Violet Visionaries and Ventures: Entrepreneurship at NYU
August 15, 2021
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The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at NYU. If the hundreds of businesses founded by NYU alumni weren’t proof enough, one need only look at the numbers: There have been hundreds of companies formed at NYU, making us #1 among higher ed institutions in the United States in licensing revenue; more than $10 billion was raised by NYU startups from 2019 to 2020 alone. In June of this year, two NYU startups went public—Sprinklr, founded by Ragy Thomas (STERN ’03) and TaskUs, cofounded by Bryce Maddock (GAL ’07); and another—Thirty Madison, cofounded by Demetri Karagas (STERN '10) and Steven Gutentag (STERN '10)—achieved “unicorn” status. Several new startups were also recently created based on NYU technologies, including from NYU’s Faculty of Arts & Science (central nervous system disease therapy), Tandon School of Engineering (negative pressure device for Covid patients,) and College of Dentistry (microfluidic diagnostic platform).
Part of the reason for this success is that NYU fosters a university-wide startup ecosystem that encourages multi-disciplinary collaboration, accelerates innovation, and cultivates the next generation of startup leaders. Through ten entrepreneurship-themed centers and institutes, the University's team of startup experts offers educational programming and events, industry-specific resources, and funding support to help inspire, educate, connect, and accelerate entrepreneurs from across NYU.
A closer look at: the Entrepreneurial Institute
At the center of the ecosystem is the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute (EI), which leads NYU-wide initiatives to launch successful startups and commercialize technology created by NYU’s 60,000+ students, faculty, and researchers. NYU entrepreneurs benefit from the Institute’s startup coaching and mentorship (the Institute provided coaching for 540 startups this past year), as well as access to the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurs Lab (the Leslie eLab), a 6,800-square-foot facility in the heart of the Washington Square campus. The Institute traces its roots to the launch of the NYU Innovation Venture Fund in 2010, which provides seed capital to help promising NYU founders scale their startups. The Fund has had a 2.5x return on investment since inception.
Several members of the NYU alumni community attribute their startup success to the Entrepreneurial Institute. Among them are Ephemeral Tattoos, co-founded by Josh Sakhai (STERN ’18), Vandan Shah PhD (TANDON ‘16) and Brennal Pierre PhD (TANDON ‘15), which recently raised $20M in funding; OpenTrons, founded by Will Canine (TSOA ’14), which has been leading the COVID-19 testing efforts in NYC via the Pandemic Response Lab; and trailblazers and innovators in industries ranging from mental health (Alyssa Petersel’s (SSSW ‘17), founder of MyWellbeing) to furniture (Phantila Phataraprasit’s (LAW ’21) and Caitlin de Lisser-Ellen (STERN ‘22), founders of Sabai Design).
In addition to their slate of student-centered workshops and programs, the Institute hosts several events throughout the year that are open to NYU alumni, including the Female Founders Lunch (with Anna Palmer on September 24), Startup School Workshops (fall events will be added soon), and the annual NYU Entrepreneurs Festival (October 13–15). Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute has seen a doubling of demand for, participation in, and applications to their events and programs.
Another Institute resource is the NYU Summer Launchpad (SLP), an immersive nine-week accelerator for scalable startups led by NYU students and researchers. During SLP, up to 10 teams receive one-on-one mentorship from NYC investors and entrepreneurs, immersive customer development training, pro-bono legal and accounting services, and non-dilutive grant funding. And the Institute launched three new programs this past year: the Female Founders Fellowship, NYU First Gen to College Founders Fellowship, and NYU Tech Venture Workshop. The Institute recently named the first 12 Female Founder Fellows and 28 faculty/researcher-led teams have participated in the first phase of the Technology Venture Program.
A closer look at: the NYU Alumni Entrepreneurship Network
The NYU Alumni Entrepreneurship Network is a community for NYU alumni interested in startups and entrepreneurship. The NYU alumni club aims to be a resource for entrepreneurs looking to network and benefit from the experience, connections, and expertise of the NYU community.
The Network regularly hosts events for alumni, including the upcoming Overcoming Traditions and Cultural Norms To Launch Your Creative Enterprise (September 9, in collaboration with the NYU Asian, Pacific Islander, & Desi Alumni Network) and a virtual mixer to welcome new grads to the entrepreneurial alumni community (September 14). All alumni are welcome to opt-in to hear from the club and receive event invitations at alumni.nyu.edu/opt-in.