The CIE Angel Summit’s second year offered rich insights to startups; a leading tech writer interviewed two alumni success stories
By Yi Shun Lai ’96
CMC’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted its second annual Angel Summit during this year’s Alumni Weekend.
Award-winning technology journalist Kara Swisher interviewed two successful CMC entrepreneurs, Henry Albrecht ’91 and Jason Soll ’11. Both stressed the importance of mission and heart in any entrepreneurial endeavor, approaching the subject from different angles.
Soll, whose company Cape Productions hires out drones equipped with cameras to film skiers and snowboarders on piste, created the company to “give people back their time.” (Cape’s drones film over the course of a few runs, and its global team of video editors puts together a video that’s then made available to the customer.)
“We…offer an experience that up until now was only available to the Shawn Whites of the world,” he said. “Making people really happy, and most importantly, saving them time [instead of taking them out of the moment], is hugely valuable.”
Albrecht’s software-as-a-service company, Limeade, creates programs to help companies predict overall employee health. He, too, believes that successful companies have a larger emotional mission.
“You have to have a mission that’s bigger than you,” he told the audience, which included many current students and alumni. “You have to be one of those people who wants to change the world.”
He added that any company that wants to fulfill its mission must be “intentional” about its culture: “You need to have everyone share [your company’s] values. We incorporate our values in how we interview, how we hire, how we fire.”
Soll agreed, adding: “I want to make a culture that I’m really proud of. I have no idea if I’m building a culture that’s objectively optimal for succeeding in the marketplace, but we want people to have the best years of their lives working at Cape.”
In the pitching round of the summit, three entrepreneurs vied for interest from CMC’s alumni and parent pool of investors: Dr. John Spinosa ’80, Grant Hosford ’92, and Dylan Saffer ’18. In the end, it was Hosford’s company codeSpark that won, for its innovative approach to teaching young children computer coding.
“Every event like this builds our reputation with investors and entrepreneurs,” Hosford said, adding that participating in events like the Angel Summit helps “sharpen the arc” of a company’s narrative.
“There are few things harder than building a new company from scratch, but CMC students are excellent at everything entrepreneurship requires,” he said.
Judges Arielle Zuckerberg ’11 and James Montgomery P ’15, ’19, who work in the capital venture field, said that the CIE is a critical part of CMC’s ethos: “It’s the focal point for a number programs that offer exposure to the innovation community,” said Montgomery.
“[The Angel Summit] is a great way for students to hear war stories and lessons from entrepreneurial alumni as well as gain insight into how investors evaluate companies,” said Zuckerberg.
Both said they’d like to see more women entrepreneurs enter the pitch event in the future.
Professor Janet Smith, director of the CIE, says the Angel Summit will make an appearance next year during Alumni Weekend as well.
“The goal is to bring together alumni, students, and parents who share a common interest in innovation and entrepreneurship,” she said.
Keep an eye out in January of 2017 for next year’s call for competitors to the 2017 Angel Summit.
Lai ’96 is a writing coach and editor whose new novel is “Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu.”