[email protected]a student-run division of Boston College’s Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship, kicked off its first Solstice conference this weekend.
The three-day event, according to their website, was designed to promote entrepreneurial thinking and skills through workshops, speakers and networking.
“[The conference] is a big celebration of entrepreneurship, startups, BC and technology,” said Alex Park, MCAS ’24, co-chair of [email protected] “There is a lot of talent in so many different corners of the country. … We’re trying to make BC the place for entrepreneurship in the country.”
One of the main events of the conference was the ‘Ideathon’, an activity in which participants formulated entrepreneurial solutions to various problems based on a given challenge. Park said the ideathon’s main goal was to mimic real-world situations, so halfway through the activity, participants learned their prompt had shifted.
“Things don’t always go as planned and you have to take that into account as you move forward,” Park said. “We really just want to dig deep into their creativity and see how they can create real solutions out of problems that exist in the world.”
Meagan Loyst, BC ’19, and Jason Alvarez-Cohen evaluated each group’s ideas. Loyst, an associate at venture capital firm Lerer Hippeau, and Alvarez-Cohen, a former software engineer at Boeing and co-founder and CEO of Popl, judged each group’s presentation on creativity, practicality, and execution.
A proposed app called “Pharmalink” won the competition. The app aims to be a networking platform that speeds up the research process for medicine by helping researchers from different institutions collaborate on pharmaceutical development.
Ivan Lubyanitskiy, a member of the group thinking about Pharmalink and CSOM ’25, said the event encouraged his creativity and problem-solving skills.
“I was able to share ideas and build them from the ground up with like-minded entrepreneurs,” he said. “In this environment, I felt more comfortable sharing my ideas.”
Conference participants also attended presentations by professional venture capitalists – institutions that invest in promising start-ups. The speakers shared their thought processes and how they adapt to the latest trends in the industry.
Loyst described the importance of self-advocacy in initiating a career and revealed that she obtained her current position by staying in touch with the company after her application was rejected.
“It wound and wound, and then I was the youngest person to be interviewed,” Loyst said. “I think when you’re young and constantly underestimated, you have to minimize your risk profile. Even though I was the youngest person to apply for the job, I sent her more offers than anyone else. … Those little things have helped me prove my worth.”
Loyst also stated that building long-term relationships is vital to her work. Making the effort to maintain connections can get you considered for exciting new business opportunities, she said.
“Your job as an investor is to positively impact the ecosystem,” Loyst said. “Whether you invest in a company or not, you must maintain ties with the company because that is your reputation.”
Other panelists also emphasized the role of making connections in their job. Sam Loui, a coordinator at TechStars, explained that attending networking events increases the amount of time venture capitalists have to do their jobs, disrupting a normal work-life balance.
“Even though it feels like I do 9-5 with a lot of team meetings, I usually go to events after that, so I’m often out 6-10 after that,” Loui said. “As you begin your career journey, you start thinking about what you are looking for in a job. …Ask yourself if the things you love to do and want to do are worth doing.”
Loui also described inclusivity issues in the world of venture capitalism, particularly in relation to gender equality.
“I have all these stories … where I was the only woman in the room,” Loui said. “People would go to me as the person who takes notes, the person who doesn’t get a seat at the table. I was very focused on building a community of women who could tell me their stories.”
Allison Byers, founder and CEO of Scroobious, said that solving such systemic problems also requires external solutions. She said her startup’s goal is to help underrepresented founders get investment.
“Women get 2 percent [venture capital] Dollars, black founders get 1.6 percent, LatinX get 2 percent, and all of that points to a systemic problem,” Byers said. “It can make a significant difference for founders to be able to get money into the hands of those who have investable ideas and just don’t know how to present themselves or approach investor networks.”
Byers summed up the startup process with cautionary tales, encouraging participants to pursue their dreams but preparing them for a difficult path.
“This is a life that not very many people choose for one reason: It’s really risky,” Byers said. “You are responsible for bringing something new into the world. You are responsible for the people you pay to work there and for their livelihood. You are accountable to your customers for ensuring that you meet their needs, and you are accountable to your investors for performing as they expect of you. It’s a lot, but if you love it, you love it.”