Venture students present at Student Startup Roundtable


Lucas Cohen-D'Arbeloff

HW Venture Head of Speaker Events Sophia Rascoff ’23 and advisor Rob Levin present announcements to the event participants before the presentations of the Student Startup Roundtable began March 24.

Lucas Cohen-D'Arbeloff

HW Venture hosted the fifth annual Student Startup Roundtable to feature alumni in business and allow students to present their startup companies to their peers March 24.

The event began with announcements from Head of Speaker Events Sophia Rascoff ’23 and advisor Rob Levin, followed by randomly assigned breakout rooms for attendees to introduce themselves to each other.

Rascoff interviewed Kara Nortman ’93, Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in technology companies, in a “fireside chat” format. Nortman said her career has been shaped through an array of diverse work experiences.

“I think that my path has been led through curiosity and relationships,” Nortman said. “I’ve spent half of my career operating in businesses—what many would call a ‘real job’—and then half of my career investing, which is interesting and hard in a really different way. It’s almost like you have 12 different things going on at once at any given time.”

She also said while there may often be pressure for young entrepreneurs to move to certain booming areas of the country, Los Angeles serves as a better home base.

“It feels like everyone is talking about moving to Austin or Miami,” Nortman said. “But the secret is that everyone is moving to [Los Angeles]. I would say, go away and experience something else if you’re a student, and then come back and do your thing here.”

Venture leaders Amaan Furniturewala ’21 and Jacky Zhang ’21 gave a presentation updating attendees on the operations of the club. Zhang spoke to how the Venture leadership team has grown significantly since the previous school year.

For the remainder of the evening, students presented their business ventures and responded to questions in breakout rooms. Katharine Steers ’22, Li Yam Kreiz ’22 and Greg Damelin ’22 spoke about their social platform Uleelu that works to provide students with mental health services, and Aariz Furniturewala ’23 presented Soles4Good, which helps women in developing countries start businesses selling used shoes.

Steers said the Uleelu team was able to organize events that incorporate both socialization and exercise.

“At the beginning of quarantine, we saw a lot of people struggling with mental health, and we knew that exercise was a part of the solution,” Steers said. “Especially during these times, we were aware that limited space was an issue in some in-person spaces, so we wanted to make a truly on-demand platform.”

Rascoff said she thought the virtual format of the event did not hinder its success.

“There were some benefits to being online, such as being able to include more alumni and students, especially alumni from other cities, and the spirit of the event was very much the same,” Rascoff said. “We always love getting to involve alumni and update them about HW and Venture, and the Roundtable is always a great place for that.”