“I really like starting and building things,” says Val Mack ‘16, an Arts & Sciences alum and current MPS student at Cornell. So it comes as no surprise that she is currently a co-founder of a startup called, “Dimitri.”
Mack founded Dimitri with three other students, Jingyang Liu Leo, Khalil Hajji, and Mutahir Kazmi, other graduate students who met through a class. Mack pitched the idea to Kazmi last fall to create a marketplace for 3D printed models, and when he expressed interest, they approached Hajji and Liu joined the team this month.
After they assembled a team, they pitched their idea to eLab director, Ken Rother, a week before applications were due. (Elab is Cornell’s startup accelerator for undergrads and grad students and a partnership between Entrepreneurship at Cornell and Student Agencies, Inc.) Rother told them they had a lot of work to do, but they were determined. They set to work on redefining their business plan in the timespan of a week.
First, they had to decide to focus on one aspect of 3D printing. They decided to work with potential customers to determine what the needs were of people who 3D print on a regular basis. Their goal was to make 3D printing technology more reliable.
“We talked to as many people as possible for research purposes, and then laid out our business plan and applied to eLab,” Mack said.
They were accepted to eLab October 2016; since then, the team has been working on streamlining their project. They decided to focus on printing insoles for shoes with 3D printers because these can be custom made, and the material that 3D printers use works well for insoles. They have been talking to potential customers about their experiences with shoes and gathering information from people at Cornell and other places who have experience using 3D printers.
“We’re still exploring different business models,” Mack said, “but we should have a beta prototype by April.”
Mack majored in Information Science, which she credits with helping her get into the startup world.
“This major is so focused on creating things,” Mack said. “At the end of each semester, I was always able to show something that I had made in my classes.”
Mack also attributes her interest in entrepreneurship to the breadth of classes that she took as an Arts & Sciences student. She took a wide variety of classes to fulfill her distribution requirements, taking care to nurture her many interests while doing so.
“I’ve been so inspired by the most random classes,“ Mack says. “I took Intro to Japan with Professor Law, and it actually helped spark my interest in entrepreneurship.
“I think for entrepreneurship it’s important to have a well-rounded attitude. Being able to use the skills that I learned as an undergraduate in Arts & Sciences is very valuable,” added Mack, emphasizing the special importance of good writing skills.
In the future, Mack is interested in working in startups and would like to encourage other Cornellians to take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities at Cornell.
Anna Carmichael is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.