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Black alumni gather for the first day of the Thrive conference

<h6>Photo Credit: Anne Wen / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Photo Credit: Anne Wen / The Daily Princetonian

Decked in black and orange, black alumni attentively listened to the first Thrive startup showcase presentation. The three-day Thrive conference, Oct. 3 to Oct. 5, welcomes over 1,400 guests and alumni to campus for discussion forums, entrepreneurship showcases, and networking opportunities.

By the entrance to McCosh Hall, Room 50, 150 alums waded through a crowd immersed in conversation. The hall bustled with energy as old friends reunited.


“It always fills my soul to be back on campus,” said Genay Jackson ’12, who attended the social-impact talk. “It was a really special four years — all hard. My feelings for Princeton are complex, but there is no place like it.”

Jackson returned to campus from New York City. After years away from the University, she decided to spend her day off from work reuniting with her best friends.

The day’s programming began with registration at 11 a.m., followed by a number of panels and workshops discussing entrepreneurship.

At 4:45 p.m., alumni had a choice between the “Startup Showcase” in McCosh Hall or a discussion with Princeton University Investment Company President Andrew K. Golden.

“It’s particularly hard to be different, but to be successful in investing, you have to be different,” Golden said to the crowd.

Golden’s discussion, “Institutional Investing: An Insider’s View,” offered insights — or as he said, “secrets” — into the company’s investment strategies. When Golden pointed to a dramatic “Shhhh” on a powerpoint slide, the crowd burst into laughter. He revealed his “secret” to success in the investment industry — buy low and sell high. 


At the Startup Showcase, a pre-selected cohort of black alum founders pitched their startups. Winners received a $5,000 prize with an additional opportunity for a $1,000 people’s choice award.

Wright Seneres, the marketing specialist of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, described the showcase as the culmination of entrepreneurship plans for the conference.

Marc Washington ’97 pitched the first startup — UR Labs, which addressed consumer health and food technology sectors. 

In a Q&A, a panel of judges asked Washington questions about targeted market differentiators, go-to-market strategies, and other startup-related jargon.

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While the startup showcase catered to entrepreneurially minded alums, an ongoing investment conversation happened concurrently in McCormick Hall.

The last Q&A session addressed diversity within investment firms and a recent mentorship program that empowered high school students to learn about finance.

After the concurrent business events, alums attended the official welcome dinner reception. For the next two days, Thrive attendees can expect an assortment of events, including performing arts, panels on higher education, and networking breakfast with students.

Friday’s programing will include a conversation with University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, a discussion on the Princeton & Slavery Project, and a luncheon discussion revolving around civic service.