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FALL 2011
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Generations and Innovations

CALS may be known for “growing the Ivy,” but our alumni are also seeding and growing tech startups that change the way we live, work, learn, and play. From the fun and games of Nintendo to the educational innovation of Blackboard, these Cornellians represent just a fraction of the outstanding alumni doing pioneering work in the tech sector.


Janina D. Pawlowski ’82
Co-founder, E-Loan
Founder and CEO, Pescadero Foods

Janina Pawlowski

Janina Pawlowski co-founded the online mortgage lender E-Loan in 1997 with an ambitious idea: use technology to remove as many steps as possible between the borrowers and the capital markets. In only a few short years, the company revolutionized the mortgage industry and became the largest online lender in the nation. Pawlowski left E-Loan in 2001 to spend more time with her daughter.

Today, Pawlowski raises chickens in Pescadero, C.A., and supports local agriculture. She is the director of the nonprofit Preservation of Land for Agricultural Needs Trust, which preserves agricultural land, and the founder of Pescadero Foods, which sells pasture-raised eggs in Northern California under the brand Wattle & Comb. Pawlowski hopes to use technology to forge closer connections between farmers and markets. She is a member of the Cornell Communications Advisory Board and has been invited to the President’s Council of Cornell Women.


Kurt G. Abrahamson ’83
CEO, ShareThis

Kurt Abrahamson

Kurt Abrahamson is the CEO of ShareThis, the largest platform for sharing Internet links, which reaches more than 400 million users across nearly 1 million websites. Abrahamson has an accomplished history of growing and leading successful digital media companies. He began his career at Jupiter Communications, which he helped build from a 12-person group to 520 employees worldwide, establishing Jupiter as a leader in Internet research. He was then hired as one of the first 900 employees at Google, where he managed the direct sales channel for publishers and helped lead the global launch of Google AdSense. He has also served as CEO of, a leader in online display advertising.

Abrahamson holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard, and enjoys skiing and cheering for the San Francisco Giants.


Reggie Fils-Aime ’83
President and Chief Operating Officer, Nintendo of America

Reggie Fils-Aime

As a teenager, Reggie Fils-Aime had always planned on pursuing a career in science. At Cornell, he majored in applied economics and finance, but an offer to join Proctor and Gamble’s prestigious brand management program as an undergraduate steered him into sales and marketing instead. Since then, he has held leadership positions in marketing for Pizza Hut, Guinness beer, and VH1. Today, he is the president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America—the first American to hold the position. He is credited with revamping Nintendo’s image in North America and bringing gaming back to the masses. In fact, a following of gamers consider him an industry celebrity.

Fils-Aime is a member of the Advisory Council for Cornell’s Communication department and has given a guest lecture at Cornell on Nintendo’s marketing strategy targeted at gamers across a spectrum of demographics. .


H. Alex Ruiz ’90
Senior Vice President, Tenthwave Digital LLC

Alex Ruiz

Alex Ruiz has been working in digital marketing for 15 years, successfully pushing the leading edge of using the Internet to connect with customers in a business known for rapid advances. Ruiz began his career in Account Management at K2 Design, one of the first boutique digital agencies. Since then, he’s built digital and social marketing campaigns for brands like Jim Beam, Birds Eye, Adidas, American Express, and The Wall Street Journal. Ruiz has worked at a host of digital marketing agencies including 360i, Digitas, i33 communications, and Dennis Interactive. He currently holds the position of senior vice president of client services at Tenthwave Digital LLC, a nationwide firm specializing in social marketing, digital strategy, and website design.

Ruiz serves on the Advisory Council of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. He was also New York City regional alumni director for the Cornell University Council and a founding board member of the Cornell-Alumni Student Mentoring Program.


Daniel Cane ’98
President and Chief Executive Officer, Modernizing Medicine
Co-founder, Blackboard

Daniel Cane

Daniel Cane is a successful serial entrepreneur whose first company, founded when he was still an undergraduate at Cornell, revolutionized the classroom experience for students nationwide. In 1997, Cane co-founded CourseInfo LLC, which merged to form Blackboard, a technology company that engages students in interactive learning experiences. Cane was instrumental in raising more than $100 million in venture capital and helping take the company public in 2004. Today, Blackboard has grown to over $400 million in annual revenues and more than 1,400 employees worldwide.

