Our NYU: November 2021
A Note from President Hamilton
There’s a concept in academia known as Pasteur’s Quadrant, defined as the space in which scientific projects that are fundamental in nature intersect with commercial uses. Many of our researchers live squarely in this space, and it’s one of the things I love about NYU: we generate ideas with impact—impact on people, society, and humanity.
This impact is especially evident in our entrepreneurship community. A recent example came to my attention: Will Canine (Tisch ’14) devised a robotic lab testing device as a thesis project at ITP, which is now being used as a diagnostic testing platform at hospitals and health systems around the world. His company, Opentrons, was also the first unicorn, or company to exceed $1 billion in valuation, to emerge from the NYU Innovation Venture Fund portfolio, which was started in 2011.
Indeed, entrepreneurship is thriving here at NYU, with our start-up community persisting throughout the pandemic (in some instances being inspired by the pandemic), bringing innovative concepts to life, powering new businesses, creating jobs, and fueling industry throughout the city and beyond. Last year, during the height of COVID-19, demand for NYU’s entrepreneurship programs soared: Applications to student entrepreneurship programs on campus increased 53 percent year over year, and 100 percent from two years prior. Start-ups are founded by students, faculty, staff, and alumni from every school and college at NYU.
This year’s first-year class was our most diverse ever, making it critical that we ensure that our entrepreneurship programs, like all of our activities, are a model of inclusiveness. We are making strides through programs such as our Female Founders Fellowship, NYU Inclusive Founders Forum, and NYU First-Generation-to-College Fellowship. Last year, for the first time, women-led start-ups made up the majority of those involved in student entrepreneurship programs. And the trend continues to grow so far this academic year. Among student-founded start-ups, 75 percent are by students of color and 72 percent are by women. In fact, entrepreneurs at NYU who receive VC funding are more than twice as likely to be women (25 percent) than they are at Stanford (14 percent), Harvard (13 percent), and MIT (9 percent).
This success is thanks to the great investment of time and resources that NYU has made, particularly in the last decade, as well as the tremendous support we receive from our alumni community. And our innovation has not gone unnoticed: NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute recently won two awards (the only university to do so) from the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers—one for “Outstanding Contributions to Venture Creation” for our Start-Up Accelerator Series programs, and another for “Excellence in Specialty Entrepreneurship Education” for our Female Founders initiatives.
The sheer range of start-ups is testament to the creativity that abounds at NYU, whether it’s a start-up that helps reduce risk to persons who come in contact with airborne infectious diseases, a firm that helps educate low-income students to help obtain corporate and high-income careers, or a company that connects Black women who experience postpartum mental health issues with resources.
I’m inspired that—in particular through these challenging times—our entrepreneurial community has stepped up to respond to society’s needs, pursuing ideas, creativity, and innovation. I’m so proud of our community of founders, and look forward to the next wave of ideas with impact.
Entrepreneurship continues to thrive across the University, with faculty, staff, students, and recent alumni from all schools getting their ideas off the ground.
The pandemic and its consequences produced so many impressive ventures, such as the reinvention of Professor Lan Ma’s company, Ta Xiang, which initially brought imported products made by women from India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey. Challenged by COVID-19-related importing restrictions, Ma, adjunct associate professor of marketing at NYU Shanghai, saw an opportunity to highlight local female Chinese artisans and designers and to preserve the disappearing art of Chinese handicrafts and techniques. Above, an artisan’s embroidery.
A flying “motorcycle,” cotton grown in a lab, front-line treatments against disease. These are just a few of the innovative ideas to come out of the Endless Frontier Labs (EFL) 2020–2021 cohort at NYU Stern. Founded and led by Professor of Management Deepak Hegde (above left, addressing an EFL course for MBA students), the program brings together scientific expertise from across NYU, including the Grossman School of Medicine, Tandon, and Courant.
Native Americans face disproportionately higher rates of mental health problems, but many have difficulty accessing care. Sutton King (GPH ’20) is part of the first cohort of NYU Entrepreneurial Institute’s Female Founders Fellowship, and partnered with Austin Serio (Gallatin ’19). The two (above) cofounded ShockTalk, an app that uses telehealth to connect Native Americans to Indigenous and Native therapists. They aim to pilot the app with therapists next year.
One of the rewarding aspects of living in an urban area is the proximity to so many different cultures and cuisines. Several Steinhardt graduates have created start-ups to support Asian communities and make their culinary products more widely available. Ashley Xie (Steinhardt ’20) cofounded Rooted Fare, a company that partners with immigrant chefs to distribute sauces and spreads. Sisters Debbie Tanudirjo (Steinhardt ’21) and Liz Margaretha (CAS ’18) (above) cofounded Sundae Service Creamery, which makes ice cream flavors such as ginger black sesame and Thai tea. (Photo: Jared Leong)
The entrepreneurial spirit is sparked across all disciplines at NYU. Laura Rocha (Wagner ’20) began recognizing the increasing clout of the Hispanic community in the United States and that the demographic was often portrayed as limited and generic in the retail landscape, making it harder to target Hispanic customers, who represent $1.7 trillion in buying power. She and her partner (above) cofounded Dathic to better understand Hispanic consumers through data and AI. Earlier this year, the start-up raised its first round of venture capital funding from Alex Iskold’s (Courant ’00) 2048 Ventures and the NYU Innovation Venture Fund, among others.
Mir Hwang (CAS ’19) saw a challenge in how artists and musicians book gigs, so he and his partners started GigFinesse in 2018 to streamline talent booking for musicians and venues using an AI platform that eliminates hurdles for both parties, hence maximizing revenues, saving time, and increasing exposure for burgeoning artists.
In other news—not of the entrepreneurship variety, but requiring just as much determination and drive—I want to take a moment to congratulate our athletics teams, which are off to a wonderful start this year. Our women’s volleyball team recently defeated Emory for its first-ever University Athletic Association title! The win ended a regular season in which they compiled a 26-1 record, and earned a bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. I recently met with these impressive scholar athletes (above). Go, Violets!