When I arrived at NYU in mid-2010, I asked my colleagues in tech transfer for a list of startups that had emerged from NYU. The list contained an impressive group of successful startups, the majority of which came out of the Med school, including Anaderm, Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Smart Therapeutics, and Sugen, just to name a few. Impressive. But wasn’t NYC the emerging center for Internet, digital and social media, adtech and other IT centric ventures? What’cha got in that department? Touchco. Perceptive Pixel. Spin Transfer. A few others. Didn’t that Dennis Crowley guy go to NYU?
Over the next few months, barely a week went by when I didn’t learn about another NYU startup created by NYU students and faculty. I started to keep a list. AdSafe Media. Area/Code. BioDigital Systems. Diaspora. Etsy. Media6Degrees. The Hotlist. etc. We started to document some of these and write up “success stories” and post them on the NYU entrepreneurship website.
Then I learned of a quote that I loved (by Ed Roberts, founder & chair of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center)…
“Universities should ask themselves what do your alumni do, and not what do your research labs do.”
Sure, research is important. But it’s what we do with it that matters…and it is frequently our former students who bring our research to market. I took that to heart and started to investigate what our alumni had been up to. I discovered that Audible, Symbol Technologies, The Knot, SeamlessWeb, OMGPOP, Interwoven, Nanometics Labs, FanBridge, StyleCaster and many others had been founded by NYU alums. Funny thing was, few people I met at NYU knew that any of these companies had NYU ties.
Fast forward to earlier this year when I was privileged to speak at the ITP Women’s Entrepreneurs Festival (WEF) on the closing investor panel. (Watch the riveting video here.) I was struck by the celebratory nature of the event, and the positive, contagious energy that emerged as one woman entrepreneur after another, each more impressive than the last, shared their stories, tribulations and triumphs. Throw in some good food and drink, a great atmosphere and an audience as impressive as the speakers, and you truly had a festival.
The proverbial lightbulb went off in my head…we need to hold a celebration for all these NYU entrepreneurs. A festival. A NYU Entrepreneurs Festival!
I began socializing the idea with our students, faculty and administrators, and thus, the Festival was born. Here we stand 10 days away from kicking it off and perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about?
The NYU Entrepreneurs Festival is a two-day celebration of startups and entrepreneurship by and for the NYU community. During this first-of-a-kind event, over 60 NYU alumni, faculty and student entrepreneurs representing almost every school at NYU, will come together to share their startup stories through a series of keynotes, panels, roundtables, a venture showcase and a big celebratory party.
You’ll have the opportunity to hear and meet the founders of over 60 NYU startups including Foursquare, Symbol Technologies, The Knot, Audible, Etsy, Area/Code, deTect Biosciences, Interwoven, Media6Degrees, OMGPOP, Anaderm, SeamlessWeb, Diaspora, and many others. Your ticket gets you in to all of the talks and events, entrance to the big party Friday night, as well as meals and refreshments throughout the Festival (provided by NYU startups Rickshaw Dumpling Bar and MilkMade Ice Cream).
The Festival kicks off next Friday, November 11 at 1pm, when new NYU Trustee Fred Wilson will lead a fireside chat with Foursquare founder and Tisch alum Dennis Crowley. A full agenda, list of speakers and links to get tickets can be found at: http://nyue.org/festival.
See you there.