A Note from President Hamilton

I started my Conversations podcast nearly a year ago, and it’s been a delight meeting illustrious members of our community and having the chance to take a deep dive into what moves them and their impact in the world. For the latest episode, I learned the origin story of entrepreneurs Antonio Di Meglio (STERN ’20) and Echo Chen (GALLATIN ’20), the founders of SeaStraws, a sustainable straw company. It involves late-night basketball at the Palladium, smoothies at the Union Square McDonald’s, plus fateful introductions at NYU Florence.

I’m consistently amazed at NYU’s start-up spirit, which is not difficult to see around the Square, the medical corridor, Brooklyn, the global campuses, and beyond. We are in the throes of an explosion of interest and talent. NYU has created a self-sustaining, growing entrepreneurial ecosystem that increasingly defines our personality as an institution.

Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, a showcase of young entrepreneurs, featured an impressive 28 members of the NYU family—that places us ahead of many of our peers. Samantha Pratt, (STEINHARDT ’15), for example, started KlickEngage to help teachers track the mental health of students, and Meng Ai (TANDON ’16) and co-founders started MáLà Project to launch a delectable Chinese dry pot restaurant in New York City.

Even in the “sink or swim” environment of Shark Tank, Melissa Bartow, who graduated last spring from Gallatin, kept her head above water when she and her date spread company Wanna Date? walked away with a cool $100,000 investment. And Melissa highlights the strength of female entrepreneurs at NYU: nearly one in four startups founded by NYU students and alumni are led by women, which is well above our peers.

NYU’s slate of entrepreneurial offerings is only getting stronger—from the campus-based programs and resources that help get ideas off the ground to the vast network of alumni experts and entrepreneurs who serve as mentors, guides, and often investors for the many, many Violet startups around the world.

Even as I write this, hundreds of applications from across the university are being evaluated for the W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs’ $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge. Last fall, the Leslie eLab—which is a campus hotspot (roughly one in six NYU students visited the lab in 2019)—celebrated its 5th anniversary. In Brooklyn, NYU Tandon Future Labs, the first New York City-sponsored private/public/academic incubator, headquartered at 370 Jay, recently celebrated 10 years of supporting entrepreneurs, and helping bring their products to market. Likewise in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, programs and resources such as startAD at NYUAD are inspiring innovation.

At NYU, we value the power and impact of ideas, and the creative mindset that allows us to take them from the classroom, lab, or dorm room out into the world—or onto Shark Tank, as it were. So keep those ideas coming, and I’ll be watching!


Women make up 23% of NYU entrepreneurs; see full text description below graph

Startup culture is notoriously male-dominated—as are entrepreneurship rankings lists. But we have consistently topped Pitchbook’s rankings as the top university in the world with the highest proportion of female founders.

David Liu and Carley Roney

Remember AOL? (Or am I dating myself?) That’s where The Knot, founded by husband and wife team Carley Roney (TSOA ’90, ’94) and David Liu (TSOA ’87), first started in the 1990s. It was an app on AOL, and after establishing itself as a leader in the wedding space, eventually became its own media brand and one of New York’s most successful early Internet companies, with an IPO in 2000. The business is now involved in the planning of something like 80 percent of American weddings and also gave rise to The Bump, a resource for new and expecting parents.

Lia Winograd and Jaclyn Fu, founder of Pepper

When Lia Winograd (STERN ’19; above left) was at NYU, she won places in various competitive programs, including the Stern Venture Fellowship and the Entrepreneurial Institute's Summer Startup Sprint. Lia is the co-founder and COO of Pepper, an innovator in undergarments. Using NYU's wide network, she was able to scale her company; it is now a $3 million business. She and her co-founder Jaclyn Fu (above right) recently forged a partnership with Urban Outfitters, which came about after Winograd met CEO Trish Donnelly (CAS ’92).

NYU Tandon Future Labs

Entrepreneurship is a hallmark of NYU Tandon—you see it wherever you look, from research aimed for the market to alumni startups. The school recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the NYU Tandon Future Labs, a partnership with the City of New York and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). This first city-supported incubator system has helped 218 companies, 85 percent of which are still in operation or acquired. Medivis (above), co-founded by Chris Morley (MED ’13), is a Future Labs company affiliated with NYU Langone and makes an augmented reality surgical planning toolkit.

