Student creativity and innovation is not new, it happens on a daily basis at educational institutions around the world. Business schools like Stern and individual departments like Tech Management at Poly have taken steps to try and hardness these commodities by requiring students to take innovative business ideas and create commercially viable companies within a couple of months. Although it’s a truly great exercise, many have come to call it cliché or even rhetoric exercise, but what each class really represents is an early stage accelerator. Minus the investment, equity exchange and mentorship overload, the business classes at the most basic levels take a concept or idea and within a 3 months time frame require students to have a business plan, marketing mix and investor pitch to support their business venture.
Unlike accelerators where companies break out of their protective shells and have to enter the market, students’ semesters end in winter breaks or summer vacation with tedious searching for internships or full-time positions instead of following up with market validation. There are a small percentage of students that pursue their ideas and have the success of Etsy or Pinterest. More commonly though is a student who realizes years later that their idea was validated by someone else and is now profitable and the famous phrase is uttered, “I thought of that years ago in business school”.
So how do you stop this vicious cycle! How do you support Student Entrepreneurship! Between the efforts of NYU-Poly’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association (EIA), the NYU-Poly Incubators and the NYU Entrepreneur’s Network (NYUEN), the goal has been to build a support structure that has grown immensely over the past couple of years. The success of the combined efforts cannot be quantified but the groundswell of student entrepreneurship is a clear indicator of the impact.
With the first Founders Showcase that was run in coordination with these same groups, we had a different goal in mind, Celebration. The idea was simple; take 3 full-time NYU student entrepreneurs and let them pitch their hard work not only to their peers, but also to a panel of respected and active NYC venture capitalist. We then let the VCs interact by asking questions and by giving each student actionable feedback on their idea/startup. To add context to the whole showcase we decided to include 3 NYU affiliated companies working out of the incubators, successful examples of what student entrepreneurs can aspire too. Each presenter was given just 3 minutes to pitch their idea, not an easy task since for most it was condensing years of work into a mere 90 seconds. Presenters answer 3 minutes of questions from investors and the audience, and then received critical feedback and guidance on next steps from the panel.
While a large turnout was expected, after all other entrepreneurship events like our EIA’s Summer Incubation Program were very well attended, we did not expect to fill the Varick Street Incubator’s ThinkTank room to beyond the 90 person seating capacity. The event drew a crowd of over 100 NYU students, alumni, and members of the New York startup community–an audience that also participated in providing real-time feedback/voting to the startups with clickers provided by NYU-Poly’s media support. (http://bit.ly/QKbDbQ)
The success of this event has prompted us to run it on a more frequent basis, twice per semester at the bare minimum. Participants got a phenomenal experience, some setting up meetings with the VCs on the panel, and the audience got a taste of what goes on behind closed doors at investor meetings. Our goal is for the NYU Founders Showcase to fit into our broader initiative of having successful events like EIA OPEN (General body meeting for open pitch practice and networking), incubator office hours (Monthly office hours at NYU-Poly), Inno/Vention, the Summer Incubation Program and other exciting events.
I leave you with this, the quality of these kinds of events are dependent on the participants from the various schools of NYU. The resources that are available, from the clubs and incubators to the Innovation Venture Fund, were created to fill a fundamental need made clear by students. At this point though, its out of our hands, it’s up to you to step up to the challenge. While we can support entrepreneurship, we cannot force passion so get out there and innovate!
Founder’s Showcase Rundown:
- Frank Rimalovski – Managing Director at the NYU Innovation Venture Fund
- Jorge Torres – Vice President at Silas Capital, Principle at Torres Venture Law, Kauffman Fellow
- Lucas Nelson — Associate at DFJ Gotham Ventures, Mentor at Lean Startup Machine (an NYU startup), Kauffman Fellow
- Peter Flint — General Partner at Polaris Ventures, Founder at Dogpatch Labs
- Lawrence Lenihan — Founder and Managing Director at FirstMark Capital, NYU Stern Adjunct Professor
- Suneris — Health industry, founded by Joe Landolina, NYU-Poly BS/MS Biomedical and Chemical Engineering; team of 4 NYU Stern and Poly students (www.SunerisTechnologies.com)
- Presseract — News industry, founded by Ali Al-Ebrahim, NYU-Poly BS Mechanical Engineering; team of 4 NYU-Poly students (www.Presseract.com)
- ThreadMatcher — Fashion industry, founded by Kevin St. John, NYU Stern MBA, Digital Media; team of 3 NYU Stern students (www.Threadmatcher.com)
- TaxiTreats — Vending industry, founded by Brian Shimmerlik, NYU Stern MBA; team of 2 NYU Stern students in collaboration with the Mechanical Engineering Department at NYU-Poly (www.TaxiTreatsNYC.com)
- Feelday — founded by Gidon Coussin, co-founder at Boxee (www.FeelDay.com)
- ETC — founded by Antonio Pellegrino, NYU-Poly BS Business Technology Management; team of 2 NYU-Poly alumni (Circles.io)
Awesome Fact: Before the tickets sold out, the event was featured in NY Daily News, NYConvergence, other media outlets, and various startup newsletters
The Winners of the best Pitch, as chosen by Judges, were FeelDay for Incubator company and Suneris for Student company.
The audience choice awards were handed to Taxitreats and Suneris.