails (Kadian Dixon ’18), Hawaa Organics (Sally Ngoje ’19), Shotquality (Simon Gerzberg ’22, Yasoom Khalid ’21, Kunal Thadini) and Virtual Babysitters Club (Kyle Reilly ’16).