Smiling children in Kampala, Uganda

NYU Law students have a variety of opportunities to explore legal issues surrounding social entrepreneurship through the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship. Students enrolled in the International Transactions Clinic (ITC) offer pro bono services to organizations such as Jibu, a social franchise that provides underserved communities access to safe drinking water and is expanding its network in Africa, including Kampala, Uganda (above). Photo: JIBU/Andy Berndt.

Screening at NYU Production Lab

NYU's Production Lab—housed downstairs from the Leslie eLab—is a creative content incubator at the forefront of cultural entrepreneurship, that prepares emerging artists for the jobs of tomorrow. In addition to providing community programming, the Lab has supported 40 writing fellows and 25 creative career design fellows; produced 21 podcast episodes with the support of NYU Abu Dhabi's Music Technology & Sound Recording Group, and has signed 20 projects onto its Slate program, which have gone on to premiere at major film festivals and reach global audiences. Above, second from left: Slate filmmakers Martisse Hill, Julius Pryor, Cathy Yan, and Shawn Snyder.

Founders of weSTEM

You never know who you’re going to meet on campus—it might be your next business partner. That happened to Beatrice Ionascu (NYUAD ’16) and Dora Palfi (NYUAD ’16), who became fast friends during candidates’ week in Abu Dhabi, then roomed together, studied away in New York, and co-founded weSTEM, a student group encouraging women to join STEM fields. Together with their first member, Paula Dozsa (NYUAD ’18), they founded imagiLabs, which makes a “charming” device to help users learn to code, and, by extension, learn about STEM. (above l-r, Ionascu, Palfi, Dozsa).

TAVtech fellowship participants

Israel has a booming tech scene, and for young entrepreneurs who have a mind for social impact, NYU Bronfman Center's TAVtech fellowship offers training in data science, cybersecurity, and programming. Through a four-week bootcamp and hackathon hosted at NYU Tel Aviv and RISE Barclays Tel Aviv, fellows from around the world learn from each other, build connections, and find mentors.

Dentists with patients in Bronx elementary school P.S. 140x

Here at NYU we are happily reminded that entrepreneurship isn’t just the purview of business. The W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs’ $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge, for example, draws hundreds of competitors from across the university. One of last year’s finalists, CariedAway, was founded by NYU Dentistry faculty Richard Niederman and Habib Benzian, and Pratik Sourav (GPH ’18). It brings pain-free cavity prevention to children in their schools (above, in Bronx elementary school P.S. 140x). Photo: © Sorel: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau.

Muddassar Sharif

Our degree-granting campuses have unique entrepreneurial communities, but one thing is universal across our university: the refusal to let failure be a roadblock. Muddassar Sharif (NYUSH ’19) and his co-founder, Raheel Ahmed (NYUSH ’18), launched the successful data consulting firm mltrons in 2017—after starting seven failed businesses during their college career and participating in the Entrepreneurial Institute’s J-Term Startup Sprint. The firm connects retail companies with virtual data scientists to help predict sales and data trends.

Kinds of Kings composer group

One of the wonderful things about NYU is how far-reaching the entrepreneurial spirit is. Case in point: Kinds of Kings, a female composers collective with roots at Steinhardt, started by Shelley Washington ('17), Gemma Peacocke ('16), Maria Kaoutzani ('16), and Susanna Hancock ('16) (above), who met at NYU. The group, which educates and advocates for female composers, came together in response to how isolating—and male-dominated—their work could be.

Nick Grassi and Jose Luis Lopez Amador

Managing finances while living a busy life in an expensive city can be a challenge. Nick Grassi (GLS ’12, above left) noticed this particularly among his peers when he was a Fulbright fellow interning at Deloitte Consulting in Mexico City. In 2016, he developed Finerio, a personal finance tracking app. He and his co-founder Jose Luis Lopez Amador (above right) saved half of their weekly salaries and invested it in the app, which now has 200,000 users.

Andy Hamilton with SeaStraw founders Antonio Di Meglio and Echo Chen

Have you noticed the new sustainable straws in our dining halls yet? They are made by SeaStraws, founded by Antonio Di Meglio (STERN ’20) and Echo Chen (GALLATIN ’20), who established the company in 2018 with Sophie Kennedy (CAS ’19) and several other NYU students. I got to chat with Anthony (above center) and Echo (above right) while recording the latest installment of my Conversations podcast, and I heard all about how they met at NYU Florence and teamed up to start a business.