In 2007, Cane founded Kadoo Inc., an online storage and personal sharing network, which was sold in 2009. Today, he is president and CEO of Modernizing Medicine, which is revolutionizing the way doctors and their patients interact through technology.


Joe Essenfeld ’01
Founder and CEO, JIBE

Joe Essenfeld

Joe Essenfeld founded JIBE last year with a multimillion-dollar idea: let people use their existing online social networks to find connections when applying for jobs online. His company operates a website that uses Facebook and LinkedIn to connect job applicants with people they already know at companies where they apply. Essenfeld came up with the idea for the site after being frustrated by recruiting websites that provided a large quantity of applicants rather than high-quality applicants.

Essenfeld is an experienced executive with a background in operations and recruiting. Before JIBE, he was the chief operating officer of Insomnia Cookies, a late-night cookie delivery service found in college towns across the country. He also served as vice president of Dartcor Management Services, a corporate hospitality and restaurant management firm.


Scott K. Belsky ’02
Founder and CEO, Behance Network

Scott Belsky

A quintessential entrepreneur, Scott Belsky believes that creative people who are especially productive have the ability to change the world. And he’s dedicated his career to helping them make it happen. Belsky is the founder and chief executive officer of the Behance Network, the world’s leading online network for creative professionals across multiple industries, including photography, graphic design, illustration, and fashion. Behance also operates a think tank, offers a mobile productivity application, and provides a service building professional portfolios. Belsky is author of the national best-selling book: Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, which details his research uncovering traits that help creative people bring their ideas to fruition.

Belsky has consulted for leading media and Fortune 500 companies and traveled the world to talk about his research.
He is a recipient of the CALS Outstanding Alumni Award, member of Cornell’s Quill and Dagger honor society, and serves on the advisory council of the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Program. In 2010, he was named one of the 100 most creative people in Business by Fast Company magazine.


Adam Hirsch ’04
Chief Operating Officer, Mashable

Adam Hirsch

A living testament to the power of persistence, Adam Hirsch worked his way into a job at the digital media company Mashable with some innovative ideas about social media, and an unwillingness to take “no” for an answer.

After several years in the real estate industry, Hirsch wanted to reorient his career toward one of his passions: technology. So he began emailing the founder of Mashable with ideas about how to improve the growing blog. Following a flood of proposals, Hirsch eventually received a job offer.

Today, he is chief operating officer of the online news site that covers digital culture, social media, and technology and gets 13 million unique visitors a month. Hirsch oversees Mashable’s business development, including marketing, partnerships, advertising, and events.

His initial ideas about bringing together communities of people interested in social media have come to fruition.


Nancy Pei-Pei Chen ’08
Head of Logistics, Quirky

Kim Wagner and Stephen Osborn

Nancy Chen is an expert in inventory management, planning, sales forecasting, and trend analysis. She is putting those skills to work at Quirky, an online consumer products company that uses social networking to empower people to bring their inventions to market. The concept is to collect ideas submitted by the general public, refine them with input from a social network, and eventually bring them to market. On average, Quirky launches 60 new products each year designed and developed in partnership with its social network. This fall, Quirky products will be featured in more than 1,000 Bed Bath and Beyond stores across the nation.

Prior to Quirky, Chen managed planning for the U.S. division of Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo and worked as a buyer for department store Lord & Taylor.


Stephanie Palacios ’09
Account Executive, Greater Than One

Stephanie Palacios

When Stephanie Palacios graduated from Cornell, she was determined to get a job in the advertising industry despite a difficult economy and a glut of talented graduates. She began her career as executive assistant to the CEO of Greater Than One, a digital marketing agency specializing in regulated industries like healthcare.

Within a year, Palacios worked her way up to account executive, establishing herself as a rising star by working on accounts such as Genentech, Continuum Health Partners, and French Culinary Institute. Today, Palacios connects her clients with Greater Than One’s graphic designers, media buyers, information architects, and software developers to create unique online experiences.