The W.E. Cornell program helps STEM PhDs and postdocs commercialize their innovations and overcome the challenges of leading a growing technology-based business. Combining a proven entrepreneurship curriculum with a focus on leadership development and empowerment, participants will finish the program prepared to take the next steps in their entrepreneurship journey.

The Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on researching the entrepreneurial climate in the United States and supporting entrepreneurship programs, identifies some of the key barriers facing women entrepreneurs:

  • Mentors are in short supply
  • Implicit biases exist against women entrepreneurs
  • Lack of access to venture capital

The W.E. Cornell program is a guided entrepreneurship and leadership program. Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Meet experienced mentors
  • Build their network
  • Hone their market fit and customer base
  • Launch their innovations and pitch to investors and community members

A Call to Action: Climate Tech Track

As we review the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and its more precise forecasts for the 21st century warning of increased severe weather devastation, we strongly encourage women and other diverse leaders to respond to this “call to action” and apply their innovations to help solve our local, national, and global climate challenges. Tied to this, the W.E. Cornell program offers a climate tech “track” focused on empowering founders in this arena with additional mentorship, coaching, and resources. The track is now in its fourth year.

Program Structure

W.E. Cornell applications are open to all students at Cornell doing research at the graduate level and higher including women, female-identified, and non-binary people.

The program is comprised of two modules: Module 1 is conducted in the Fall semester, and Module 2 is conducted in the Spring semester. One does not need to complete the two modules consecutively.

Module 1 – Fall Semester

Participants will attend 4-5 interactive workshops designed to support the development of entrepreneurial readiness, and community building with the cohort. Module 1 requires an estimated time commitment of 10 hours over the fall semester. Module 1 participants are not required to have a firm venture idea when entering the program.

Module 2 – Spring Semester

Participants who have completed Module 1 who have a venture idea they are ready to move forward with will progress to complete Module 2. A participant can move to Module 2 any Spring semester after they complete Module 1; Module 2 does not need to be completed in the consecutive Spring semester.

Module 2 requires an estimated time commitment of 2 hours per week over the spring semester. Module 2 participants are expected to:

  • Participate in 7-9 interactive workshops designed to develop foundational entrepreneurial competencies
  • Meet and network with mentors
  • Practice pitching with the cohort and mentors
  • Present to the WE Cornell Advisory Board during a demo day

Why Investing in Women is Just Good Business

A growing body of evidence shows that institutional investors should consider female fund managers to improve their investment outcomes. The evidence suggest that women-led funds perform better, in part because they are more likely to invest in women-founded companies. Read more in this research brief, Why Investing in Women is Just Good Business.

Alumni Spotlights

Firehiwot Gurara ’24

Firehiwot Gurara headshot

Since completing W.E. Cornell, Gurara has continued working on her power converter startup, ICoN Energy, as a member of the inaugural cohort of the Green Technology Innovation Fellowship, and she was awarded an Ignite Innovation Acceleration grant from Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing. Now, Gurara is a semifinalist for the American-Made Solar Prize, a multimillion-dollar competition administered by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Cátia P. Dombaxe ’26

Catia Dombaxe headshot

With her startup Nakwaha Beauty, a skincare line targeting hyperpigmentation in black women, Dombaxe aims to help women who struggle with hyperpigmentation by leveraging her chemistry and biomedical engineering expertise and her Angolan heritage. Dombaxe employs farmers in Angola to source essential plant material used in Nakwaha Beauty’s hydrogel skincare products. Now a member of the Life Sciences Technology Innovation Fellowship, Dombaxe’s entrepreneurship journey was recently featured through a series supported by the President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW).

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