Watch: Student Entrepreneurs Network with Seasoned Pros at Annual Lax Conference

More than 150 alumni, parents, students, and friends of the College gathered in the Science Center on Saturday for the 16th Annual Jonathan R. Lax '71 Conference on Entrepreneurship. The conference began with a touching welcome from Gerry Lax '74 P'18, who spoke about his brother's entrepreneurial endeavors, beginning at age 11 when he created Haddonfield Research and Manufacturing, a fictional business at their home address, in order to improve his odds of receiving the radioactive materials he requested for a middle school science experiment. 

Following remarks from Interim President Constance Cain Hungerford and an introduction of the Center for Innovation and Leadership, the morning's highlight was the third annual SwatTank student innovation competition, with presentations from the competition's three finalists. Mackenzie Welch '15, a political science major from Chadron, Neb., and Aldo Frosinini '15, an economics major from Houston, Tex., were mentored by OpenTable executive Miles Skorpen '09 and user experience researcher Demetrios Karis '74 and took the top prize of $3,000 for their presentation on Sabio, a mobile tool that provides actionable feedback in real-time and creates a specific track record for employee development and promotion. 

Other SwatTank finalists included Eduardo Umaña '15, mentored by Michael Chodos '80, who took the second place prize of $1,500 for Classic Engineering, a creative venture, and Satyajit Rao '15, mentored by Claire Hartten '91, who took the third place prize of $500 for Ryze, a new kind of hospitality service. Rao received an extra $250 for the Best Presentation Award, which was voted on by the audience. The best poster presentation prize of $150 was awarded to the team of Nora Battelle ’17, Thomas Corbani ’17, and Ditiya Ferdous ’17 for Chirps & Kisses, a health and wellness brand, dedicated to providing locally sourced lip balms and cough drops that creatively and physically enhance the daily lives of their customers.

For the second year in a row, the day ended with a series of SwatTalks from members of the Swarthmore community. Noel Theodosiou '94, a strategy consultant who has worked with global brands including Ford Motor Company and The Coca-Cola Company, shared her expertise with the presentation, “Entering the World of Your Customer." Psychologist Barry Schwartz discussed his latest research and the subject of his forthcoming book, Why We Work, and Julie Abrams P'15, the founder and director of an impact investing consulting practice, spoke about the realities and rewards of "Social Entrepreneurship for the Base of the Pyramid."

The annual event honors Jonathan Lax '71 and is funded by the Jonathan R. Lax Fund, an endowment created by his bequest in 1996. In the 1990s, he founded Marketing Audit, a market research and consulting firm in Philadelphia.