Under a cooling cover of clouds and a soft breeze, we kicked off our eLab Accelerator and Tiger Challenge summer programs by gathering the students, their advisors, and the program administrators at the Charter Club for an afternoon barbeque.

Everyone was eager to leave the last two summers of virtual engagement behind them and reconnect face-to-face. Although our programming was highly successful throughout the pandemic, all agreed that entrepreneurs and innovators thrive when working side-by-side. 

Executive director Cornelia Huellstrunk addressed the group of nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate students. “Cherish every moment this summer. You are surrounded by talented, like-minded people. Leverage the opportunity you have to connect and engage,” she advised.

The eLab 10-week summer accelerator is in its eleventh year and has launched numerous successful ventures. The program provides Princeton students with the resources, skillsets, and confidence they need to launch their own startup companies. This year’s cohort of entrepreneurs will develop business solutions in various areas, including the environment, literature, commerce, art, and entertainment.  

Program manager Stephanie Landers thanked everyone for their support over the past few years. She called special attention to longtime eLab contributor and grandfather to countless student-founded startups Ed Zschau ‘61. “Ed, I can’t thank you enough. You have kept this ship afloat through some incredibly rough seas,” said Landers.

Zschau will spend the next few days running the eLab teams through his highly successful entrepreneurial bootcamp. The cohort will then spend the following nine weeks developing their ventures and preparing their pitches for our end-of-program Demo Days

Also in the crowd were the Tiger Challenge student designers who have committed to spending their summer digging into the roots of complex societal problems. Over the next few months, they will use human-centered problem-solving techniques to build lasting innovations. Teams will work together on issues related to the climate crisis, mental health and wellbeing, the experiences of Asian Americans, and Native American food sovereignty and cultural preservation.

Grant Cuomo '22 was part of the Tiger Challenge 2020 cohort. This year, he will assist program manager Jessica Leung in guiding the teams through understanding and implementing design thinking methodologies to address their challenges.

“I am excited to come back and use my experience to create a positive and productive summer for the cohort. I plan to do a lot of listening, help with project management logistics, and be a trusted connector between the teams,” said Cuomo.

As the sun broke through the clouds, students took to the lawn to get in a bit of summer fun before setting off on their innovation journeys.