The gateway to everything entrepreneurial at Cornell University

Join our eship listserv

Entrepreneur of the Year

The Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year award is given annually to a Cornellian who exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement, community service and high ethical standards.

Nominees must exemplify the ideals of entrepreneurship by meeting the following criteria:

  • Started and successfully managed a business, contributed substantially to the turnaround or growth of a business, or managed a larger business in a way that has demonstrated notable entrepreneurial characteristics and achievements.
  • Contributed to the private enterprise system in ways that are an inspiration to others.
  • Used his or her business skills and creativity to enrich humanity.
  • Conducted his or her business and personal relationships with the highest integrity.

Deadline for nominations is October 16, 2018.
Complete a nomination here.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 02:   Niraj Shah, CEO, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder and Steve Conine, CTO, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of Wayfair to ring the Opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on October 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/NYSE)

Niraj Shah ’95 and Steve Conine ’95  named 2018 Entrepreneurs of the Year


Niraj Shah ENG ‘95
Chief Executive Officer, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder

Niraj Shah co-founded Wayfair with Steve Conine in 2002 and the pair rapidly grew the business to become the largest online retailer of home furnishings, housewares and home improvement goods in the U.S., generating $4.3 billion in net revenue for the twelve months ended September 30, 2017. Wayfair has extensive operations in the U.S. and Europe and employs more than 6,800 people. Before founding Wayfair, Niraj served as CEO and co-founder of Simplify Mobile, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Greylock Partners, COO and a member of the Board of Directors at iXL, and the CEO and co-founder of Spinners, which was sold to iXL in 1998. Niraj is on the board of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, The Great Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and is a member of the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Advisory Council.


Steve Conine ENG ‘95
Co-Chairman and Co-Founder

Steve Conine co-founded Wayfair with Niraj Shah in 2002. He currently leads development of the architecting and software systems that give Wayfair a technological edge in the online retail business. Prior to that, Steve was a co-founder, board member and Chief Technology Officer of Simplify Mobile. Before starting Simplify Mobile, he served as Chief Operating Officer for the London office of iXL, a publicly traded global technology consulting firm. Steve also previously co-founded and served as a top executive of Spinners Incorporated, an IT services firm, which was sold to iXL in 1998. He is a member of the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Advisory Council.


Past Recipients include:

  • 2017: Robert F. Smith ’85, Vista Equity Partners
  • 2016: Leland Pillsbury ’69, Thayer Lodging Group
  • 2015: Robert Langer ’70, David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT
  • 2014: Greg Galvin MS ’82, PhD ’84, MBA ’93, Rheonix
  • 2013: Ratan Tata ’59, B.Arch ’62, Tata Sons
  • 2012: John Alexander ’74, MBA ’76, CBORD Group, Inc.
  • 2011: Harris Rosen ’61, Rosen Hotels and Resorts
  • 2010: Lubna Olayan ’77, Olayan Financing Company
  • 2009: Jay Walker ’77, Walker Digital
  • 2008: Howard Milstein ’73, New York Private Bank & Trust
  • 2007: Kevin McGovern ’70, McGovern Capital LLC
  • 2005: Robert Toll ’63, Toll Brothers
  • 2004: Steve Belkin ’69, Trans National Group
  • 2003: Jules Kroll ’63, Kroll, Inc.
  • 2002: Rob Ryan ’69, Ascend Communcations; Entrepreneur America
  • 2001: Jeffrey Parker ’65, MEng ’66, MBA ‘70, CCBN
  • 2000: Jeffrey Hawkins ’79, Handspring
  • 1999: William Sanders ’64, Security Capital Group, Inc.
  • 1998: Robert Felton ’61, Indus International, Inc.
  • 1997: Linda Mason ’76, Bright Horizons Children’s Centers
  • 1996: David Duffield ’62, BEE ’63, MBA ’64, PeopleSoft
  • 1995: Arthur Gensler ’58, Gensler and Associates
  • 1994: Irwin Jacobs ’56, Qualcomm, Inc.
  • 1993: Donald Berens ’47, Hickory Farms Sales Corp.
  • 1992: Harvey Kinzelberg ’67, Meridian Group
  • 1991: Kenneth ’61, PhD ’67 & Marjorie ’62 Blanchard, Blanchard Training & Dev.
  • 1989: James McLamore ’47, Burger King Corporation
  • 1988: Julius Kayser ’47, Arthur Wolcott ’49, Seneca Foods Corporation
  • 1987: Alfred ’06, Charles ’33, John ’60 Mellowes, Charter Manufacturing Co.
  • 1986: John Mariani, Jr. ’54, Villa Banfi, USA
  • 1985: Christopher Hemmeter ’62, Hemmeter Investment Co.
  • 1984: Sanford Weill ’55, Citigroup, Inc.